Saturday the Raiders and the rest of the sports world was shocked by the news of the passing of Al Davis. Hue Jackson and his players would have to go out the next day in a foreign stadium and honor the legacy of one of the greatest visionaries in sports history. And honor him they did with a 25-20 win over a tough Houston Texans team.
It didn't start out well, though. The Raiders came out in the first half looking defeated. On the first three drives the Raiders managed a total of six yards of offense. They also didn't manage a single first down until the final possession before halftime.
But even without moving the ball on offense, they still managed to get six points and on that final drive before halftime, put up their first touchdown to head into the locker room down just 12-14.
This was a different team in the second half. They scored on two of their first three possessions to take a 22-17 lead, all while the defense held the Texan offense down to allow the Raiders to keep the lead.
This team is full of Al Davis draft picks and acquisitions. Here are those who made him proud and those who have some explaining to do.
The most controversial of all Al Davis' draft picks over the years, Janikowski iis the only kicker in the modern era to be chosen in the first round. Even some of the better NFL kickers are late round selections. But Al wanted the Raiders to have the greatest kicker to ever come out of college so he went and got him. Janikowski indeed made Al proud in this game. The Raiders had 25 points on the day and he had most of them. Even while the Raiders were without a first down early in the game, they were still in the game thanks to two huge field goals of 54 and 55 yards from Janikowski. He would connect on four field goals including another from 50 yards out. His three field goals of 50 yards plus in one game would tie an NFL record.
I never thought I would say it but DHB has been the Raiders' most reliable receiver. He came out in this game and posted a career high seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Five of the Raiders' six yards on their first three drives came on his catch on the first play of the game. Then their first first down came on an 18 yard catch by DHB. Two plays later he had another 18 yard catch. Then he finished it off with a catch and run of 34 yards for a touchdown. On that 34 yard catch, he caught the ball at four yards out, broke a tackle, and sprinted 30 yards to the endzone. That was three catches for 70 yards and a touchdown on that drive alone to bring the Raiders to 12-14 heading into halftime. Heyward-Bey also showed off his blocking skills in this game. On the Raiders' final touchdown drive, he blocked his man to allow Darren McFadden to pick up a 20 yard run which put the Raiders at the Texans' 20 yard line. Then he blocked his man clear out the back of the endzone to allow Chaz Schilens room to take a crossing pattern for a 19 yard touchdown. If you were keeping track, that is two touchdown drives courtesy of DHB—one receiving, one blocking. Nice work.
After coming out last week and playing reckless, undisciplined football against his former team, he set out to channel that rage into productivity. Right off the top, he led all Raider defensive linemen in tackles with 4-1. His first tackle he teamed up with Desmond Bryant for a tackle for loss. A bit later in the first half he pressured Matt Schaub into an incompletion. On the next drive he had a solo run stuffing tackle for a short gain. Then to finish off the first half, he pressured Schaub into an incompletion and on the next play, he sacked Schaub with one arm to end the Texans' chances of scoring before halftime.
After half, Seymour seemed to get even better. On the Texans' second possession he had a tipped ball at the line and a tackle for no gain on a run. That drive would end with the Texans missing on a 41 yard field goal (Neil Rackers is no Janikowski). He finished off the Texans' next drive with another run stuff tackle. A few drives later he had another tipped ball at the line that fell incomplete. Then on the next drive, on third down, he had his second sack of the day.
The Rest of the Defensive Line
I had to single out Seymour for his outstanding performance but the entire Raider defensive line deserves a lot of credit for this win, including Kamerion Wimbley even though he is technically a linebacker. They were instrumental in holding the Texans to a total of 70 yards rushing. Arian Foster was held to 68 yards on the ground on 22 carries which is phenomenal. That is an average of three yards per carry. This group also terrorized Matt Schaub all day long. They were led by Seymour but Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, and Wimbley all had great games with solid contributions from Desmond Bryant, Jarvis Moss, and John Henderson.
Several critical plays were made by this group. The first was John Henderson tipping the ball at the line where Lamarr Houston intercepted it and returned it to the Texans' 35 yard line. That set up the Raiders' score on a Janikowski field goal. Later Tommy Kelly had a run stuffing tackle for no gain on a third and two to force a punt. Wimbley ended the first possession of the second half when he pressured Schaub into an incompletion on third and ten. Moss ended the Texans' next drive when on third and four he stuffed a run for a two yard gain. Kelly was back to work on the next series with a run stuff on first down and a sack on second down to help force a three and out. A couple possessions later, Bryant blew into the backfield to take down Foster for a loss of four yards.
On the final Texans possession, Kelly looked to have his second sack of the day but the Raiders were called for 12 men on the field so it was wiped away. Funny thing was that Kelly got his sack despite the offensive lineman yanking on his facemask and the Texans would be marched back 15 yards anyway. That turned out to be the last drive of the game and the Raiders came away with the win.
This was an overall dominant performance for a group that has caught a lot of flack due to the Raiders having one of the worst rushing yards per game average. This performance should help that image considerably.
Yeah, this probably seems like a tribute Baller and that may be partially true. Al Davis has long been the guy at whom we are quick to point the finger when Raider personnel decisions go wrong. But it is important to recognize when things go right. Lately they have gone right. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sebastian Janikowski have been two of the most criticized draft picks in Raider history -- and both came up big time in this game for the guy who took a chance on them as first round picks. Trading for Richard Seymour was also a great decision. But the players he put on the field aside, these players were playing to make Davis proud. His passing provided a spark to these guys. Much like Brett Favre's performance a few years back after his father had died, they went all out for the father of their franchise, Al Davis. It was important to all of them that they honor the memory of the man who made the Raiders what they are today and gave this team the personality it has had for nearly five decades. Winning for him made this victory that much more emotional. These players did NOT want to lose the first game after his passing and they left it all on the field to ensure that did not happen. So here's to you, Al Davis. A small token for all you have done for the Raiders and the NFL, but thank you.
Bruce Davis Jr, Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch
Neither of them did much in this game. But when the Raiders needed a big play, they made one. Davis shot into the backfield to block a punt in the first half which put the Raiders immediately in field goal range. It helped the Raiders stay within a score in the first half.
Huff had an overall bad game but at the end of the game with the Texans threatening to tie the game up, he had a huge interception. That interception was set up by the pressure put on by Branch. He redeemed himself for his missed interception in the endzone last week by shadowing Matt Schaub and ensuring Schaub didn't play the hero. Branch's pressure kept Schaub from attempting to run for a touchdown and made it a more difficult throw. The result was the game sealing interception.
Groves seemed out of sorts through much of this game. The Texans seemed to be picking on him and it paid off. On their first drive, he was blocked to allow a 20 yard run which was the longest run of the day and the drive resulted in a touchdown to open the game. Later in the first half he gave up a 28 yard catch on first down. Then on the Texans' second possession of the second half, he whiffed on a tackle attempt that allowed Arian Foster to take a screen pass for 60 yards. His next mishap was his most shameful, on the final drive by the Texans as they attempted to tie the game. The Raiders were switching out personnel and Groves was going out of the game. But he jogged off the field instead of sprinting and didn't get off the field before the snap. The Raiders were called for 12 men on the field, which wiped out a Tommy Kelly sack and gave the Texans a first down instead. In camp, Hue Jackson always insisted everyone run from one place to the next, especially situations like that. Groves' lack of urgency nearly cost the Raiders big time. That on top of the three big plays that went through him that helped bloat Schaub's passing numbers and keep the Texans in the game.
He had just enough decent plays to keep the Raiders afloat. But overall, he was just plain bad. He seemed to be rattled and out of rhythm the whole game—even after Mario Williams left with injury. Campbell had his chances early too. He overthrew a wide open Chaz Schilens on the Raiders' second drive that looked to be a sure touchdown. Then on the next play, he had to call a time out because the clock was running down. The next drive ended with a pass into the turf incomplete. Next drive ended when the Raiders were lined up in third and 12 and he checked down for a four yard completion. Good thing Janikowski has a strong leg. The very next possession, Campbell overthrew Jacoby Ford and it was picked off. Next possession he held the ball too long, resulting in a sack. So, to review, that's five drives ending on Campbell mistakes—overthrew wide open TD, pass into the turf, short check down on third and long, interception on overthrow, and held ball sack.
He had one good drive to end the first half to keep the Raiders close. But then after halftime, he was back to bad football. He overthrew his receiver on third and five to end the first series with a three and out. Then the next drive ended with two straight wide, off-target passes. The Raiders were able to put together a touchdown drive thanks in large part to three big runs by McFadden and finished off by a touchdown pass from Campbell to Schilens. Then it was back to ugly play by Campbell. On the next drive, Hue Jackson called for a fake punt that Cartwright ran for 33 yards. After that Campbell had a near interception that would have been taken back for an easy touchdown if it hadn't been dropped. Then before the next play, he had to take another timeout. It was the Raiders' last timeout so they would have to go nearly the entire fourth quarter without a timeout at their disposal. After the timeout, he threw another low pass that fell incomplete to end the drive.
After a long drive by the Texans that resulted in a field goal, the Raiders would get the ball back with 2:56 on the clock. They were up by five points and needed to burn clock. So what does Campbell do? He throws a long incompletion to stop the clock, of course. The drive resulted in a loss of three yards as well so the Texans would get the ball back in good field position at their own 37 yard line with 2:00 on the clock with which to work. The short field and ample time was very nearly enough for them to tie this game. Campbell finished completing 42% of his passes (15/35) for 190 yards, two TDs, and one interception.
Last week he joined the rest of the offensive line in praise for their solid performance. Now we are back to the same old Khalif. On the Raiders' second drive he couldn't hold his block which allowed McFadden to get stuffed at the line to start a second three and out. He began the next series by giving up a sack. A few possessions later, he could keep his block again and it allowed Jacoby Ford to be tackled for a loss on an end around. Next possession his man got in the backfield to pressure Jason Campbell and force an incompletion to end the drive with yet another three and out. Later he would have a false start on an extra point try. He is a big reason McFadden had just 12 yards in the first half and the Raiders didn't have a first down until the end of the first half.
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