The Raiders are the Jim Thome of the NFL. Walk it off is right.
Thome is the former Major League baseball player and Hall of Famer who had an all-time best 13 walk-off home runs. The Raiders have walked off on six occasions for victories this season.
It’s also the central reason they have made the playoffs for just the second time since 2002.
They meet Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium and can likely disregard the part about being a near 6-point underdog should the game be decided late in the fourth quarter. That’s when the Raiders have been at their best.
Confidence: The conviction that one has the ability to meet life’s challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly.
The Raiders sure have acted the part in the most stressful and significant of times.
Shades of Clemson
“It reminds me a lot of our 2016 national championship team at Clemson,” said wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. “We won like seven games by a touchdown or less. You just get used to winning. Winning the close games.
“It’s good for young guys to experience it and as we go on, the rest of this year and next year and the year after, we have a program of winning.”
It’s really an amazing thing. According to the Associated Press, the Raiders have the fourth-worst point differential (minus-65) to make the postseason in NFL history.
So while they haven’t proven to be world-beaters on the scoreboard, the Raiders have developed this sense of extreme faith in themselves when games are on the line.
There has been no more a dramatic finish than the latest, a 35-32 overtime win against the Chargers on Sunday that clinched the No. 5 playoff seed.
Knowing a tie would also put them in the tournament — although it would have instead meant a 7 seed and a not-at-all-desired trip to Kansas City — the Raiders chose to push the action.
Daniel Carlson, whose right foot is responsible for five of the six walk-offs, hit a 47-yard field goal as time expired for the victory.
Believe it: Those previous five wins gave interim head coach Rich Bisaccia the juice to go for things and not settle for 29-29.
“I would like to think so,” Bisaccia said. “We have been in this situation before. (Quarterback) Derek (Carr) has been in two-minute situations before. He has been in four-minute situations before. Our defense has had to come up with stops toward the end of the game.
“I just know that they believe in each other when they go out there.”
Carr led the 30th game-winning drive of his career Sunday. That statistic can be misleading. It’s not always indicative of great play. Carr has been very good early in games during the team’s current four-game win streak, not so much in the middle and terrific at the end. When it counts.
Then there is Carlson, who in making 40-of-43 attempts this season more than earned the four-year $18.4 million contract extension he signed earlier this month.
“What a wild season it has been,” said Carlson, who admits he feels a little more comfortable in late-game situations having faced and been successful in so many. “It’s fun that this team plays together and relentlessly until the end of a game.
“It has come down to the wire like that and it’s fun to win like that. But we will also take blowout wins.”
Those are so boring.
Walking things off … now that’s exciting. Just ask Jim Thome.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.