Oakland Raiders Edge Houston Texans: Nothing "Ugly" About a Win!
John Doublin – Oct 10, 2011It wasn't pretty and it was nerve-racking to watch, but the Oakland Raiders traveled to Reliant Stadium and squeaked out a 25-20 win over the Houston Texans.
They were out-gained and looked completely over-matched at times, but the final result is all that mattersâ€”they "Just Won Baby!"
Mr. Davis would be proud.
A lot went right on Sunday for the Raiders, but there are still plenty of areas for Oakland to improve upon. Let's have a look...
What went right:
ItÂ wasn't overly successful, (Oakland finished with a season low of just 94 yards on the ground) but it was important to stick with it to keep the Texans' defense honest and open up the passing game.
Doing enough to winâ€”No, Jason Campbell didn't light up the stat-sheet or the scoreboard. What he did do was just enough to win. Sure, he threw an interception from his own goal line, but that pick didn't kill the Raiders in the end. Early in the fourth quarter, Campbell showed fantastic awareness by feeling the pressure, escaping the pocket and drawing the linebacker off of his coverage responsibility and hitting a wide-open Chaz Schilens for an 18 yard touchdown.
Campbell is known as a "Game Manager." Well, he managed a win for Mr. Davis' memory and the Raiders!
Unexpected heroesâ€”One of the most maligned players on the Oakland Raiders the last two seasons has been Darrius Heyward-Bey. Yesterday in Houston, Heyward-Bey put a lot of the naysayers in their place with some great plays, including the high-effort, momentum-seizing, game-winning catch-and-run that broke the game open for Oakland. The former seventh overall pick took a five-yard hitch route, broke a tackle, and scooted 34 yards down the sideline to give the Raiders momentum would never relinquish.
Finishing the day with seven catches for 99 yards and the one touchdown, Heyward-Bey showed the fans what Mr. Davis saw when he drafted him so high in the 2009 draft. Well done, DHB!
Daring play-callsâ€”How many times have fans sat on their couch and said, "it's only fourth-and-three, why not just go for it?" Jackson must have been listening because on fourth-and-three, with 11:35 to go in the game, up by just five, Jackson and special teams coordinator, John Fassel called a direct-snap to veteran Rock Cartwright that went for 35 yards and set up a field goal that put the Raiders up by eight.
Great callâ€”perfect execution.
Heads up playâ€”Normally, a three-yard run isn't going to be highlight worthy, but in the case of Michael Bush, it's worth mentioning. The Raiders had run a flea-flicker early in the game that resulted in Campbell over-throwing a wide open receiver. Seeing the success that play had, Jackson called it again. The ball was given to Bush with the intent of flicking it back to Campbell, but as he turned to pitch it back, he noticed that Conner Barwin had beaten left tackle Jared Veldheer and was closing in on Campbell. Rather than risking it, Bush did the smart thing and pulled the ball down and got what he could.
Had this former high school quarterback gone through with the play, it would have likely resulted in a sack at the least, or a fumble at the worst. Great, heads-up play Mr. Bush!
Defensive lineâ€”Honestly, I've never seen such poor accuracy from Schaub. It appeared as though, even when the rush didn't get to him, he felt it. RichardÂ Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Jarvis Moss and Lamarr Houston did a nice job making Schaub uncomfortable in the pocket and forcing bad throws. The effect this had is immeasurable. In the fourth quarter, more of Schaub's passes hit the ground than hit the receiver. There were at least six of Schaub's passes batted down or deflected by the defensive linemenâ€”one of which fell right to Lamarr Houston for an interception.
It's clear that defensive line coach, Mike Wafule is doing his homework and preparing his squad.
Welcome backâ€”On more than one occasion, Michael Huff made important tackles or batted balls away. It was really nice to see Huff back in the line upâ€”especially on the last play of the game. Huff made the play that sealed the game in the endzone with no time left on the clock by intercepting MattÂ Schaub's ill-fated attempt to hit Jacoby Jones and win the game. Just when Raider fans were flashing back to the Buffalo game in week 2, Huff made the play and gave Oakland a hard-fought win.
Glad to have you back Michael!
Kicking gameâ€”Is there a kicker/punter tandem on any team in the NFL better than Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler? I think not. Janikowski kept the Raiders in the game early and sealed it late by going four for four on field goalsâ€”three of which were from outside 50 yards and would have been good from 60+. Lechler had seven punts including one for 61 yards. He added two punts that were downed inside the 20 yard line to help the Raiders win the field position battle.
The fact is, not only are there no other kicker/punter tandems better than these two, there aren't any half as good!
What still needs work:
Tacklingâ€”The tackling of the Raiders is better, but by no means is it good enough. There were still some pretty bad misses by the team, just not as many as previous weeks. Here's how football works; the more tackles you miss, the more the other team scores. The more tackles you make, the more chance you have at winning.
It's just that simple.
Coverage responsibilityâ€”Although the Raider defense did a nice job containing the running of Arian Foster, they did not do a good job covering him in the passing game. Foster finished with just 68 rushing yards, but accumulated 116 receiving yards. Foster was left wide open on a screen pass that went for 60 yards and set up a Texans' score. On another occasion, Foster was again left completely alone on a swing pass he took for more than 30. This failure wasn't limited to covering Foster, the other Houston backs were left alone as well.
In the fourth quarter, Lawrence Vickers dropped a wide open swing pass. On that play, there were four Raider defenders within two yards of each otherâ€”none of which were anywhere near Vickers. Had Vickers caught that ball, he'd have hit his head on the goal post as there was no one around to stop him.
This must be cleaned up. The defense needs to remember that everyone has a job to doâ€”and that running backs are eligible receivers too. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan and linebacker coach Greg Biekert have some work to do before Cleveland comes to town next week because Monterio Hardesty can kill a team if left uncovered.
Penalties still an issueâ€”Even though the yardage Oakland handed to Houston via penalty is down a bit, they are still committing way too many at the worst possible times. Understanding that emotions were running high and circumstances were tough, it's still no excuse for giving your opponent 89 yards and four free first downs.
As a long-time Raider fan, I realize that Richard Seymour's "hitting the quarterback below the knee" penalty couldn't be avoided as he was already going downâ€”after being pushed in the back, which is also supposed to be illegalâ€”but I digress. However, it's obvious that illegal contact and pass interference are being called like never before and the defensive backs have to adjust their game accordingly.
After five yards, don't even breathe on the receiverâ€”period!
Finallyâ€”All-in-all, the Raiders needed a win to stay in the AFC West divisional hunt and to honor the memory of their patriarchâ€”and they got it!
There were great plays, amazing individual efforts and gutsy play-calling all mixed in with some questionable calls, failures in fundamentals and worrisome trends, but the Raiders got it done and Mr. Davis is smiling down on his team for following his orders to "Just Win Baby!"
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