Well, fool me twice. The Raiders came into this week’s matchup with the Texans looking like they had given up on the season. On the other hand, the Texans, were one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Not only that, but the Raiders had never beaten the Texans and this Raiders team did not look like a team capable of shedding any back riding monkeys. So what did they do? They had an overall great game and beat the Texans decisively, of course. In the process, the Raiders had their first opening drive touchdown of the season, a FIFTH return touchdown of the season, held the Texans to under a hundred yards rushing (including the speedy Steve Slaton to just 66 yards), and looked dominant nearly the entire day. Now let’s hand out the gifts to the nice and coal to the naughty.
Jonnie Lee Higgins: He now has the most touchdowns of any Raider this season after scoring two touchdowns on the day. One was a TD catch on the Raiders first drive of the second half in which there was a crowd in the area and he came back for the ball. He just wanted it more and had the skill to get it. And the “Molly Ringwald” he broke out afterward was priceless. The other TD was an 80 yard punt return for a touchdown (His third of the season) and then the dance he broke out is illegal in three states and looked like he would dislocate something. How he gets flagged for a backflip and yet is allowed to go into a mock seizure is beyond me. He had 3 catches on the day for 56 yards, the longest being his touchdown that was from 29 yards out.
JaMarcus Russell- He always seems to have a great game or a terrible game. Who was he channeling on Sunday? Rich Gannon? He started out the game by hitting his first 6 passes including going 3 for 3 for 51 yards on the Raiders first drive culminating in a 20 yard strike to Chaz Schilens for the touchdown. He also went 11 for his first 13 passes and finished the game with a 72% completion percentage with 236 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. This was by far his best game of the season. He completed passes to six different receivers including thee each to the two starting wide receivers. His only real mistake came when a designed bootleg was called that was broken up and he fumbled the ball away to the Texans on the Raiders 14 yard line in the 4th quarter. Thankfully though, the Raiders held their ground and the Texans were unable to score. Meltdown averted. He gets an “A” for effort.
Tom Cable- Finally, the opening drive he scripted yielded results. He also did what I have been jumping up and down screaming about all season; he called a lot of screens, play action passes, and misdirection toss plays. With the Wildcat being all the rage these days, there has never been a question that this team is built perfectly for that type of scheme. McFadden is a big reason why but he is not the only part that fits. Bush (although he didn’t see the field) is perfect for it as well as Russell, Higgins, and the zone blocking scheme. The onside kick that was called, caught the Texans completely off guard. And unlike the ridiculous fake field goal on fourth and ten that was called a couple of weeks ago, this decision made a lot more sense. It was low risk, high reward. It resulted in another three points but more importantly it completely sucked the air out of the Texans along with any momentum they may have had from their touchdown on their first drive. His only blemish was not calling a timeout during the Texans last drive before half which resulted in the Raiders running out of time despite a Higgins catch that put them within what would have been a chipshot field goal. That play alone would have been enough to blow his chances of making this list if it weren’t for his body of work being nearly flawless the rest of the day so he gets a pass…for now.
Brian Schneider/ Special Teams- For the second time, but what should be the fifth time, this season, they make this list. Even if five return touchdowns in a season is not a record, it should be simply because it is not like we have Devon Hester or Dante Hall back there. Jonnie Lee Higgins and Justin Miller won’t wow anyone with their moves or their escapability. What they have is good insticts a deceptiveness. Everything else is thanks to the badass blocking of the special teams guys we have and the attention to detail that Brian Schneider has coached into these players. So in a season that is pretty much awash, at least the Raider fans have been treated to the most excited play in sports…FIVE TIMES.
Tommy Kelly- When the Texans finally got the ball back after the Raiders’ successful onside kick, he had two straight tackles on Steve Slaton runs that went two yards. The end result was a Texans three and out. It is amazing how well the defense can play when they have some rest isn’t it? That was an important drive because it was the first chance the Texans had to try and pick up where they left off when they scored on their first drive. But those hopes were dashed and they would not recover. The entire D-line was impressive with Kelly leading the way. As I said, they held the Texans to just 90 yards rushing on the day.
Mario Henderson- Don’t look now but the Raiders have found their left tackle. For the second consecutive game, he doesn’t give up a sack and doesn’t have a single penalty. That alone is enough but he was also fantastic in run blocking. One in particular saw him blocking his man down the field to allow McFadden to break off a nice 11 yard run when the Raiders only needed 2 for the first down. To really drive home what Henderson has accomplished, we need only look at the names of whom he has successfully blocked in the four games he has started this season: Tamba Hali, Mario Williams (Pro Bowler), Richard Seymour (Pro Bowler), Aaron Schobel (Pro Bowler). Sacks given up: ZERO.
Chaz Schilens- Wow what a find this guy has become. Are the Raiders the only team that scouts in San Diego or what? Every game, he makes fantastic catches while sacrificing his body for the ball. He had 3 catches on Sunday for 52 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown was the Raiders’ opening drive score in which he shook his defender and headed for the corner of the end zone where Russell hit him in stride. My guess is he will be spending a lot of time in the black hole in the future. His second catch was a beautiful 24 yard leaping catch over the defender. Between he and Higgins, I think the Raiders have two of their top three receivers next season. The big question is; How many receivers had to get hurt to discover this?
Gibril Wilson- He led the team in tackles with seven. And he only gave up one first down catch the whole day. Most of his tackles were in the run but he was also on the spot to stuff screens and outlet passes including one where he nailed Owen Daniels for a loss on a pass into the flat. Last week the Patriots used those kinds of plays to completely dismantle the Raiders. This week, Wilson was having none of it.
Nnamdi Asomugha- He had one really nice play on the day in which he obliterated Owen Daniels after he made a catch (that he didn’t give up). Hey, when you get the ball thrown in your direction ONE time the whole game, you have to get your hits where you can find them.
Stanford Routt- He wasn’t victimized for a sizable gain one time in this game and his assignment most of the time was Kevin Walter who had a measly 17 yards on 2 catches. His biggest play though was when he batted down Matt Schaub’s pass on fourth down in the end zone. That was a potential game saving pass defense so that alone puts him on the list. But he had an all-around good game.
Justin Fargas- The run to pass ratio was just what it should have been on Sunday and that was thanks in large part to Fargas and his constant hard fought, grinding it out, downhill running that allowed the Raiders to control the clock for much of the game. He finished with 93 yards on 22 carries.
Derrick Burgess- Ok, I ask yet again, what is the one thing we ask him to do? Sack the quarterback. And for the first time this season, he did just that. He had two sacks on the day. The second one ended the game for the Texans as they turned the ball over on downs and the Raiders kneeled the clock out. His first sack resulted in a punt two plays later which Higgins took back for a TD. Then the Texans next drive he had a QB pressure on one play and the next play he hit Schaub’s arm as he threw to cause the Texans to go three and out. This is what he does when he is healthy. But we have all seen what he is capable of in the past.
Chris Johnson- His day started off a little rough. He gave up a first down catch to Daniels on the Texans first drive. Then on the Texans next drive, he had a pass interference call. After that I think he gave Deion Sanders a call and got a refresher because he was on point the rest of the game. And, he had a tough assignment most of the day. That was to guard perenial probowler Andre Johnson. Johnson only had 19 yards on 2 catches on the day and 12 of those yards were not with Johnson guarding him. So let me reiterate that: He held Andre Freaking Johnson to ONE catch for SEVEN yards. But as the infomercials always say “But wait there’s more!” He had the only interception on the day for either team and it was on a play in which he completely shut down Johnson’s route and became the receiver. Other than that he had a tackle for loss in which he flat out nailed Steve Slaton on a screen pass, he teamed up with Rashad Baker to crush Kevin Walter on an attempted reception at the one yard line and they knocked the ball out of his hands, and he had a pass defended in the end zone on third down. DeAngelo who?
Zach Miller- As usual, he is the big playmaker in this offense and he led the team in receiving yards with 70 on 4 catches. 17.5 yards a catch is pretty damn good for anyone, let alone a tight end. This game was advertised as the matchup of the rookie Rbs but it should have been the battle of two of the top three tight ends in the league. That is what it ended up being.
Rob Ryan- He finally seemed to figure out how to stop the opposing offense from eating up huge chunks of yardage on screen plays. Unfortunately it took that debacle against the Pats last week for him to figure it out.
Kirk Morrison- Get this; the Raiders starting middle linebacker only had one tackle. If that were because no one was in his area to be tackled that would be one thing but that wasn’t the case. If that were because the tight end was not seeing any passes, that would be one thing but that wasn’t the case either. In fact Owen Daniels had 7 catches for 111 yards on the day and a few of those were given up by Morrison. He also had other chances to make a tackle that he didn’t and they resulted in big gains. The first big one was a 65 yard catch and run by Anderson in which he was easily handled on the block. The next opportunity, he gave up a first down catch to Daniels in which Asomugha came up and made the tackle for him. His final opportunity, he looked to have Slaton wrapped up for a loss on a pass into the flat but he whiffed and Slaton ran for a first down.
Cornell Green- A staple to the Busters list, he had his usual few busted plays that resulted in bad things for the Raiders. One play, he was beaten so quickly that McFadden barely had time to get the handoff before he was tackled for a loss. That is as good as a sack. Then the big one was when JaMarcus Russell rolled out on a designed bootleg only to find the defensive end waiting for him. And when Russell tried to break free, he fumbled. The Texans took over already in scoring position. The Raiders should fashion a billboard that says: “Cornell Green; Turning offensive plays into opposition points.”
Just two Busters? It must be that Christmas cheer.
Happy Holidays to all of the Raider Nation this year
May this win make your Christmas merry and bright
And hopefully the airline won’t cancel my flight.
Patrick will be writing next weeks B&B
Because for Christmas I will be in BFE
Hopefully he will have as much good to say
When the Raiders beat down Tampa Bay
Hey, you never know, we could get lucky?
And it sure would be sweet to stick it to Chucky.
Ok, ok so what if poems are cliché and lame
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good game.