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Raiders clinch first playoff berth since 2002 with win

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The Raiders (11-3) are playoff-bound after knocking off the injury-riddled Chargers (5-9) on Sunday. Here's what we learned from Oakland's 19-16 victory over San Diego:

1. A loyal and vocal bunch, Raiders fans have been through hell this century. No longer. Sunday's victory sealed Oakland's first playoff berth since 2002 and helped them regain sole possession of the AFC West after Kansas City (10-4) fell to the Titans. With games remaining against the Colts and Broncos, the Raiders simply need to hold serve to nab a coveted bye in the AFC.

2. Time to fret over Oakland's offense? Instead, let's credit an active Chargers defense that looked like it still had plenty to play for this season. Sunday's showdown served as a wire-to-wire grind for a Raiders team that has posted 30-plus points in seven of 13 outings, second only to the high-flying Falcons. Coming off his worst game of the year, Carr threw for just 213 yards in a tilt that saw reliable kicker Sebastian Janikowski punch home four field goals. Oakland struggled early with two uncharacteristic turnovers on a day that saw no Raiders receiver cross the 60-yard barrier. The most hopeful note for Oakland was that Carr -- throwing exclusively out of the shotgun for the third straight game because of a dislocated pinky -- showed no visible discomfort and threw the ball well, save for a costly first-half pick.

3. Philip Rivers shook off last week's five-turnover implosion to keep San Diego alive until the bitter end. Then disaster struck, with the wily veteran tossing a game-ending interception to cover man Reggie Nelson with 1:37 left on the clock. The giveaway put an ugly exclamation mark on a game that saw Rivers -- 17 of 30 for 206 yards -- rip through Oakland's secondary for much of the second half. Along the way he threw a 47-yard touchdown strike to Travis Benjamin and another score to rookie tight end Hunter Henry that notched a 16-13 lead in the third quarter. That lead, as with so many other Chargers games this season, was not meant to be.

4. Raiders running back Latavius Murray continued his strong stretch run with 81 yards off 13 carries. It was encouraging to see Oakland use the ground game to pound away at San Diego with 149 yards at a healthy 5.1 yards per tote. They'll need that balance come January.

5. Have the Chargers quit on coach Mike McCoy? No way. Despite a whopping 16 players on injured reserve -- second most in the NFL -- San Diego played with energy. Some have pointed to the Bolts as a team that could tumble next week against the winless Browns. That feels like comprehensive nonsense. When the Chargers are hot, they can hang with anyone.

6. Was this the final Raiders-Bolts game in San Diego? If so, these embattled Chargers fans deserve much more than this unforgiving fate.

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