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Raiders fall short despite valiant effort from Marcus Mariota in place of injured Derek Carr

Even with a host of notable pre-game losses afflicting the lineup, the Las Vegas Raiders were a goal line stand away from toppling the L.A. Chargers.

The absences of offensive coordinator Greg Olson and rookie Henry Ruggs III were one thing, but the loss of Derek Carr early on added another layer of drama to the proceedings.

Had a few other plays gone the Raiders' way, Marcus Mariota's sensational night back in the spotlight could've had a much happier ending.

"To be truthful, it's been a long journey. I've been through kind of everything," Mariota said of his confidence after his performance. "From injuries to surgeries to mental, kind of just, lapses, the confidence thing. I just truly appreciate the Raiders and the entire organization for kind of helping me through that."

Having last played in a meaningful game in Week 6 of last season, his last with the Titans, Mariota impressed with a final stat line of 17-of-28 for 226 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

His unexpected return came after Carr suffered a groin injury on third-and-goal during the Raiders' second drive of the night. Following a successful field goal attempt, Mariota came on to lead Las Vegas' first drive of the second quarter.

His first pass found tight end Foster Moreau for a gain of 22 and sparked a seven-play, 86-yard scoring drive, capped off by a beautiful 35-yard TD toss to Darren Waller to give the Raiders an early 10-7 lead.

From there, the 2015 second overall pick went toe-to-toe with fellow Oregon Duck Justin Herbert, showcasing not only his arm but his legs on a number of read-option plays to drive the Raiders down the field. He racked up nine carries for a game-high 88 yards to go with an impressive rushing score.

"It just shows the kind of player, the kind of football character he has. I mean, our offensive coordinator isn't here, either," coach Jon Gruden said of Mariota's effort. "You lose Derek and then we changed gears offensively and Marcus came in and did a great job. Really proud of him, I think that this kinda puts an exclamation point on why we signed him. Just wish we could've won the game for him."

Mariota's success on the ground appeared to set up a chance for him to win it in OT, but the decision was instead made to have Josh Jacobs and Alec Ingold attempt to score from the L.A. 27. Now on the L.A. 5, Mariota attempted to hit Ingold with a pass but it was batted down. Las Vegas kicked a field goal, and L.A. won it five plays -- and two costly Raiders penalties -- later.

Although the defeat leaves the Raiders' hopes of a postseason berth hanging in the balance, Mariota, who began the year on injured reserve and wasn't activated until Oct. 20, stepped up and reminded the world of what he can do.

It's unclear if he will face off against another stud rookie in Tua Tagovailoa when the Dolphins come to town for a must-win Week 16 clash. But, if Thursday night was any indication, the 27-year-old looks like he'd be able to fill in once again for Carr should his injury be significant.

"I was trying to kind of find my way again and they gave me an opportunity to kinda take some time," Mariota said. "They were patient with me and I just appreciate the fact that they were willing to do that. It's kinda part of being an athlete. You're gonna go through some ups and downs. I think the staff did a great job of kinda keeping me level-headed and kinda fighting through it.

"When it comes down to it, it's still ball. I just loved being out there again, it was fun to play. Unfortunately, we just didn't make enough plays."

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