Moving on up
SAN DIEGO — The Oakland Raiders are going back to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, earning a postseason nod on the same field where they were so thoroughly humiliated in the Super Bowl in January 2003.
Fittingly, the only player remaining from that roster, kicker Sebastian Janikowksi, helped the Raiders punch their ticket. He kicked a 44-yard field goal with 2:40 left, his fourth of the game, and the Raiders beat the San Diego Chargers 19-16 in the Relocation Bowl on Sunday.
"I can't even describe my words man. It feels so special. I waited a long time for that," Janikowski said.
So have their fans, and they packed Qualcomm Stadium, outnumbering Chargers fans by roughly 80 percent to 20 percent in the crowd of 68,352, the largest in San Diego this season.
All that Silver and Black backing the Raiders (11-3) provided a surreal atmosphere to the game, which might be the Chargers' second to last in San Diego after 56 seasons.
Team chairman Dean Spanos seems almost certain to move the team to the Los Angeles area after failing to get a big public subsidy to help him replace aging Qualcomm Stadium.
The Raiders could be on the move, too, with owner Mark Davis eyeing Las Vegas, although they'd still play in Oakland until a new stadium was built in Sin City.
A sour relationship between Spanos and the Chargers fans, as well as yet another losing season, gives the appearance of a franchise flaming out. Raiders fans were all too happy to snap up available tickets.
"I was very excited, very joyful, looking around the stadium and seeing our fans just going crazy," quarterback Derek Carr said. "When we come to San Diego, our fans turn it into a home game. We always think we get nine home games a year."
The Chargers (5-9) were eliminated from the playoff chase when Miami beat the New York Jets on Saturday night.
The Chargers will miss the postseason for the third time in coach Mike McCoy's four seasons and for the sixth time in six seasons overall. They've lost 21 of their last 30 games.
"It was a road game," San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. "It was just like being in Oakland. Except there were more people."
Where were Chargers fans?
"I don't know. But it's been two tough years," Rivers said.
It was the sixth time the Chargers blew a fourth-quarter lead this season.
The winning drive started on the Raiders 34 and included a 27-yard run by Latavius Murray and a 22-yard pass from Carr to Seth Roberts.
Carr scrambled on third-and-8 on the Chargers 29 and thought he got the first down, but was ruled to have gone out of bounds a yard short. The Raiders challenged and the refs agreed, giving them the first down at the 21.
An incompletion and a sack forced the Raiders to turn to their 17-year veteran kicker, who delivered.
Reggie Nelson intercepted Philip Rivers with 1:37 to go to seal it.
Janikowski also had field goals of 21, 45 and 33 yards.
"We would like to get seven, but we got points when we lined up for them," coach Jack Del Rio said.
Rivers had thrown a go-ahead, 7-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Hunter Henry late in the third quarter.
Rivers threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin on the game's eighth play.
The Raiders couldn't get out of their own way for most of the first half, including turning over the ball twice in the red zone. But the Chargers failed to capitalize and Oakland tied it at 10 on Carr's 13-yard scoring pass to Michael Crabtree 22 seconds before halftime.
The original call of incomplete was reversed after replay showed Crabtree got both feet down before tumbling out of the end zone.
Oakland took a short-lived 13-10 lead in the third quarter on Janikowski's 33-yard field goal. The Chargers came right back for Henry's go-ahead TD catch.
STADIUM SAGAS: Davis says he's committed to moving the Raiders to Las Vegas, where a $1.9 billion stadium project has been approved, including $750 million in public money. Davis has from the end of the Raiders' season until Feb. 15 to apply for relocation.
Spanos, son of owner Alex Spanos, appears to be leaning toward moving to Los Angeles and eventually joining the Rams in a stadium in Inglewood scheduled to open in 2019. Spanos angered the fan base last year with a failed attempt to move to Carson and share a stadium with the archrival Raiders.
After that failed, the Chargers-backed Measure C was overwhelmingly rejected by San Diego voters on Nov. 8. That would have raised $1.15 billion in increased hotel occupancy taxes for a $1.8 billion downtown stadium and convention center annex.
ROAD TEAM IN THEIR OWN STADIUM
The Chargers practiced this week with piped-in crowd noise, anticipating what it would be like Sunday. They skipped individual introductions and were booed anyway when they were introduced as a team.
"We wanted to come out as a team. We wanted to stay together and fighting," McCoy said.