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Playing Like Raiders

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It quite literally took every second of the 3600 seconds of the game for the Oakland Raiders to defeat the 6 point favorite Houston Texans 25-20 at Reliant Stadium, but they did emerge victorious.

For the 71, 420 in attendance, they sure got their money's worth.

This game, on paper, it looks like the Texans should have won.

They had 79 plays to our 60, 473 yards to our 278 yards, 3 trips to the red zone to our 1, 21 first downs to our 11 and had control of the ball for 8:50 seconds longer than we did. That's 19 more plays, 195 yards more, (just shy of the length of 2 football fields), and they converted 40% of their 3rd downs, 8 of 20, compared to our 20%, completing just 3 of 15 attempts.

But the statistics, in this case, belied the outcome.

Again, for all the yards their offense put up, the Texans were held to just one score per quarter, and no touch downs in the 2nd half.

The talking heads all made a big fuss over Mario Williams leaving the game with a pectoral injury. They didn't say much about us missing Matt Shaughnessy, Chris Johnson or Chimdi Chekwa who has been playing in place of CJ. They made a big fuss over Andre Johnson missing the game, but Marcel Reese was out and so was HIS Back up Richard Gordon. Somehow, to me, that kind of balances out. Plus we ended up with some walking wounded as Sampson Satele left the game for a bit injured and middle line backer Rolando McClain once hopped off the field.

Then we consider how our offense started out so bad, I was beginning to wonder if we ever would get on track. Not a single first down until less than two minutes left in the first half.The offense didn't have a drive of longer 17 yards until that same drive. Until then, we had 34 yards of total offense. That includes a couple of penalties taking yards away.

But at the half, even with having the ball 7:55 longer than us, we were only down by 2 points. And if we had converted that 2 point conversion, tie game. According to at least one Raiders player, they considered it 0-0 when they came back from the half.

We were down, but not out by a long shot. And I was beginning to think that something I read may have held some water. That the Texans, having the record they did against us, being at home, may have just looked past us. They may have underestimated our passing game, thinking all we had on offense was Darren McFadden They may not have realized what we had open to us there, as they did their level best to make McFadden a non-factor. They almost succeeded.

We started a lot of drives with poor field position, and penalties didn't help that. In fact penalties all game long hurt us.

I take this quick break to talk about the officiating.

I have two separate trains of thought on why it was again so very bad and so very lopsided. First line of thought is that the officials knew Al Davis died. They did not want to appear that they were taking any sympathy on us, letting us get away with anything, so they went overboard and threw a flag on anything that resembled a penalty. It has to be a bad call when even Raiders hater Dan Fouts questions why the flag was thrown. Like the holding on Cooper Carlisle that negated a 41 yard McFadden run. Which brings me to reason number two. As McFadden is the league's leading rusher, the officials were going to make sure that he didn't have a big game.

Either one, or a combination of both makes a lot of sense to me.

Of course, there is a 3rd option. That would be they had to throw the flags to keep in lockstep with their always throwing flags so as to not make it obvious that the league sanctioned the flags to spite Mr. Davis.

But between the invisible holds, the ticky tacky PI which was less than the PI NOT called when Jacoby Ford was pushed last week, and the roughing the passer call on Richard Seymour, I have to wonder. Add to that Brian Cushing slamming Ford to the gorund out of bounds, or spearing Carlisle and Satele? Nothing new for him, though. I commented on it last time we faced the Texans. I wonder if he is still taking performance enhancing drugs? (He was suspended for 4 games...) Then of course, the lack of a grounding call on Schaub when he was still in the pocket, got it to line of scrimmage, but had no receiver near the ball.

OK - back to the game.

With seemingly both defenses focusing on stopping the run, that meant it fell to the quarterbacks. Neither QB had a great game, either.

Matt Schaub, even with his 416 yards, had a Qb rating of 72. Jason Campbell had his worst game this season, with a 67.6 qb rating, getting sacked 3 times and 1 interception. I think that interception could have been avoided had Jacoby ford tried to bat the ball once he realized he wasn't going to catch it. I think he didn't think of playing defense. and that INT did lead to 7 points for them.

But this game came down to some busted plays and special teams.

Texans got most of their yards when we bit on play action fakes, or had a busted coverage leaving players open. they were using their tght ends effectively until defensive coordinator shifted the defense to prevent that.

One big time fail for the Texans was Neil Rackers missing a 40 yard field goal attempt. With the that miss, the Raiders ended up with a 5 point lead, meaning a touch down was needed to win the game. Had that field goal been made? Yeah, only a 2 point game. A field goal would have won it. I think Al must have blown a little that play.

Then the big drop of the game, full back Lawrence Vickers dropping a pass where he had clear sailing to the end zone in the final two minutes of the game. My thoughts here were that Al whispered Vickers' name and he took his eyes off the ball to see who was there.

Special teams for us was just as important.

We had one big return from both our returners that put us in in a decent field position.

We had Shane Lechler booting punts, including one that was 61 yards long.

And then there is the Polish Cannon, Sebastian Janikowski hitting 3 field goals of 50 yards or more, tying an NFL record, and a 42 yard "chip shot".

But the biggest special teams play had to be the fake punt. We had lined up for it once before in the game, but the Texans had it covered, so it was called off. This time, even Shane Lechler knew the Texans didn't have the play covered. The gunners for the Texans were almost acting as blockers, though they had no clue that Rock was running behind them, following thert lead. For 35 beautiful yards. Perfect play, perfect execution. And watching the coaches on the Texans sideline blame each other made me smile.

Then there was one more thing the Raiders had. Tenacity.

They kept plugging away, believing in each other, believing in themselves. They never gave up, they never quit. They played so hard every down, including that final down with 7 seconds left in the game.

And what a play. It looked like on the roll out Matt Schaub had a path to the end zone. The Tyvon Branch stepped up. Then it looked like Jacoby Jones came free in the end zone, Except Michael huff was coming in from the other direction , jumped the route and snagged the ball in mid-air. He fell to the ground and assumed the fetal position, hugging that ball as if it was his most cherished possession. At that moment, it probably was.

Each player and coach interviewed said this wasn't a must win for the Gipper type game. This was a win because they are Raiders, and that's what the Raiders do kind of thing.

while some things may be up in the air with the passing of Coach Davis, there is one thing that is clear.

This team is on the right track and could very well be a force to be reckoned with.

I am proud of how they played today. And I love this team.

I also know I am not alone when I cried aftter this victory. It meant so much.

It meant this team realized the one thing they had been missing. Pretty our ugly, close or a butt whooping, they are Raiders, they played like Raiders and the Raiders find a way to win.

Time to focus on next week.

As ever,

Win lose or tie, RAIDERS til I DIE!


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