Would the Raiders have punted or taken a knee without the third-down run?
"Don't know," Bisaccia said. "Didn't happen."
The veteran coach then smiled and walked to the locker room. Truth is, he had every right to play coy and bring some levity to the room after a regular season that never really allowed him to breathe. First he was named interim coach after Jon Gruden resigned in the wake of racist and homophobic emails surfaced. Then wideout Henry Ruggs III, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, was released following a DUI incident which resulted in the death of a young woman. Then cornerback Damon Arnette, taken seven selections after Ruggs in 2020, was released for making threats on social media while holding a rifle. And finally, the losses kept stacking on top of each other, with the 39-point defeat in Kansas City appearing to be the final piece that would send their Jenga-like season toppling.
But the reverse happened. With four games remaining against teams still fighting for playoff spots, they beat the Browns by two points, the Broncos by four, the Colts by three and the Chargers by a field goal. It's the type of run that only happens in after-school specials, or in the minds of those on a powerful hallucinogen.
"We have a group of guys that genuinely care about each other," Jacobs said. "With all the outside noise, with all the things that are going on, I feel like all the guys collectively put their head down and worked. On the inside of the building, it was almost like almost every distraction didn't happen. You see guys come in and work every day and give their all and believe in the things we want to achieve and believe in the coaches. It's just starting to click -- and click at the right time."
Like with the season in general, there were reasons to doubt in the fourth quarter. After taking a 29-14 lead with 8:23 to go in regulation, the Raiders appeared to be in full control. They had held the Chargers to 50 yards of total offense to that point in the second half, allowing just one first down on four possessions.
But then the unthinkable began to unfold. Second-year Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert drove his unit 75 yards in 14 plays, the last a 23-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Palmer on fourth-and-21. The two-point conversion pass to running back Austin Ekeler made it a one-possession game with 4:28 to go.
The Raiders went three-and-out, leaving Herbert and the Chargers 2:06 and 83 yards to go for the tying touchdown. On three separate occasions, it appeared the Bolts would not get to the end zone, but Herbert converted on fourth-and-10 three different times before getting the tying score as time expired, with a 12-yard strike to Mike Williams.
It was an amazing drive, not only in terms of distance and fourth-down conversions, but also in the fact that it required 19 plays. Think about that for a moment. Some teams don't get 19 plays in a quarter; the Chargers got that many on a drive.
"There were so many opportunities to get them off the field, we were just stressed out," said Crosby, who finished with two sacks, four QB hits and three tackles for loss. "Guys were cramping up, hurting, and we just had to make our minds up: At the end of the day, we had to dig deep. Somebody just told me we played 90 plays, which is not ideal. But it doesn't matter. We've got guys who love the game and we just had to keep going."
Fortunately for the Raiders, they won the overtime coin toss and took possession of the ball. From that point on, it was the Jacobs show. The third-year pro was questionable during the week because of a rib injury, but he didn't play like it. He carried for 28 and 18 yards on consecutive plays, advancing the Raiders from their 25 to the Chargers' 29 to help position Vegas for a 40-yard field goal.
Herbert, whose 64 pass attempts were 11 more than his previous career high, continued his hot hand with a field goal drive that tied the score. Once more, he excelled on fourth down, finding Williams on a crossing route for 47 yards. The second-year signal-caller finished the night with 34 completions for 383 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception, and surely would have had much more, but the Raiders never allowed him to touch the football after that possession.