The game was knotted up at 32 with 38 seconds left on the 39 yard-line of the Chargers. The stakes of the game were as straightforward as possible: a win or tie gets the Raiders into the playoffs; a loss sends them home. Lining up behind QB Derek Carr, RB Josh Jacobs took the hand off up the middle. Jacobs could have safely dropped to the turf immediately to let the clock run out, but laying down for a tie doesn’t fit that Al Davis mantra of “Just win, baby.”
No Raider eschewed that mantra more than Jacobs on Sunday and the former Alabama running back shot through a wide-open gap for a big gain of 10 yards. Two seconds later, kicker Daniel Carlson booted the game-winner that sent the Raiders to the playoffs and sent the Chargers home.
“I’m the closer. That’s why y’all brought me here. Therefore, let me close,” Jacobs would say about his performance.
Being called a closer may be a vast understatement as it was a tale of two halves for the running back. Jacobs only totaled 20 total yards in the first half, but he did score on a crucial one yard touchdown run to put the Raiders up 17-14 going into halftime.
After that, Jacobs couldn’t be stopped. Finishing the game with 132 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, Jacobs had the greatest showing of his professional career. That kind of performance couldn’t have come at a better time as the Raiders needed someone to put this team on their back and carry them to the postseason.
It was in overtime when the star of Jacobs shined brightest. Jacobs would churn out 69 yards on just seven carries, including the 1o-yard dash up the middle to put the Raiders in a position to win the game. Jacobs would set the tone on the opening drive of overtime by rushing for 28 and 18 yards on consecutive carries. In a time when most players would be pushed to the brink due to exhaustion, Jacobs somehow got stronger every time he touched the ball.
“When we got the opportunity and they tied the game and we went to overtime, I looked at Oly (offensive coordinator Greg Olson) and I said ‘It’s time’ and we collectively came together – the offensive line, DC (QB Derek Carr), everybody – and just made it happen,” Jacobs said after the victory.
Though he was running like a mad man and routinely fighting through contact, Jacobs was anything but healthy going into the game. Battling a rib injury, Jacobs was listed as questionable in the Raiders’ final injury report. Those same ribs had been limiting Jacobs for several weeks and it was no given that he would even play against the Chargers. However, Jacobs was determined to play when his team needed him most.
“I told them ‘There’s no way I’m not going to play in this game.’ Hurt or not, y’all are going to get everything out of me,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs acknowledging that he was hurting throughout the game despite his heroic efforts.
“I feel it right now. You feel it when you breathe, you know what I’m saying? I get winded and I feel it. It’s just one of them where I was constantly talking to myself each play. Getting helped up off the ground, I was just talking to myself, like ‘Okay, it’s this much time on the clock, so this is what we need.’”
“I would’ve felt like I let my team down if I went out there and let the pain get to me and give up. So many guys play with injuries on our team. So many guys have little things that are going on, I feel like they deserve my all. And I tried to come out there and give it to them today.”
Rib injuries are serious injuries that can be especially painful for running backs, who bear the brunt of the punishment on offense. The fact that Jacobs put up those numbers with injured ribs speaks to his toughness and determination to be there for his teammates when it mattered most. Josh Jacobs delivered his best performance when all eyes were on him in the game that mattered most.
Jacobs has been on an absolute tear over the last three weeks of the season, tallying 324 rushing yards and two touchdowns during a stretch where every game was a must-win for the Raiders. In a season with so much triumph and tragedy, to have a veteran like Jacobs step up for the Raiders when the team needed him most speaks volumes about his skill and character.
Always with the good of the team and his teammates on his mind, Jacobs powered through the pain to help push the Raiders into the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Despite an injury-riddled year, Jacobs truly saved his best for last.
Jacobs will be able to play in his first ever playoff game when the Raiders travel to Cincinnati to play the Bengals. It will be a game of historic proportions as the Raiders haven’t won a playoff game since their 2002 Super Bowl run and the Bengals famously haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. Something has got to give and you can rest assured that Josh Jacobs will do everything in his power to bring that playoff win to Raider Nation.
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