LOS ANGELES — When Hunter Renfrow caught the short slant, split defenders and shifted into a higher gear for a 56-yard touchdown, despite sore ribs, we saw a glimpse.
It’s the same when Josh Jacobs breaks multiple tackles or Maxx Crosby gets to the quarterback or Darren Waller hauls in another reception or Jon Gruden scripts a scoring drive on an opening possession.
Figuring out the Raiders this season has often been as difficult as mastering a Sudoku.
Then comes a game like Sunday.
Then we see what the near future could resemble.
They controlled the reeling Chargers for most of 60 minutes, the Raiders keeping what remain slim playoff hopes alive by posting a 24-17 win before a heavy dose of Oakland faithful among 25,380 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Meaning: The Raiders will arrive to Denver next Sunday still breathing when it comes to the postseason.
“I can’t believe we’re still in it,” said Renfrow, who had the first 100-yard game of his career at any level. “It’s unbelievable if you think about it. We don’t have a great chance to make it, but we have a chance. It’s like being in poker and having pocket 8s.
“We’re excited, but it means nothing if we don’t go and take care of business in Denver.”
Sunday was the final home game for the Chargers at a venue built for soccer, the team set to move into and share SoFi Stadium with the Rams beginning next season.
But the majority in attendance predictably cheered for Silver and Black, and adding to an already frustrating 7-8 season was this realization: The Raiders are promising in enough spots — and hurt enough in others — to believe they can get healthy and more than contend in the AFC West upon arriving to Las Vegas in 2020.
Just one fairly gigantic question looms: Will quarterback Derek Carr join them?
Until the powers-that-be, meaning Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock, determine whether they will move forward with the six-year veteran or look to different options, all the potential across various positions remains at a standstill.
More and more recently, reports have suggested Gruden doesn’t see enough upside in Carr, that the coach is looking for something different in a leading role. Someone more athletic. Someone more willing to stretch the field. Someone able to make more plays when things break down.
You would never know such an undertone exists when Gruden addresses his quarterback publicly. Almost every syllable — win or lose — is of a positive nature. But if even a hint of doubt exists behind closed doors, Gruden and Mayock should absolutely evaluate all possibilities.
They have to at least research each of them.
Would it be to cut Carr and only owe him $5 million? Or possible try to trade him, draft a quarterback in the first round and sign a veteran as a bridge to a rookie developing? Could that bridge possibly be current backup DeShone Kizer?
Would the answer be to take some of their more than $70 million in cap space and sign a high-profile free agent depending on who’s available?
Or, when all the work is done, all the film watched, all the heart-to-hearts exhausted, do they decide Carr is still the best quarterback for the Raiders?
Culture is there
Carr has certainly dealt with much this season, not having the luxury of a true No. 1 receiver and playing behind a line that has been hit with injuries. He was better than good Sunday, completing 26-of-30 for 291 yards and a score while running for another.
Important offensive pieces for the future exist. Jacobs, who didn’t play Sunday, is a rising star at running back. So too is Waller at tight end. Renfrow is already an NFL-caliber slot receiver and Tyrell Williams could be a dangerous No. 2 alongside a proven lead wideout. The line, when healthy, is very good.
“I really hope the message is that we have a culture now,” Carr said. “Everything we have been through — and let’s not sugarcoat it, we’ve been through a lot of crap — is what it is. Nobody cares at the end of the day, but to say we’re still playing in Week 17 for something … that’s unbelievable.”
They will head to Denver and the playoff berth will fall where it falls, and soon it will be time for the Raiders to focus on Las Vegas.
We saw again Sunday glimpses of what that could mean.
First order of business: Deciding who will be under center when the time comes.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.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.