Updated November 8, 2020 - 8:11 pm
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Six seconds and four yards stood between the Raiders and their fifth win of the year on Sunday. Although to Raiders fans, it had to feel it like a half-inch at most, given the way the Los Angeles Chargers were moving the ball.
But as Justin Herbert and the Chargers dug in for one, maybe two final shots at a potential game-winning touchdown against a gassed and depleted defense, it wasn’t fear growing on the Raiders’ sideline.
In fact it was the opposite.
“We had faith we were going to get the W,” running back Josh Jacobs said.
In what has become a defining trait, the Raiders believed that second-year cornerback Isaiah Johnson, pressed into duty when starter Trayvon Mullen went down earlier in the game, would do just enough on two straight one-on-one matchups to force a pair of incomplete passes to preserve a 31-26 win.
And that is exactly what happened.
With Johnson draped all over him, Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams could not haul in a pass in the back corner of the end zone. Then on the final play of the game, 6-foot-8 tight end Donald Parham Jr. leaped to make the catch over the 6-foot-2 Johnson on a play that was initially ruled a touchdown, but was overturned when a replay revealed Johnson had managed to dislodge the ball from Parham’s hands as he hit the ground.
“We needed someone to step up,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “Thank goodness for Isaiah Johnson and his length.”
The Raiders believed in more than just Johnson.
They had faith that their banged-up offensive line could somehow figure out a way to be efficient after an ankle injury to iron man left tackle Kolton Miller left the Raiders three starters short on Sunday. That conviction was rewarded when backup tackles Brandon Parker and Sam Young and reserve guard Denzelle Good helped pave the way to 160 yards rushing and a healthy 6.2 yards per carry average.
“Our offensive line has been going through it,” Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby said.
In fact, they have played just three snaps as a complete unit. Yet they haven’t missed a beat. “They are a very special group of guys,” Jacobs said.
And finally, they believed that an injury-riddled interior defensive line could overcome the loss of starter Maurice Hurst, who was a no-go on Sunday, and a hobbled Johnathan Hankins to find the wherewithal to foil the Chargers’ last-ditch effort.
Eight games into their inaugural season in Las Vegas, the Raiders sit halfway to 10 wins and legitimate playoff contention. What has emerged is a young, resilient, confident team that maturely handles all the various adversity being thrown its way.
Like the late first-half hiccup in which they surrendered 10 points in the final 19 seconds to inexplicably fall behind 17-14, only to bounce back in the third quarter on two big-strike pass plays from Derek Carr to take back control of the game.
On the first, Carr hit Nelson Agholor in stride for a 45-yard touchdown to go up 21-17. On the second, Carr scrambled just long enough for Hunter Renfrow to break free down the sideline and then lofted a pass that floated over the defender into the arms of Renfrow for a 53-yard gain. That set up Carr’s 2-yard touchdown throw to Darren Waller and a 28-17 lead.
“Our mood stayed the same,” Carr said about giving up the lead late in the first half. “And that’s the good football character I’ve been talking about.”
In the process, the Raiders have built an impressive 4-1 record away from Allegiant Stadium and shown they can win in shootouts, grind-it-out affairs and when they need to hang on for dear life and rely on their defense to come up with a last-second play.
It might not always be good for the heart. But “it’s fun, man,” Carr said.
It’s a mindset that has eluded the Raiders for years. But that might be changing.
“We thrive on adversity,” said Maxx Crosby, who finished with six tackles and notched his fifth sack of the season.
That seems true of every player on the roster, right down to the last guy on the depth chart, as Johnson proved by coming off the bench to deliver two big plays to seal the win.
“We feel that every game we go into, no matter who’s up or who’s playing, no matter who’s starting, no matter who’s the backup, we have a chance to win,” Johnson said.
More and more, the Raiders are proving that.