98°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

In Twilight Zone 2020 season, Raiders make playoffs

TWILIGHT ZONE, Nev. — You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension … You’ve just crossed over into … how the 2020 NFL season played out.

Rod Serling wouldn’t have seen this coming. Way too bizarre for him.

The just concluded NFL season might not have created a real end-of-the-world scenario, but it sure felt that way to a majority of fans. Fire and brimstone is right. And we’re not talking about when Baker Mayfield decked his offensive coordinator following Cleveland’s 38-7 home loss to the Raiders.

Come on. Tom Brady winning a seventh Super Bowl ring by beating New England just months after he bolted for Tampa Bay?

And in his newfound home of Raymond James Stadium?

And by throwing four touchdowns in a 31-17 victory to best Cam Newton? Yeah, that’s right. The Jarrett Stidham experiment at quarterback didn’t work out.

And in the same week as conference basketball tournaments began?

Hollywood would have turned down such a crazy script. And these are the people who gave us, “Freddy Got Fingered.”

But, hey, why not? History was all over this 2020 season. Play didn’t begin until the first week of October due to the coronavirus. Fans weren’t allowed into stadiums until after Thanksgiving, leaving Cowboys owner Jerry Jones standing beside an empty Salvation Army kettle. He couldn’t even convince Ezekiel Elliott to hop in for old time’s sake.

What a strange journey. I mean, doesn’t it seem like the league schedule was just released yesterday?

The playoffs began on the weekend Super Bowl LV was originally scheduled to take place. Poor ol’ Bill Belichick. He spent that first-round bye prancing his dog around a best in show event, saw it lose out to a Siberian husky and then fell to Brady in the game of Roman Numerals. There isn’t such a thing as enough social distancing from Belichick for the next several months.

But nothing compared to Las Vegas when it came to scripting interesting storylines.

Not even when Jameis Winston, in place of an injured Drew Brees, threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in the NFC championship game.

Not even when Pete Carroll chose to throw the ball at the goal line in a playoff game against Brady and the Buccaneers instead of handing it to veteran running back Marshawn Lynch, who rejoined the team in Week 8.

Not even when the Ravens suspended Antonio Brown for purposefully sending opponents weekly game plans.

Not even when the Lions clinched the worst record at 2-14 and coach Matt Patricia opened his postgame press conference by writing the name Trevor Lawrence across his forehead … in pencil.

A change of scenery can create serious shifts in results, and nothing supports the theory more than the Raiders finishing 9-7 and earning just their second playoff spot in 18 years.

Allegiant Stadium was as spectacular as advertised — sort of an early look at that 2025 Super Bowl that Las Vegas was awarded in May — and even more captivating when 65,000 made their way inside for the first time on Dec. 13.

Finally, Raiders owner Mark Davis didn’t spend home games moving from one seat to another in an empty venue.

Carr conquers cold

Grind best describes the team’s season before it concluded with that 32-19 wild-card loss at Tennessee.

Having those first three games pushed to the back of a schedule due to the delay actually worked to the benefit of Jon Gruden’s team. Three straight wins — and some fortune — earned that playoff berth.

Sure, it helped that Carolina was out of the playoff race by then. Yet Cory Littleton still needed 32 tackles, all against Christian McCaffrey, to save the day.

Of course, Brees being out for the season when the Saints visited the following week was a plus for Las Vegas.

And, yes, a 26-14 road win against New England had everything to do with the Patriots having clinched a No. 1 seed in the AFC and Belichick sitting all starters.

(O.K., so now you really know this is fictional.)

You also realize the Raiders were charmed when Derek Carr led victories in the snow against both the Jets and Broncos. Hell hath frozen over is right.

A pandemic changed our world and the NFL, like all such entities, called an audible and reacted accordingly. But when it finally came time to play, there was again no shortage of drama and intrigue and shocking results.

Tom Brady won a seventh Super Bowl. Beat his old team.

Top that for another dimension.

Contact columnist Ed Graney 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.

Like and follow Vegas Nation
Raiders Videos
Natural turf added to Allegiant Stadium field tray
The massive field tray, which will roll in and out of the stadium, has a fresh layer of natural grass turf for Raiders home games.
Raiders preseason could play bigger role than usual - Video
The Raiders released the team's preseason schedule and this year's matchups could play a bigger role than usual.
Analysis on the Raiders Schedule: Tough Stretches, Season Odds and More - VIDEO
Vegas Nation podcast host Heidi Fang and columnist Ed Graney break down what to anticipate when the Raiders face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a primetime game at Allegiant Stadium, the odds on the team's season wins, what stretches may be the toughest on the schedule and more. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jon Gruden reacts to Raiders schedule - Video
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden shares his thoughts on his team's schedule for the 2020 season.
Raiders to host 4 prime-time games in 2020 - Video
The 2020 NFL schedule has been released and the Las Vegas Raiders are set to host four prime-time games.
Vegas Nation: Raiders to face Brady's Buccaneers after Bye Week - VIDEO
Vegas Nation podcast host Heidi Fang and columnist Ed Graney break down what to anticipate when the Raiders face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a primetime game at Allegiant Stadium on Oct. 25 coming off their bye week. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review Journal)
Raiders will host Saints in Allegiant Stadium home opener - Video
The Las Vegas Raiders will open up Allegiant Stadium by hosting the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 21 for a Monday night matchup.
Vegas Nation: 2020 Draft Special - Tanner Muse Interview
Vegas Nation Host Cassie Soto interviews new Las Vegas Raider and 100th pick in the NFL Draft Tanner Muse.
Vegas Nation: 2020 Draft Special Day 3 - Best and Worst War Rooms
Vegas Nation Host Cassie Soto and Review-Journal sportswriter Ben Gotz discuss the winners and losers of the first ever NFL Virtual draft war room set ups.
Vegas Nation: 2020 Draft Special Day 3 - Draft Analysis
Vegas Nation Host Cassie Soto discusses day three of the NFL Draft and the Raiders final picks with Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney and Raiders beat writer Vinny Bonsignore.
Vegas Nation: 2020 Draft Special - Raiders Day 2 Draft Picks
The Raiders made the 80th, 81st and 100th pick in the 2020 NFL draft selecting Lynn Bowden Jr - Wide Receiver from Kentucky, Bryan Edwards - wide receiver from South Carolina and Tanner Muse - linebacker from Clemson. Vegas Nation Host Cassie Soto discusses the pick with Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney and Raiders beat writer Vinny Bonsignore.
Vegas Nation: 2020 Draft Special - Big Names From Around the League
Review-Journal sports writer Ben Gotz gives an update of some of the big name players taken in the first round of this years NFL Draft.
Vegas Nation: 2020 Draft Special - Henry Ruggs III
With the first pick in Las Vegas Raiders history the silver and black drafted wide receiver Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto discusses the pick with Review-Journal Columnist Ed Graney and Raiders beat writer Vinny Bonsignore.
Brent Musburger talks Raiders and the upcoming NFL draft
Broadcaster and Raiders Play-by-Play announcer Brent Musburger discusses the Las Vegas Raiders and the upcoming NFL draft with Review-Journal sportswriter Adam Hill.
Raiders logo goes up on Henderson headquarters - VIDEO
The iconic Raiders emblem gets installed on the team's headquarters and practice facility in Henderson on April 22, 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Nation: Raiders 2020 Draft Preview - Video
Vegas Nation: Raiders 2020 Draft Preview will include a recap of the 2019 draft class, free agency updates and multiple segments discussing the class of 2020. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto will be joined by Raiders beat writers Vinny Bonsignore and Myles Simmons, as well as sports writer Adam Hill to discuss all things NFL draft. The draft preview show also included interviews with 2019 draft picks Hunter Renfrow and Isaiah Johnson.
Allegiant Stadium lights up the night
Crews at the $2 billion, 65,000-seat stadium Tuesday night tested out the architectural light ribbons that run around various sections of the stadium, showing the facility will offer a distinct feel no matter what time of day it is.
2019 NFL Draft Flashback: The Raiders 2019 Draft Class - VIDEO
A look back at the Raiders 2019 Draft Class and an assessment of their production last season. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2019 NFL Draft Flashback: Mayock and Gruden on What Makes a Raider - VIDEO
A look back at what the team of Gruden and Mayock did in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft and what qualities they looked for in players when evaluating them and what went into their decisions to select who they did. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Crews finish Allegiant Stadium roof panel installation in just over a month
The final panels made of ETFE — ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a fluorine-based plastic — were installed on the 65,000-seat stadium on Tuesday, marking the latest major milestone for the future home of the Raiders and UNLV football.
Raiders request road be named Raiders Way
The Raiders have requested that the road where their Henderson HQ is located be renamed Raiders Way. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mayock: Raiders Need to get Better at Wideout
Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock talked on a conference call about the team's need for a wide receiver and the approach they can take for acquiring one in a talent-rich 2020 draft class. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant Stadium roof install is complete - Video
The full enclosure of Allegiant Stadium was topped off on Tuesday after the final ETFE panels were installed.
Low-Tech Raiders' GM Talks Preparing for Virtual Draft Format - VIDEO
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock discussed on a conference call what he anticipates a virtual NFL Draft to be like and how he is adjusting to newer technology he'll have to use to work effectively during the three-day event. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quarantine with Las Vegas Raiders players – Video
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and cornerback Isaiah Johnson have been doing their best to keep themselves busy during quarantine. Renfrow is spending his time in South Carolina, while Johnson is in Houston. The 2019 rookies both suffered injuries this past season and were hoping to come back stronger than ever the second time around, but the coronavirus had different plans for the NFL offseason. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto spoke with both players and asked how they have been staying in shape as well as what shows they have binge watched during quarantine.
Raiders partner with Three Square - Video
Las Vegas Raiders players, including Hunter Renfrow, Alec Ingold, Josh Jacobs and Foster Moreau, are partnering with Three Square to help make sure those in need have access to food during the coronavirus pandemic.
Raiders extend season ticket dues - Video
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Las Vegas Raiders are extending final season ticket dues until the summer.
Raiders fullback Alec Ingold ready to play in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Raiders fullback Alec Ingold sits down with the RJ and talks about the excitement surrounding the team's move to Las Vegas during off-season training in Wisconsin. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ikem Okeke Trying to get Noticed By NFL Scouts With His Pro Day Canceled Due to Coronavirus - Video
Ikem Okeke is a Bishop Gorman High alum who played his college football at Hawaii. After his pro day was canceled due to the coronavirus, he's attempting to catch the attention of NFL scouts by creating his own workout using the same company that tests at the combine. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Justin Herbert: Forcing Himself to be Uncomfortable to Become an NFL Quarterback
In order to become a prolific quarterback in the NFL, Oregon's Justin Herbert says he is going to have to make himself uncomfortable and put himself in challenging situations in order to improve at his position. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Worker at Allegiant Stadium tests positive for COVID-19
Construction of Allegiant Stadium is unlikely to affected by the coronavirus outbreak that is having an impact on just about every industry across the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Agree to Terms with WR Nelson Agholor - VIDEO
On Saturday the Raiders agreed to terms with wide receiver Nelson Agholor,  offensive lineman Eric Kush, tight end Nick O’Leary and running back Rod Smith, who appeared in the team’s final three games last season as a special teams player. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Agree to Terms with CB Eli Apple - VIDEO
The Raiders have come to terms with cornerback Eli Apple, who last played with the New Orleans Saints. Apple was drafted 10th overall in 2016 by the New York Giants. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders sign LB Littleton, DE Nassib, more
On the second day of the legal tampering period in the NFL, the Raiders picked up linebacker Cory Littleton, defensive end Carl Nassib, tight end Jason Witten and more. Here's a recap of the action from Tuesday. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders strengthen defense in free agency - Video
Some of the Raiders biggest struggles in the past seasons have come from the defense. Now, in free agency, the front office is making big moves to improve that side of the ball. Vegas Nation crew Cassie Soto and Myles Simmons bring you the latest in Raiders free agency.
Raiders make big free agency moves on offense - Video
The Raiders continue to make big moves on offense, including signing long-time Cowboy Jason Witten. Vegas Nation crew Cassie Soto and Myles Simmons bring you the latest in Raiders free agency.
Raiders and Cory Littleton agree to terms - VIDEO
Linebacker Cory Littleton, a 2018 Pro Bowler who played in Super Bowl 53 with the Los Angeles Rams, has agreed to terms with the Las Vegas Raiders. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marcus Mariota is a Raider - Video
The Raiders have signed quarterback Marcus Mariota as a backup to Derek Carr.
A Flyover of Allegiant Stadium At Night - VIDEO
Here's a look at the new home of the Raiders, Allegiant Stadium, at night from this flyover near the Las Vegas Strip.
Raiders Agree to Terms with Mariota, LB Kwiatkoski
A recap of the moves made as the NFL stays open for business transactions with unrestricted free agents being signed during the legal tampering period. The Raiders signed linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.  (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Nation: NFL Draft Canceled in Las Vegas, Legal Tampering Period Open - VIDEO
On Monday, the NFL announced the draft and its planned festivities would no longer take place in Las Vegas though the draft itself will still take place Apr. 23-25 as scheduled. The Raiders grabbed former Bears LB Nick Kwiatkoski in the first day of the legal tampering period. The Vegas Nation team breaks down the latest news in this update.(Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Love, Hurts Among QBs Raiders Could Target in NFL Draft - VIDEO
The Raiders may look to select a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft and have 5 picks in the top 100. Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts and Utah State's Jordan Love could be among those the team has on their watchlist. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders stadium gets its new name installed
Aerial view of newly installed signage for Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant Stadium sign installation (timelapse) - VIDEO
Watch the name of the new Raiders stadium in Las Vegas go up in less that a minute. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
First signage going up at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
As Allegiant Stadium’s exterior has come into form, the dark tinted glass has drawn various nicknames. Now, however, the stadium will begin to reflect its official name. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST