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Graney: Bisaccia’s faith in Raiders pays off with critical win

The man has gone from not understanding how to operate a headset to making the most important decision of a Raiders season. Rich Bisaccia sure is taking this whole interim head coach label to another level.

Someone alert Hollywood. The Raiders are one win from needing a screenplay.

They won again, this time beating the Colts 23-20 at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. It means the Raiders are a victory against the Chargers in a regular-season finale from making the postseason tournament.

Should things go that way — I mean, can you imagine after such a year of drama and roller-coaster emotions? — one play just might define how the Raiders were able to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2016.

In making the most significant of calls, Bisaccia chose to be aggressive.

He went for it.

A huge call

The Raiders trailed 17-13 and faced fourth-and-2 from the Colts 11 with 11:24 remaining. While one television analyst suggested it best to remain conservative and kick a field goal to pull within one, Bisaccia kept his offense on the field.

Derek Carr was forced to scramble right, eventually aiming a pass to the end zone and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. The latter hauled in the attempt and the Raiders had the lead.

Huge call. Even better execution. A 20-17 advantage.

How the main participants saw it …

Bisaccia: “We came into the game with the mentality that if we got ourselves into fourth-and-2 or fourth-and-1 situations, we thought we had a good enough package. When (Carr) has the ability to step up like that and move himself around and create, he did a good job with it.”

Carr: “I was like, ‘Hey, let’s go. We’ll get it.’ We felt good in what we were seeing. Another off-schedule play. Don’t throw the ball across your body, kids. But sometimes it works.”

Renfrow: “Zay (Jones) was coming in and going back out on his (route). We were trying to get the ball to him. I just came open late. Derek did a good job of going through his reads and extending the play.”

Those who believe analytics the be-all-end-all of such decisions won’t consider Bisaccia’s call that gutsy. Not at all. While it’s true numbers would suggest going for it would almost always be the correct decision, you’re still talking about an interim coach trying to get his team to the playoffs.

It’s not as easy a move as many might believe.

The caretaker

The 61-year-old special teams coordinator was named interim head coach by owner Mark Davis in the wake of Jon Gruden resigning following the unearthing of several insensitive emails over a seven-year period.

That was mid-October, when after his first game leading the team, Bisaccia said his biggest issue was figuring out how to use the headset.

“Back in the day, we didn’t have all those buttons,” Bisaccia said following that 34-24 win at Denver.

He was more caretaker than anything, doing his best to hold together a team and not allow a season to implode.

Bisaccia immediately put faith in coordinators Greg Olson (offense) and Gus Bradley (defense) to handle their sides of the ball as he oversaw the program. That part hasn’t changed.

Now, winners of three straight, the Raiders can almost touch a playoff berth.

“We have to fight,” linebacker Denzel Perryman said. “We know what’s at stake. We know what happens if we win. Right now, it’s literally about fighting.”

They are in such a position for many reasons, none bigger than this: Their head coach, interim or not, showed some serious faith in his team at the most critical of times.

I have to believe his headset was working when he did so.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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