For one of the few times this season, the Oakland Raiders got a balanced effort on both sides of the ball, resulting in a much-needed 28-23 win over the Houston Texans and the first road victory of the season for coach Dennis Allen’s team.
A surprisingly strong performance by rookie Matt McGloin in his first NFL start, coupled with a steady performance from the defense, helped the Raiders snap a two-game losing skid and improved Oakland to 4-6.
Everything has to be tempered, of course, with the knowledge that it was against Houston, which has dropped eight straight and was without running back Arian Foster.
Here are the full roster report cards from the game.
McGloin probably couldn’t have drawn up how he wanted his first NFL start to go any better than it actually did. The undrafted, overlooked rookie passed for three touchdowns and 197 yards while calmly taking charge of the offense as if he’d been in the league for years.
It wasn’t just the touchdowns that made McGloin a success. He did a stellar job of making quick decisions where to go with the ball, and he repeatedly threw it to spots where only his receivers could get to it.
He made a handful of throws that were off target, but for the most part the kid from Penn State was spot on.
Darren who? That’s what Raiders fans have to be thinking after watching Rashad Jennings power his way to a career-high 150-yard day that included an 80-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat.
Jennings ran strong all afternoon and repeatedly pushed the pile with four- and five-yard runs that kept the chains moving. The success of the ground game took a lot of the pressure off of McGloin, too.
It was also nice to see Oakland try to get fullback Marcel Reece more involved, at least early.
McGloin did a good job spreading the ball around and getting everyone involved, which kept the Texans from keying in on any one receiver.
Rod Streater and Denarius Moore both got into the end zone, though both also dropped passes as well.
The key was that McGloin’s throws came while the receivers were in stride, allowing them to get critical yards after the catch. Andre Holmes made a brilliant 33-yard leaping catch on one of the few throws to get away from McGloin.
Mychal Rivera and McGloin had a good feel for one another, and that was clear in the first half when the rookie quarterback repeatedly leaned on his young tight end.
The two saved their best moment for the third quarter when McGloin lofted a perfectly thrown pass over the head of a Houston defender and hit Rivera for a 26-yard touchdown down the middle of the field.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Jeron Mastrud, who was held without a catch and was called for a critical false start on a 3rd-and-1 play that precipitated Houston's punt return for touchdown.
The pass protection provided to McGloin was second only to the blocking the Raiders did for Jennings. While more than half of his yardage came on one play, Jennings had big holes to run through for most of the game, and he received a big push from the front five, which controlled the line of scrimmage and kept the running game moving.
McGloin rarely had anyone in his face and was sacked just two times, matching the second-fewest given up by the Oakland this season. McGloin’s quick release definitely helped the offensive line, which wasn’t forced to hold blocks for as long as it had to while the athletic but erratic Terrelle Pryor was at quarterback.
Not all the news was good. Right guard Mike Brisiel left the game with a knee injury, and his backup, Andre Gurode, was also knocked out of the game. Backup right tackle Menelik Watson went down after subbing in for injured starter Tony Pashos, forcing Pashos to return to the field and play the rest of the way.
Like their counterparts on offense, the Raiders defensive linemen never let Houston take control in the trenches. The Texans did have some success running the ball, but it wasn’t for very long stretches and Oakland put the clamps down much better as the game wore on.
The encouraging part was that everyone seemed to play a part in it. Defensive end Lamarr Houston had a sack and three quarterback hurries, while Pat Sims and Vance Walker helped eventually clog up the running lanes.
Even when the Raiders were taking the quarterbacks down, they were putting enough pressure on to cause havoc. Houston quarterback Case Keenum had defenders in his face much of the game and rarely was able to settle down in the pocket.
The Nick Roach-Kevin Burnett tandem has been very effective all season, but the pairing played at an entirely different level against Houston.
Roach intercepted Texans quarterback Case Keenum to set up Oakland’s second touchdown of the game and was also the lead tackler when the Raiders dropped running back Ben Tate for a loss on a 3rd-and—1 play at the 2-yard line later in the fourth quarter.
Burnett was equally strong with seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He and Roach blitzed together no fewer than four times, and in each instance, the Houston quarterback was forced to throw the ball away.
Oakland’s defensive backs were kept on their toes most of the game trying to guard Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson. The Texans threw a whopping 17 passes in Johnson’s direction and completed 10 for 116 yards and a touchdown. No other receiver on the Texans had more than two catches.
Mike Jenkins was kept busy and responded with 12 tackles, two for losses. He made a real nice play early in the game when he read a swing pass perfectly and dropped Tate for a two-yard loss. Jenkins briefly left the game but eventually returned.
The other starting corner, Tracy Porter, had an effective but unspectacular game. He blitzed once to force a hurried throw but was otherwise quiet.
If there’s a big play made in the secondary, odds are that Charles Woodson is somewhere close by.
The oldest player on the roster, Woodson made two of the game’s most pivotal plays when he pulled the ball out of the arms of Houston tight end Garrett Graham on the Texans’ opening drive, then later drilled Tate to knock the ball loose on Houston’s final series.
Strong safety Brandian Ross rebounded nicely from what’s been a rough past few weeks. He made a touchdown-saving deflection on a pass intended for Johnson in the end zone and finished with three tackles.
Marquette King was noticeably tired in the second half, and who could blame him? He punted 11 times, matching the second-highest total in one game for any Raiders punter. That he was able to hold a 49.1-yard average in spite of the additional work is even more impressive.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski’s mini-streak of consecutive made field goals ended when his 54-yard try banged off the left upright in the third quarter. The kick had plenty of distance but never moved from its original line of flight, another disappointing result in what has been a frustrating season for the Polish kicker.
The big breakdown came on punt coverage when Houston’s Keshawn Martin fielded a punt at his own 13 after it bounced off his facemask and hit the turf, then weaved past several Oakland defenders and into the open field for an 87-yard touchdown.