The Raiders lost another heartbreaker on Sunday. Again, it came down to the final drive to decide the game. The good news is the Raiders showed some fight throughout this game. They fell behind twice in the first half only to come back and tie it. Then after being down 17 late in the game, they came back to within a touchdown and had a final drive to try and tie it up again but couldn't pull it out.
The bad news is, the Raiders never led in the game and for the first three quarters, they could not stop the Texans' offense from moving the ball down the field on them. The Texans methodically ran and passed the ball with relative ease and were only slowed down late in the game when they got conservative and tried to simply run out the clock.
This was a game that most everyone expected the Raiders to lose. But after the Raiders were picked to win last week only to fail in the waining seconds, this loss hurts much more. It puts them at 1-3 with sole possession of last place in the AFC West. They have a lot of ground to make up and from the looks of it early on, there is no reason to beleive they will accomplish it. Mainly because their issues are the same as they have been for years-- offensive line and run defense.
So let's get the strong performances out of the way before we get to the weak ones.
Raider fans have known just how talented Zach is since he came in the league in 2007. But he gets no love in Pro Bowl balloting because he came in the same class and played in the JaMarcus Russell era for his first three seasons. So let this game be his coming out party. He had 11 catches in this game! The last time any Raider receiver had even 10 was Ronald Curry in the first game of the 07 season. He finished with 122 yards receiving and a touchdown. He was the closest thing the Raiders had to a wide receiver as Raider wide receivers totaled just 1 catch for 2 yards in the entire first half.
On the Raiders first second series, he laid a key block to spring Darren McFadden for his 43 yard screen play. Then on the next third down, he had a 10 yard first down catch to keep the drive alive. Good thing too because it resulte in the Raiders first touchdown of the day. On the Raiders next touchdown drive, he had a catches for 17 and a 9 yard first down catch that would set up the touchdown on the next play.
Then in the 3rd quarter, right after the Texans scored to take a 31-14 lead, he had his best drive of the game. With the Raiders on the Houston 36 yard line, looking to score, he had three catches for 28 yards and the touchown. The score was critical to keep this game within reach. On the following drive, he had two more catches to help set up the Janikowki field goal that brought the Raiders to within a touchdown. We often talk about certain tight ends having good chemistry with their quarterbacks. Well, it is becoming clear that Zach would be the best friend of just about any quarterback in the league.
On a day the defense looked weak, Seymour was not. If you watch the Texans big runs, they almost all went away from Seymour. The Texans know better. They couldn't steer completely away from him though. He did manage 3 tackles and 3 assists in the game and held his gap to kick the running back outside. He also had a tackle for loss in which he shot into the backfield to take down the runningback as soon as he was handed the ball.
He continued his strong play in this game as he had in the first three of this season. He was unable to get over 100 yards again because he pulled up clutching his hamstring after a 23 yard run in the third quarter. But before that, he was a powerful weapon for this offense. He had 82 yards receiving on 6 catches to go along with his 12 carries for 47 yards rushing.
His biggest play was a 43 yard screen on the Raiders 2nd drive that led to their first touchdown. The Raiders also didn't waste his longest run of the day either. He may have gone out of the game after that 23 yard scamper but the Raiders would score on that drive as well and McFadden was big part of that.
What a luxury this team has now that Bush is healthy. Granted they can't seem to have both he and McFadden healthy at the same time, but at least when one goes down, the other can come in and there is nothing lost. Bush had 40 yards rushing in the game, nearly as much as McFadden. But Bush did it in just 7 carries. He also had a touchdown to go along with it and a couple of catches for 16 yards as well. The ability for the Raiders to capitalize after McFadden's 23 yard run was thanks in large part to Bush. The final six plays of the drive went like this: Bush pass block to prevent a sack, Bush 9 yard run, Zach 9 yard catch, Bush 7 yard run, Zach 6 yard catch, Zach 14 yard catch. On the final two drives of the game for the Raiders he had touches of 11, 7, 6. The Raiders final mistakes were not putting the ball in Bush's hands. As is so often the case.
You want to know just how worthless a stat number of tackles is? Look at Michael Huff's numbers in this game. He led the Raiders in tackles. And yet if you were watching this game, it seemed like he spent most of his time missing tackles and chasing after opposing players as they ran by him. His tackling deficiency have become infamous. It used to be that he hit hard but didn't wrap up. Now he just looks confused. As if the coaches are trying to teach him to walk and he has yet to crawl. His tackling is the football equivelent of the Washington Generals trying to stop the Harlem Globetrotters. He got things started early too. Texan running back Derrick Ward took the ball off right guard and shot down the sideline. Huff met him about 5 yards from the line, Ward made one cut and Huff was left standing there reaching for air. As usual, he didn't even slow him down as Ward raced 33 yards for a touchdown.
Two drives later, the Texans were knocking on the door again at the Raiders 11 yard line. The tight end came off the line and was left completely uncovered while Huff stood there staring at him. He caught the ball and easily pushed through the Huff tackle attempt to score.
Then on the 2nd play after halftime, Huff really blew it. Arian Foster took the ball off right guard and shot down the sideline. Huff looked to have the bead on him about 15 yards downfield but he dove and just slid down Foster like a grease pole. As again he didn't even slow him down as Foster raced 74 yards for the touchdown.
Giving up three touchdowns in one game that he should have been able to prevent makes being top Buster the last of his worries right now. Keeping a starting job or even a roster spot is more what I would be thinking about.
Lamarr Houston, Quentin Groves
I put these two together as Busters because they were persona non grata for runs that went to their part of the field in this game. Every...single... big run on this day went right through them. The Texans studied their film and decided their best chance was to just keep running off right guard all game. And they were right. First big one was the 33 yard touchdown run in the first quarter-- untouched. Next one was a 23 yarder with Houston out of position and Groves missing the tackle-- ended in another touchdown. Then there was the 74 yard run by Foster where Houston was blocked and Groves was no where to be found-- again untouched. It will take even less homework on the parts of all the Raiders' future opponents to figure out where to run the ball for success.
A classic case of one play making or breaking a guy and therefore the game. The Raiders needed him to make one catch on this day, and he blew it. The Raiders weredown by a touchdown, with one last drive attempt to tie it up. Faced with a4th and 16, Gradkowski dropped back and threw a perfect ball in traffic to Louis Murphy over the middle that would have resulting in a first down to keep the drive going.ButMurphy let it bounce right off his shoulder and into the arms of a defender. Game over.
After playing last week like he was the only decent offensive lineman the Raiders have, he comes out this week and turns the tables on us. And it took him all of three plays to do it. After a fine 64 yard kick return by Jacoby Ford that set the Raiders up in field goal range at the Texan's 38 yard line, he got completely toasted by a Texan Dlineman to give up the sack. It took the Raiders out of field goal range and being that it happened on 3rd down, they were forced to punt. To start the 3rd quarter, he was beaten easily again to get McFadden smothered in the backfield for a four yard loss, which is as good as giving up a sack. Later in the 3rd, he gave up another run stuff.
He had all of one catch in this game for 2 yards on the very first play of the game. He was invisible the rest of the game. You can't blame it all on the lack of protection for the quarterback either. On the Raiders 2nd drive, Gradkowski threw to him in the endzone. DHB leaped in the air to catch it over the defender only to have it bounce off his arms. Sure, it was a bit of a touch catch, but not really. He had position over the defender as any decent receiver should. But unlike any decent receiver, when he got up there, he couldn't pull it in. There is no excuse for him not coming down with it. Just like there was no excuse for him to not come down with a couple of catches he dropped in last weeks game. His catch on 4th down in the final drive was the only thing that kept him from being a buster last week too. His route running is his other problem (I know, hands and route running? What else is there really?).
In this game, just like in previous games, the opposition has read the book on stopping him. They simply cut off his route and he is dead in the water. On the Raiders next drive after DHB's first drop, the Raiders needed 7 yards and they went to DHB on a short route. But he couldn't shake the DB and they met at the ball for an incompletion. He still has a long way to go before he even resembles an NFL wide receiver. If he ever gets there at all.