Raiders vs. Chargers score: Derek Carr edges Justin Herbert in OT thriller; Vegas claims postseason spot

The Raiders are headed to the playoffs. Rematching the rival Chargers in an unofficial postseason game to close the 2021 regular season, Vegas survived a heroic late-stage comeback from Justin Herbert and Co., with Daniel Carlson's overtime field goal sealing a 35-32 win and punching the club's ticket to the playoffs.

Vegas started Sunday night hot, opening with a 10-0 lead and later owning a 15-point advantage thanks to a big night from both Josh Jacobs (132 yards) and their pass rush. Herbert, meanwhile, stole the spotlight down the stretch, emerging as a fourth-down magician to rally L.A. back and force overtime. Both sides traded field goals in the extra frame before Jacobs marched Vegas past midfield, and only as time expired did Carlson hit the field goal, though a 32-32 tie would've sent both squads to the playoffs.

Here are some immediate takeaways from Sunday night's thrilling Raiders win:

Why the Raiders won

They dominated in the trenches. There are a lot of reasons Vegas pulled it out (more on that in a second), but their work up front was the real X-factor. On offense, Josh Jacobs powered behind their line for more than five yards per carry, and some of his best runs came on Vegas' final drive to set up Daniel Carlson's winning field goal. On defense, Maxx Crosby (two sacks) and their front stayed hungry all night, keeping Justin Herbert on his toes. Derek Carr, meanwhile, delivered some precision strikes throughout the evening, with Bryan Edwards and Zay Jones stepping up on the receiving end. Most of all, they were just incredibly resilient, recovering from a blown fourth-quarter lead against a superior QB and offense to get the job done.

Why the Chargers lost

It wasn't for a lack of clutch magic from Justin Herbert, who routinely bailed L.A. out of fourth-down situations with the game on the line. Herbert, of course, wasn't perfect, sailing his lone interception at a bad time while trying to extend a failed third-and-long, but he was the least of the Chargers' concerns. Instead, Brandon Staley's squad lost because they couldn't stop the run. Or at least that's what killed them when it mattered most. Staley's abrupt timeout in the final minute of OT may have given the Raiders new life in the face of a potential tie, but his front seven was most responsible for letting Josh Jacobs and the Vegas offense grind it out. Ten penalties didn't help their cause, and neither did a fumbled punt.

Turning point

With the game knotted at 32 in OT, and under 40 seconds left in the contest, the Raiders were preparing to call a third-and-4 play, having just run the ball on consecutive downs to keep the clock churning. To some eyes, it appeared as if they were content to run the clock all the way down and accept a playoff-clinching tie. But then Staley called a timeout, and the Chargers proceeded to surrender a first-down run from Jacobs on the ensuing play. This moved Vegas closer to field-goal range and sealed the Raiders' last-second win.

Play of the game

He didn't end on top, but give all the credit in the world to Herbert, who stood tall in the last game of his second NFL season, most notably delivering this pinpoint TD strike on the final play of regulation to send the game to OT:

What's next

The Chargers (9-8) are done, finishing Staley's first season at head coach just over .500 but out of the playoffs. The Raiders (10-7), meanwhile, will travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in the first matchup of Wild Card Weekend on Saturday.

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Season Leaders

passing
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J. Herbert5014 YD, 38 TDS, 15 INTS
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J. Herbert5014 YD, 38 TDS, 15 INTS
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D. Carr4804 YD, 23 TDS, 14 INTS
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D. Carr4804 YD, 23 TDS, 14 INTS
rushing
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A. Ekeler206 ATT, 911 YD, 12 TDS
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A. Ekeler206 ATT, 911 YD, 12 TDS
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J. Jacobs217 ATT, 872 YD, 9 TDS
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J. Jacobs217 ATT, 872 YD, 9 TDS
receiving
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M. Williams76 REC, 1146 YD, 9 TDS
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M. Williams76 REC, 1146 YD, 9 TDS
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H. Renfrow103 REC, 1038 YD, 9 TDS
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H. Renfrow103 REC, 1038 YD, 9 TDS
Live updates
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Why did the Chargers call that timeout on third down? It sure seemed like the Raiders were going to be content to run out the clock. Extremely puzzling.

January 10, 2022, 5:17 AM
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And the Raiders are going to the playoffs, where they'll play the Bengals on Saturday afternoon. The Chargers are going home. And the Steelers will play the Chiefs on Monday night.

January 10, 2022, 5:16 AM
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There's really no reason for the Raiders to try a field goal and risk a blocked kick, but we'll see if that's how they play it. 

January 10, 2022, 5:14 AM
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After a loss on first down, there's not much reason for the Raiders to run another play. Kneeling it out gets them in.

January 10, 2022, 5:12 AM
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@Raiders via Twitter
January 10, 2022, 5:11 AM
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Wow wow wow. What a throw from Carr to Jones, after he'd missed Jones twice for big plays earlier in the game. Wow. 

January 10, 2022, 5:10 AM
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Oh wow. Third-and-long now after a HUGE play by Derwin James. 

January 10, 2022, 5:09 AM
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The Raiders don't appear interested in having the Chargers join them in the playoffs. We'll see how this plays out.

January 10, 2022, 5:09 AM
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Way too close for comfort but Hopkins snuck it inside the upright. Now less than half an overtime period left and we might actually get the tie. Incredible. 

January 10, 2022, 5:05 AM
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Third time Mike Williams almost came up with a one-handed catch for a big play, but couldn't quite hang on. Chargers will try for a FG to tie it now.

January 10, 2022, 5:05 AM
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I mean this is just ridiculous.

January 10, 2022, 5:02 AM
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And here's yet another fourth down for the Chargers. Fourth-and-9 this time. 

January 10, 2022, 5:02 AM
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The Chargers haven't run the ball in about three hours but the play-action fake on first down worked... only the Chargers had an ineligible man downfield. 

January 10, 2022, 5:00 AM
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@Raiders via Twitter
January 10, 2022, 4:59 AM
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Waller was open behind the defense but Carr led him a little bit too far. Raiders can take the lead with a field goal here, but the Chargers will have a chance to make a drive of their own and either tie it up or win.

January 10, 2022, 4:56 AM
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January 10, 2022, 4:56 AM
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That was Jacobs' first carry since the 9:58 mark of the fourth quarter, which I think was like an hour ago in real time.

January 10, 2022, 4:54 AM
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@Chargers via Twitter
January 10, 2022, 4:52 AM
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The Raiders will get the ball, which means the Chargers offense and Raiders defense will finally get a bit of a break. This should be interesting, to say the least.

January 10, 2022, 4:49 AM
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To reiterate: if this game ends in a tie, both teams go to the playoffs. If one team wins, the other goes home. There is a LOT of incentive of both sides to just kneel it out in overtime.

January 10, 2022, 4:48 AM
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