Raiders vs. Texans: Takeaways from Houston's 28-23 Loss to Oakland
Things looked like they were getting a little better for the Houston Texans in the past couple weeks. Sunday's game, though, completely cancelled out any signs of progression.
Facing a struggling Oakland Raiders team that had only one win more than the Texans themselves, Houston reverted back to its old ways, turning the football over and struggling to contain a sharp and impressive Matt McGloin.
For a game that featured two of the NFL's bottom-dwellers, this one will by far capture the most headlines this week. Gary Kubiak's decision to pull Case Keenum from the game in the third quarter never paid off, and a heated exchange between quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson only fueled the fire.
This was a tough one to watch, and these takeaways probably aren't going to make things any better.
It all started off poorly when Garrett Graham fumbled a routine pass from Case Keenum on a short route over the middle to give the Texans their first turnover of the day.
Keenum then did one better, throwing his first interception in 105 pass attempts, gifting the Raiders prime real estate in the red zone to set themselves up for some points.
All game long, the Raiders defense was either hitting hard or forcing their hands into tight spaces to try and knock the ball free. Running back Ben Tate nearly ended the game a few plays early after spilling the ball close to the goal line, and if Keenum hadn't felt endless pressure in the pocket, his interception probably would have never happened.
The turnover battle wouldn't be so bad if the Texans were forcing some interceptions themselves. Unfortunately, rookie quarterback Matt McGloin was perfect in his debut.
Containing the Run
Since the loss of Brian Cushing, the Texans have done an OK job of limiting opposing running backs to as few yards as possible.
On Sunday, Rashad Jennings put an end to that, finishing with 150 yards and a touchdown in a pretty easy performance.
For most of the game, Jennings showed a ton of strength at first contact, and when the Texans did manage to break through and put some pressure on him at the line of scrimmage, Jennings still managed to move forward for some positive yards.
Houston went without Joe Mays this week, who was replaced at inside linebacker by Jeff Tarpinian. The second-year linebacker struggled in coverage and also contributed to the Texans' overall lack of run defense.
Coverage, Coverage, Coverage
It was another uninspired performance from cornerback Brice McCain, who stepped in for Kareem Jackson this week. All season McCain has struggled on assignments, and again, there were plenty of blown coverages to talk about after Sunday's affair.
Early in the first quarter McCain became frozen in man coverage, as the Raiders sent two receivers his way and McGloin found Denarius Moore for the easy touchdown. Of course, McCain wasn't the only one who struggled though, as D.J. Swearinger also fell behind on a couple of routes.
Problems also arose when it came to covering tight ends. Michael Rivera had a big day with 54 yards and a score, and with slower guys like Darryl Sharpton trying to match him in the middle of the field, it's no wonder.
Only a few days after Ed Reed left for New York, the Texans are still left with serious problems in the secondary.
Laziness and Undisciplined Play
The play that seemed to be forgotten by the end of the game occurred in the first quarter.
After Keenum had already taken four quarters' worth of hits, the Texans faced 3rd-and-12 and were in position to, at the very least, kick a field goal. On the play, however, Keenum was sacked for a big loss. On the replay, both Brandon Brooks and Garrett Graham failed to get off the line, block or even move toward the oncoming defenders.
In truth, it was a lazy play from an offensive line that was never up to the pace of the Raiders' attack. And if it wasn't their slow approach to the game, it was penalties that also set the Texans up for disaster.
In total, Brooks finished with three false-start calls, making up eight of Houston's total penalty count. One of them came when the game was on the line in the red zone, which cost Houston some valuable yards.
In the past, discipline hasn't been a huge problem for the Texans. But now it is.
Sharing Andre Johnson's Frustrations
A heated exchange between Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub was seen on the sidelines after the Texans had blown the game. Who could blame the star wide receiver?
After two weeks of nonstop Johnson brilliance, the Raiders seemed to have things figured out pretty well. With just one shot left, Schaub took a stab at Johnson in the back of the end zone, a predictable play that was nearly picked off.
If it wasn't obvious last week, it is now—the Texans are going to target Johnson in scoring opportunities simply because no one else is as reliable. Unfortunately, defenses are now waking up; hence the frustration at game's end.
Of course, Houston did a poor job of utilizing Johnson at all in the first quarter. He saw only one pass, which is why the offense stalled completely.
Improvements on Special Teams
Finally, Keshawn Martin broke through and earned himself an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown that helped tie the game midway through the second quarter.
It's a special teams battle for the Texans this year, and Sunday was definitely a step in the right direction. Once Martin had taken one to the house, kicker Randy Bullock also broke his longest attempt record, hitting a 51-yard field goal that is sure to give him some confidence.
Overall, Martin did a great job on the return game, and punter Shane Lechler was again solid. It figures that once the Texans sort out their special teams, everything else fell to mush.
The Problems with the Pass Rush
J.J. Watt seems to be the only one doing any rushing on defense, as he finished with two sacks—the only ones the Texans saw all game.
As for the rest of the pass rush, rookie quarterback Matt McGloin was more or less untouched on Sunday, and it showed in his 197-yard, three-touchdown performance.
Credit is due here to Oakland's offensive line, but the Texans did a poor job of applying pressure, as they allowed 12 first downs, eight of which came through the air.
Gary Kubiak's Decision-Making
The most talked about moment from the week will be Gary Kubiak's decision to pull Case Keenum from the starting role and replace him with Matt Schaub.
Why this happened, no one really knows. But perhaps it was because Keenum was struggling to put points on the board in the second half, even though Schaub's presence under center only lead to a couple of field goals and a stadium of boos.
It seemed like Kubiak wanted to give Schaub a final chance to show that he either still had starting potential, or that he was indeed doomed for the bench. In the end, the latter was the outcome, and as soon as Schaub stepped in, the entire rhythm of the offense resembled what it did three weeks ago.
Keenum no doubt struggled on Sunday, turning in his worst performance of the year. Placing him on the bench during a winnable game, however, only seems like it would mess with his head.