It weren't pretty and damn near ended in a loss, but Christmas Eve in Oaktown was silver, black and beautiful as the Raiders beat the San Diego Chargers in overtime 23-20.
More of the same style of play by the Raiders where the offense struggles, punter Marquette King pins the opponent deep and the defense makes plays that changes game momentum. This time it was a forced fumble by LB Malcolm Smith that was picked out of the air by DE Benson Mayowa and returned to the 3 yd line for a first and goal Raiders.
San Diego was leading 17-12 and driving with 5:00 minutes left in regulation. The play caused an eruption out of the Raider Nation that had to be felt in the North Pole. It was the gift that would lead to a 20-17 Raiders lead and a game sealing Sebastian Janikowski field goal in overtime.
MayOWA might not realize it, but his recovery and rumble jolted life into the team and the fans like nothing else could have. The Raiders looked dead in the water. Nothing was working. Meanwhile, Chargers QB Philip Rivers was looking Peyton Manningesque throughout most of the night. I'm sure he thought they had the win tucked away in the old christmas bag and was simply running time off the clock. I thought I once saw a big, fluorescent green, grinch-smile beaming through his face mask.
Then a six foot three inch savior wearing a Black jersey with the silver numerals 95 went slicing through both Chargers and Raiders with the pigskin tucked securely under his arm. The recovery and sprint began so fast that it took fans and players alike time to react to MayOWa in action.
By the time players fully realized, MayOWa was full steam ahead, pushing anyone between himself and the goal line out of the way, including some of his own teammates. He was not gonna be denied. 41 yards later MayOWa lay sprawled out at about the three yard line, catching his breath and being hailed a hero.
Up to that point it had been an ugly, sloppy game that favored the Chargers. After that play, the Raiders just looked as if the full moon had shifted ever so slightly to a position in the sky that let it shine exclusively down on the Raiders sideline. When the Raiders won the overtime coin flip you knew the football God's had answered Raider Nation's prayers and would deliver a win for Charles Woodson's final game at the coliseum. What a game, what a win.
I remember having my little heart broken by my cousin when told there was no Santa Claus. Well cousin, after seeing my Raiders come from behind and deliver an incredible effort to win the nationally televised Thursday night game, I not only believe in the Jolly, bearded man who bears gifts, I saw him make a delivery to my home team. Oh yeah, and he was dressed in Silver and Black.