Will Thursday night be the last time the Raiders play a home game in Oakland? They're one of three NFL teams under consideration for a move to the Los Angeles area.
It was definitely the last hurrah for safety Charles Woodson, who announced his retirement on Monday. Woodson's connection to the passionate Raiders fanbase connection was stronger than Thursday night against San Diego, when Woodson played his final home game.
"Though this is my last game in the Coliseum, I'll never leave you. Go Raiders," Woodson said after the game, which the Raiders won in overtime 23-20.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 31-yard field goal and the Raiders got a defensive stop to seal what might have been the final game ever in Oakland. Derek Carr threw a touchdown pass and led the winning overtime drive for the Raiders (7-8). It also made Charles Woodson a winner in his final home game with the Raiders as he will retire after his 18th NFL season.
Philip Rivers threw for 277 yards and a touchdown for the Chargers (4-11). They lost their seventh straight division game.
The players said before the game they felt a responsibility to send Woodson out with a win. They also wanted to do the same for these fans, who have unconditionally supported them through a long, hard winter.
"We are determined that this will not be the Raiders last game in Oakland," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said by phone Thursday, adding that building a new stadium for the team will be "complex," since they share O.co Coliseum with the Oakland A's, and the property is also co-owned by the city and Alameda County.
Schaaf said she plans to submit a proposal to the NFL soon. "We're confident we can keep the Raiders in Oakland in a way that's responsible to our taxpayers," she said.
The city will submit that proposal to the NFL on Dec. 30. The NFL plans to make its final decision during the owners meetings in January.
The Raiders have partnered with the San Diego Chargers on a stadium proposal in Carson, competing with an Inglewood proposal fronted by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke. The league is expected to vote on Los Angeles relocation during a Jan. 12-13 owners meeting in Houston. If the Raiders are approved to relocate to the Los Angeles market for a second time in 33 years, Thursday will be the last game they'll ever play in Oakland.
"You try not to think about it because you have no control over it, but it's been fun playing here," fullback and team captain Marcel Reece said. "Our fans are second to none. The atmosphere on game day is unmatched. We're human, and it's hard not to wonder if this is the last one.
"When I talk to the guys on Thursday, I'm going to say this: 'If it is the last game in Oakland, let's make it the best.'"
Thursday's game was the last home contest for any of the three teams eyeing the L.A. market. St. Louis fans expressed anger than the Rams long to leave despite an increasingly viable stadium proposal in their city.
Fans in San Diego expressed sadness that a team would consider leaving after 55 years in the market, and shared an emotional farewell with their star players.
Thursday's pervading emotion remains unclear. Fan clubs are passing out "Stay in Oakland" signs before the game, and there will be chants to that effect during the contest. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf urged fans to "keep the faith" in an interview with Bay City News Service. The city won't be able to block a relocation application with a viable stadium proposal and are miles behind other cities trying to keep their teams, but Schaaf continues to push for a new venue that will keep the Raiders in the East Bay long term.
This fan base had the Raiders ripped from them in 1982, got them back in 1995 and are in jeopardy of losing them again this year.
They know for sure they're losing Woodson, this city's favorite football son. It's possible they're losing the team for good, while playing the franchise that could help them move. It's going to be an emotional night for all involved.
"It's going to be sad just for myself, and it will be sad for the fans (if the Raiders leave)," Woodson said. "They love this team. They love the Raiders. They identify with the Oakland Raiders. It's happened to them before. It would be tough to actually have that happen a second time around."
CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair and the Associated Press contributed to this report.