Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans: Full Report Card Grades for Oakland

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2016

Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans: Full Report Card Grades for Oakland

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    Buda Mendes/Getty Images

    Despite all the talk about lasers, questionable referee calls and conspiracy theories, the Oakland Raiders found a way to pull out a 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans in Mexico City.

    For three quarters, the Texans controlled the contest with their ground attack, tight ends and an advantageous matchup between wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and cornerback D.J. Hayden.

    Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler spread the football and logged 14 first downs via the passing attack. Running back Lamar Miller notched 24 rush attempts for 104 yards. Houston’s defense held the Raiders to fewer than 200 total yards going into the final quarter.

    Several drops and a poor interception pit the offense in a deep hole, but quarterback Derek Carr spoiled the Texans’ winning recipe with consecutive touchdown drives late in the fourth quarter. The defense broke out of a 45-minute stupor with two huge stands to force a turnover on downs and a punt.

    Good teams find a way to win on bad days. Oakland took a sloppy game filled with miscues and flipped the outcome under pressure against a playoff team. In addition to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, the Raiders have won two contests that they should’ve lost. That’s a benchmark for a postseason club.

    Don’t consider the Silver and Black as a feel-good story. The Raiders are the story of the 2016 season through 11 weeks.

Quarterback

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    Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

    Through the first three quarters, Carr deserved a C-minus. He procrastinated and donned his MVP cape during the last few drives to lead his team to victory. He exploited a busted coverage on fullback Jamize Olawale and trusted his receivers to stretch plays after the catch on cleverly designed screen passes.

    Carr eclipsed 10,000 passing yards for his career while engineering his latest fourth-quarterback comeback with a game-winning drive. At this point, no one can question his competitive nature or doubt his killer instinct in high-pressure situations.

    Grade: B+

Running Backs

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    ALFREDO ESTRELLA/Getty Images

    How can the Raiders running backs earn an A-minus with 18 rush attempts for 32 yards? Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave devised a game plan to match players in the backfield against the Texans linebackers. Many grew frustrated with the approach but it effectively propelled Oakland to victory.

    Jalen Richard scored the first touchdown on a 17-yard reception. Amari Cooper lined up in the backfield while Olawale ran a receiver route on the 75-yard touchdown play. During the Raiders’ final drive, Latavius Murray advanced the ball 39 yards downfield after a catch. 

    The Raiders running backs combined for 11 receptions and 199 yards as the most productive receivers against the Texans' stingy defense.

    Grade: A-

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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    ALFREDO ESTRELLA/Getty Images

    Aside from Cooper’s final touchdown, the wideouts and tight ends took a back seat to the running backs as Carr’s primary receiving options. Furthermore, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts failed to reel in multiple passes that touched their hands on critical downs. 

    The Texans cornerbacks put the clamps on perimeter receptions. Crabtree never broke out of his funk. He logged three catches for five yards on a frustrating night. Carr threw some imperfect passes, but once the balls hit the receiver’s gloves, he’s expected to secure the catch.

    Grade: C

Offensive Line

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The offensive line didn’t allow any sacks, but the Texans' defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage and pushed the Raiders around in the trenches. The five guys up front struggled to contain Jadeveon Clowney on rush downs. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 draft looked unstoppable when attempting to penetrate Oakland’s blocking schemes.

    Starting with Oakland’s first offensive drive, Clowney sniffed his way into the backfield and crushed Richard well behind the line of the scrimmage. Despite zero sacks, Clowney won one-on-one matchups on several downs. The Raiders’ shaky offensive line play adversely affected the ground attack. 

    Grade: C

Defensive Line

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    ALFREDO ESTRELLA/Getty Images

    Before halftime, edge-rusher Khalil Mack chased down Osweiler for a sack, which extends his streak to five games. Houston utilized the tight end to chip the Raiders defender before he reached his one-on-one battle with an offensive lineman.

    However, Oakland’s run defense didn’t look as impressive as recent weeks, allowing a 100-yard ball-carrier for the first time since Week 7. Jihad Ward, Justin Ellis, Dan Williams and Darius Latham all faded as non-descript players along the defensive line.

    Grade: C

Linebackers

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    Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press

    Bruce Irvin finished with 10 tackles and covered the field sideline to sideline. He whiffed on setting an edge against Miller, who moved the ball down to the 1-yard line on the play. Nonetheless, Irvin found his way into the backfield to blow up plays early in the game. Malcolm Smith added 10 tackles and a midfield interception. 

    However, the linebackers' inability to cover tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz almost single-handedly put the game away. When covering the tight ends, the Raiders clearly lacked sound communication and assignment discipline. 

    Grade: C+

Secondary

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Texans coaching staff moved their No. 1 wideout into the slot. Osweiler picked on Hayden in a matchup with Hopkins throughout the contest. Surprisingly, the coaching staff kept the fourth-year pro in a disadvantageous situation, leaving him susceptible to holding and pass interference calls.

    Rookie wideout Braxton Miller also shook cornerback David Amerson out of his cleats on a smooth pass route for a touchdown.

    Overall, the Texans wide receivers couldn’t find much room on the perimeter to stretch the field or exploit coverage with deep throws. Rookie safety Karl Joseph logged 10 tackles and a big hit on Osweiler to send a non-verbal message.

    Grade: B-

Special Teams

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Despite allowing a 39-yard kick return, the Raiders didn’t allow the Texans to outright win the third phase of the game. In reference to the long return, Akeem Hunt’s biggest special teams contribution didn’t lead to a touchdown on a shorter field.

    Kicker Sebastian Janikowski nailed both field-goal attempts from 19 and 20 yards. With all the extra-point misses during Week 11, the Raiders should keep an eye on Janikowski’s kicking accuracy going forward.

    Punter Marquette King didn’t attract cameras with his dance moves, but he pinned the Texans offense inside its own 20-yard line on one drive. In the second quarter, Taiwan Jones recovered a fumble that led to a field goal.

    Grade: B+

Coaching Staff

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    Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press

    It’s troublesome to see Osweiler targeting Hayden in the slot with Hopkins. It's more concerning to realize the coaching staff left the struggling cornerback in a poor situation for the second half. The fourth-year cornerback couldn’t keep up with the opponent’s leading receiver. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. should’ve addressed the defensive flaw with second-half adjustments.

    Musgrave went against generic game-planning and placed a heavy focus on running backs as receivers. Of course, a loss would’ve put the strategy into question. However, the Raiders ball-carriers nearly hit 200 receiving yards. Down the stretch, the Texans’ poor coverage in the short passing attack led to their undoing.

    The Raiders kept the penalties down to four. However, with two weeks to prepare, the team struggled for 45 minutes on both sides of the ball.

    Grade: C+

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