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How the defense paved the way to a division win and wild-card spot

In a loser-goes-home game against their division foe in the Los Angeles Chargers, the Raiders pulled off an unbelievable 35-32 overtime win.

But leading up to that moment, it was four quarters of fierce competition, highlighted by a defense making plays that greatly turned the tide.

One of the biggest accomplishments was limited Chargers star running back Austin Ekeler. While it at times felt like Ekeler was all over the field, he was limited to 64 rushing yards on 16 carries, thanks to the likes of his former teammates linebacker Denzel Perryman and defensive tackle Darius Philon. Perryman, like he has many times this season, led the team in tackles with nine total, while Philon made arguably one of the biggest plays of the game.

In the third quarter on a fourth-and-one, the Chargers went for it in their own territory – but Philon wasn't about to let the Bolts convert. He stuffed Ekeler for -2 yards, handing the ball to Derek Carr and Co. on the 18 yard line. The Raiders turned that defensive stop into a field goal, putting them up 20-14.

Philon, though carted off with an injury, was just one of the leaders who stepped up. Maxx Crosby continued his Pro Bowl season, getting two sacks on Herbert, while fellow defensive linemen Quinton Jefferson and Clelin Ferrell each notched a half sack.

"Top to bottom, just relentless, committed dogs," Crosby said postgame of the defensive line. "Everybody just playing for each other. It's something I've never been a part of. We have guys showing up every single and do extra work every single day. A lot of people just see what we do on Sundays, but I can't tell you how many hours every single day [we] put into our craft and our effort into our work. It's like nothing else."

Through much adversity, COVID-19 and injuries, the Silver and Black defense has grown together throughout the season on not only the defensive line, but also in the secondary.

Two more former Chargers in veteran Casey Hayward Jr. and Brandon Facyson had standout games as well. Hayward grabbed his first interception in the Silver and Black and added three passes defensed and three tackles to that. Meanwhile, Facyson was strong on his coverage of big-bodied receiver Mike Williams, breaking up two passes and notching seven tackles.

Crosby called it a "testament" to the team keeping their minds focused on the job at hand: Win, and you're in the postseason.

"From the outside, people could say whatever they want. We know inside the building we have guys with character, from top to bottom. ... Coaches, players, everybody. We have a ton of great guys in that building," Crosby said. "I'm just proud of everybody. Some people didn't believe in us. People see this and this about us, but we show up to work every single day. We've got 10 wins, we're going to the playoffs."

It also didn't hurt that the defense was aided by a rowdy Raider Nation, keeping it loud while the Chargers tried to work on offense.

"This one blew it out of the water," Derek Carr said. "It felt like a playoff game. All the guys that have been in the playoffs said this is exactly what it feels like. It was really good to see not very many light blue powdered jerseys in the stands. There were some, and I give them credit.

"But our fans did a good job of representing and being loud. ... This was a fun one to win."

View photos from the Raiders' Week 18 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium

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