San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is hit by Oakland Raiders' Khalil Mack on an incomplete pass in the second quarter on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif. (K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

Ecstatic Raiders take next step, but let’s hold the parade

A giddy bunch of Raiders whooped and hollered after they clinched a playoff berth in San Diego on Sunday. Bully for them. Not since the 2002 season have they gotten this far. Or a few hundred personal foul penalties ago.

“We goin’ to the playoff!” tackle Donald Penn yelled after the 19-16 escape against the Chargers.

Yeah, and the Raiders are goin’ not too far when they get there.

Sure, the playoffs are a good next step for a Raiders’ team that has been irrelevant far too long. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Teams don’t make quantum leaps in a matter of months. This is not a Super Bowl team. Not even close.

Championship-caliber teams don’t struggle the way the Raiders did against a 5-9 San Diego Chargers team that blows leads in the fourth quarter almost as often as Democrats whine about the last presidential election.

The Raiders had to come from behind twice, and it took a botched extra point and a fumble by some undrafted no-name to pull it off. Even then, Sebastian Janikowski’s game-winning field goal was this close to missing the mark.

Play like this against the more savvy and disciplined New England Patriots, for instance, and they won’t be nearly as lucky next time.

JUST ASKIN’: Amid rampant speculation that the Chargers were headed to Los Angeles, roughly three-quarters of Qualcomm Stadium was dressed in Silver and Black.

Really, wouldn’t the game have been a lot better if the loser had to move permanently to Mexico City?

CARR STUCK IN NEUTRAL: Playoff-bound teams want to peak late in the season. Then there are the Raiders, who may have maxed out weeks ago.

The root of the problem is quarterback Derek Carr and his right pinky finger, the one he mangled three weeks ago. For the first time since then, he took snaps behind center, so the Chargers had to be mindful of play-action passes. Even so, he completed only 19-of-30 passes for 213 yards, one touchdown and one interception, a horrible throw in the red zone that took points off the board. His best work came on a scramble in the final minutes.

For days, Carr has claimed the pinky is no big deal, but ball don’t lie. Clearly, the guy has lost a few miles off his fastball. He hasn’t been able to squeeze the ball into tight spots as effectively as before. And, yes, that’s kind of a big deal.

CHIEF SITTING BULL: At 11-4, the Raiders moved one game ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West. The division title would give the Carr and his teammates a much-needed bye in the first round of the playoffs.

For this, the Raiders can send a thank-you note to Chiefs coach Andy Reid and his team, who handed them an early Christmas present earlier in the day.

On the Chiefs’ first possession of the game, human blur Tyreek Hill scored on a 68-yard burst. Then he didn’t touch the ball on offense for the rest of the game while Reid tried to sit on the early lead. Sure enough, the Tennessee Titans rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to bail out a 19-17 victory on the final play of the game.

The last time someone as large as Reid gagged like that, Mama Cass Elliot choked to death on a ham sandwich, as urban legend would have it.

HEY, LOOK …: The first-round draft pick formerly known as Amari Cooper caught a pass!

Yeah, that’s it — one.

HELP WANTED: The QB situation wouldn’t be as bad if the ground game carried the ball for a while. While the numbers were solid — 145 yards at 5.0 per carry — it came up well short in short-yardage situations.

Here’s lookin’ at you again, Latavius Murray.

On third and 1 late in the third quarter, Murray was stood up for no gain. One quarter later, on first down at the 1-yard line, Twinkletoes failed to lower his pads and was stopped cold again.

Did Balls mention that Murray also fumbled on consecutive drives in the first half?

Yo, if it’s too late to sign Marshawn Lynch, then Jus-tin Frim-mel would do just fine.

IN OTHER NEWS …: The Santa Clara semi-pro team dropped its 13th game in a row, this one to the Falcons in Atlanta, 38-13, but CEO Jed York reported progress on his cabana back home.

YOUR TURN: “I wonder, where are the Faithfuls going to now? To the Raiders? It’ll take five-to-10 years before they even make it to the playoffs! So now, all I can say to all the Niners fans is, crawl under the biggest rock you can find and hide.” — Ray Tanaka, San Jose

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

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