Game Ball: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers

Game Ball is a weekly series that awards a “game ball” to the player of the game for the Oakland Raiders. Only one player will be chosen, and this one is for Week 15 against the Chargers.

Awarding a game ball to a player, coach, or anyone deserving is a long-standing tradition in the NFL. And that is what serves as the inspiration for this weekly series.

Some games, many players may be deserving to be recognized as the player of the game — while some games, maybe only a couple of players are deserving. No matter what, there is always at least one person who stands out above the rest.

With crucial positioning in the AFC West as well as a potential playoff berth on the line, it was a two-man race for the Game Ball. Much respect to Bruce Irvin, but we’re going sentimental, and the game ball goes to Sebastian Janikowski.

For the second game in a row, the Raiders offense struggled to find the end zone, hitting pay dirt just once against Kansas City and again just once against San Diego. With the defense holding up their end of the bargain, Janikowski bailed the Raiders out time and time again. Four times, to be exact.

Finding themselves in an early 7-0 hole, it was crucial for Oakland to respond with points of their own. When Michael Crabtree dropped a pass on 3rd & 8, Seabass marched onto the field and drilled a 45-yard field goal.

With the game tied 10-10 early in the 3rd quarter, the Raiders seemed poised to take the lead with a touchdown. But an incompletion on 3rd & 2 from the 15-yard line forced the offense to settle for a field goal. Janikowski calmly hit from 33 yards out to give Oakland a 13-10 lead.

Once again trailing, this time 16-13 with about nine minutes to go in the 4th quarter, the Raiders were on San Diego’s 1-yard line. But a Latavius carry, a Carr pass that fell incomplete, and another run by Murray all failed to find the end zone. And once again, Janikowski trotted onto the field, and tacked on 3 more points with a 21-yard field goal.

And then with the game still tied at 16, with under three minutes to go in the game, the Oakland offense stalled on San Diego’s 26-yard line. So out came Seabass, and like he has done so many times in his career, he connected from 44 yards out.

Jano’s fourth field goal of the game gave the Raiders a 19-16 lead, which would prove to be the final score, clinching their first playoff berth since 2002.

Which is the sentimental reason why Janikowski gets the game ball. Aside from accounting for 13 points on the day (4 FG’s plus a PAT), Sebastian is the only player on the Raiders who was on the 2002 playoff team. Including team staff, he’s likely only one of a handful of people in the organization that were there in 2002.

So salute to Seabass. He hasn’t been perfect, but he was perfect on Sunday. And the Raiders are officially back in the playoffs as a result.

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