As the precious seconds whittled away in the fourth quarter of the Raiders’ 35-32 victory over the rival Chargers on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium, running back Josh Jacobs delivered a message to the players and coaches on his sideline: “I’m the closer. That’s what ya’ll brought me here for. Let me close.”
And when Los Angeles tied the game in overtime, he had another message — this one for offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
“We collectively came together,” Jacobs said.” And we just made it happen.”
Jacobs indeed served as the closer Sunday, rushing four times for 23 yards on the game-winning drive. His 10-yard run on the penultimate play preceded Daniel Carlson’s game-winning 47-yard field — and capped a 132-yard effort, his best of the season.
The third-year bruiser from Alabama was limited in practice last week with a rib injury, but he said he knew he would play because the Raiders “knew what was at stake” Sunday night.
“I told them ‘There’s no way I’m not going to play in this game.’ Hurt or not, they (were) going to get everything out of me,” said Jacobs, who acknowledged that he felt the effects of the rib injury throughout the course of the game.
“How it played out, it’s just amazing. For real,” he said.
Jacobs had been stymied by injuries this season and hadn’t quite regained the form he displayed as a rookie in 2019 when he averaged 4.8 yards per carry and rushed for 1,150 yards. He’d averaged 3.7 yards per carry through Week 15 and did not eclipse the century mark in his first 12 games this season.
But he broke free on Dec. 26 in a 17-14 victory over the Broncos, rushing for 129 yards on 27 carries. He injured his ribs last week in a 23-20 road victory over the Indianapolis Colts, managing 63 yards on 16 carries.
Interim coach Rich Bisaccia carefully managed Jacobs’ workload at practice, knowing he would need him Sunday in the finale.
Jacobs rushed for 20 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but powered his way to 112 in the second half against a defense ranked 30th against the run. He gained a career-high 130 yards after contact, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
He’s rushed for 2,364 yards after contact the last three years — sixth most in the NFL.
“We feel like we’ve been getting a little bit better each week at running the football,” Bisaccia said. “There’s a certain trust factor in there between Josh and the offensive line. A lot of credit to those guys covering guys up and moving the football for us when we need to.”
Jacobs concludes the regular season with 217 carries for 872 yards, both career lows. But the satisfaction of qualifying for the postseason transcends any type of statistical satisfaction for Jacobs.
For the closer.
“With me saying that, it’s kind of like I’ve got to back up my words. I’ve got to do what I asked and earn that respect,” Jacobs said. “It’s definitely an honor and blessing to be in this situation. … I would have felt like I let my team down if I let the pain get to me and gave up.
“We did it.”