The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers played one of the most surreal regular season games in NFL history on Sunday night in Week 18. That might sound like hyperbole, but it really isn’t if you understood the stakes on both sides going into the game.
After the Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in the final week of the season, both the Chargers and Raiders would have made the playoffs if their regular season finale ended in a tie. If there was a winner in the game, that team would make the playoffs, the loser would miss the playoffs, and the Steelers would also get in. Every NFL fan knew about this scenario coming into the week, with many daydreaming about a game where the Chargers and Raiders both took a knee on every play of the game to ensure the tie and a mutual postseason berth.
The Jags did the improbable by beating the Colts for only their third win of the year. All the Raiders and Chargers had to do was kneel, but instead they both went all out trying to win. Despite that, the game was still so close to ending in a tie.
The Raiders led by 29-14 points with just over eight minutes left in the game. The dream of a tie appeared dead … until the Chargers quickly scored a touchdown and completed the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to seven. After a Raiders’ three-and-out on the next possession, LA quarterback Justin Herbert led the Chargers on a dramatic game-tying drive by throwing a touchdown on the final play of regulation.
The Raiders had the first possession of OT and kicked a field goal. The Chargers answered with a field goal. It appeared the Raiders next drive had stalled out on midfield when Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs was tackled at the Chargers’ 39-yard line on a second down play. Time was running off the clock and the Raiders appeared set to take the tie and the playoff berth, until the Chargers called a bizarre timeout.
Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth couldn’t believe that Chargers head coach Brandon Staley called a timeout with 38 seconds left. pic.twitter.com/1LyfA7yYXv