Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 44-yard field goal with 2:40 left, his fourth of the game, and the Oakland Raiders beat the San Diego Chargers 19-16 in the Relocation Bowl on Sunday to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2002.
Playing before what looked like a home crowd at 70,000-seat Qualcomm Stadium, the visiting Raiders (11-3) earned a playoff nod on the same field where they made their last postseason appearance, an embarrassing 48-21 loss to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl on Jan. 26, 2003.
There was a surreal atmosphere to the game, which might be the Chargers’ second-to-last in San Diego.
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.
Raiders fans in their Silver and Black outnumbered Chargers fans by roughly 80 percent to 20 percent in the crowd of 68,352, the largest crowd of the year in San Diego.
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.
The winning drive started on the Raiders 34 and included a 27-yard run by Latavius Murray and a 22-yard pass from Derek 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.
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. They finally 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.
The Raiders had turnovers in the red zone on consecutive drives in the first half, but the Chargers failed to capitalize. Latavius Murray fumbled late in the first quarter and Kyle Emanuel recovered on the San Diego 9. Oakland’s next drive ended when Trovon Reed intercepted Carr’s underthrown pass at the San Diego 6.