Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans Full Report Card Grades for Oakland
Quarterback Connor Cook drew his first NFL start against the No. 1 defense in yards allowed, which resulted in a poor offensive output for the Raiders. Oakland converted its first third down with 11:51 left in the game.
Unfortunately, the Raiders fell behind early due to a turnover and the Texans starting drives with good field position. Houston defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney introduced himself to Cook early in the game with a batted pass and an interception. The early deficit forced the rookie passer to throw more than the coaching staff liked to see for a first-time starter.
The Texans controlled the game throughout and played conservatively to protect a comfortable 13-point lead going into the second half. Oakland’s defense didn’t melt down, but it gave up too many explosive plays to keep Houston below 20 points.
The Raiders held on to a slight chance for a comeback, but an interception late in the fourth quarter dashed any hopes for a miraculous upset with a rookie at the helm. Oakland simply couldn’t overcome losing starting signal-caller Derek Carr.
An early exit stings for a 12-4 team, but the Raiders should know that a healthy roster puts them in the conversation for an AFC Championship Game. For now, the organization must deal with the reality of a one-and-done playoff appearance but a bright future that follows with a talented roster.
How did each positional unit perform against the Texans?
No one expected Cook to dissect the league’s stingiest defense in yards allowed. His performance turned out as many expected. He gave the ball away three times and struggled mightily against the Texans.
The rookie passer threw an early first-quarter interception, which provided the Texans with instant momentum. On third down, he couldn’t move the chains. Eventually, Houston teed off, flustered him in the pocket and took advantage of the Raiders' offensive futility.
Cook moved the ball late in the game with the Texans in prevent mode, but he looked awful through 45 minutes.
On one second-quarter drive, running back Latavius Murray gutted the Texans offense, but the Raiders failed to sustain success on the ground throughout the contest. Jalen Richard performed far better as a special teamer than running back. He totaled three carries for three yards at RB but had 116 total return yards. DeAndre Washington logged four carries for 16 yards and a drop.
Oakland needed the rushing offense to bring its A-game, and all parties involved fell short. Murray logged an 18-yard run and a touchdown as the only bright spots for the ground attack.
The Raiders will face a huge offseason decision on whether to re-sign Murray or not.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
In an embarrassing showing from the receivers, wideouts Andre Holmes and Mychal Rivera outperformed the starters on Saturday. They led the group with four catches apiece. Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts all dropped passes that could’ve moved the offense downfield.
Crabtree dropped an early first-down pass that would've put the Raiders in field-goal range to tie the game at 10 points. He left with a concussion in the fourth quarter. Cooper continued his quiet run through the second half of the season. He caught two passes for 10 yards.
The surprising number of drops hurt Cook’s overall performance. The rookie signal-caller made mistakes, but his primary receivers let him down on the big stage.
Without Pro Bowl tackle Donald Penn protecting Cook’s blind side, Clowney took full advantage. Menelik Watson filled in on the left side and struggled outside his normal position. The Raiders’ rookie passer felt consistent pressure off the edge and took three sacks Saturday.
Furthermore, the running lanes didn't open for the ball-carriers. Aside from one early drive, the Raiders couldn’t find success running against the Texans’ front seven. On most snaps, Houston shrank the pocket on the edges and forced action inside for defensive stops.
The Raiders put up a wall on run defense early in the game. Texans running back Lamar Miller didn’t break loose until he bounced off a tackle for a huge 19-yard run toward the left sideline in the second quarter. He finished with 31 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown.
However, Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler scrambled for a touchdown run, and the Raiders didn’t record a single sack. The Texans offensive line has faltered in the past, but the unit kept its passer clean against the Raiders’ lackluster defensive front.
Once again, the linebackers struggled to defend the tight ends. C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin totaled a combined five catches for 64 yards. They inflicted most of their damage in the first half before the offensive play-calling went completely conservative.
Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith had to step off the field with injuries. Nonetheless, neither impacted the game when in between the white lines. The Raiders must upgrade the linebacker position around Irvin to improve their defense.
Osweiler completed nine passes to his wide receivers. DeAndre Hopkins dominated the secondary on one drive in which he caught a 38-yard bomb down the right sideline. Two plays later, he scored a touchdown on the opposite side of the field.
Safety Brynden Trawick flashed on few plays in the backfield, but the Raiders couldn’t force a turnover to create more short-field drives. Osweiler didn't carve up the secondary, but he made the necessary throws to sustain drives.
At one point, the Raiders special teams outperformed the other two phases, offense and defense. Marquette King punted 10 times due to the team’s inability to move the ball with possession. He also shanked two punts, which provided the Texans with good field positioning.
Taiwan Jones and Richard provided sparks with long kick and punt returns, but the Raiders failed to capitalize on every opportunity. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski nailed two field goals and finished another solid season as he goes into the final year of his contract, per Spotrac.
The coaching staff tried to spoon-feed Cook, but the plan backfired with Clowney disrupting the flow near the line of scrimmage. Though, with a rookie under center, it’s obvious his job focused on managing drives and completing short throws.
During head coach Jack Del Rio’s postgame press conference, he admitted the contest spiraled out of control, which forced Cook to throw the ball 45 times. Of course, heavy pressure on the rookie isn’t a good sign for the offense.
Del Rio described the defense as solid in some areas but shaky at critical times when the Texans ripped off big plays. Earlier in the week, he discussed elevated expectations for the defense to the local media. Unfortunately, he saw more of what he’s witnessed throughout the season—mediocrity.
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