The Texans went out and did what they were supposed to do against a team playing with its third string rookie quarterback. They played well on both sides of the ball, built a good lead and put the game away by taking advantage of turnover opportunities presented by the inexperienced Connor Cook.
To borrow a term from Bill Simmons, the Raiders actually had the potential to be very “frisky” in that game which I didn’t think would be the case.
The stats in the box score are going to indicate that Connor Cook played poorly, and for the most part he did indeed have a rough game. However, I think that there are only a small handful of quarterbacks in the NFL that would have been able to have some success against the high level defense the Texans displayed on Saturday.
The official NFL box score shows the Texans deflecting a total of 10 passes thrown by Connor Cook, which is outstanding and testament to how good the Texans corners are. Cook was obviously off accuracy wise on a few throws but the majority of the pass break-ups were a result of good individual coverage and good coaching. Also on at least three occasions Cook’s receivers dropped passes that should have been caught.
Cook didn’t looked intimidated considering he was making his first NFL start in a playoff game on the road. He played with confidence and made some gutsy throws. If it weren’t for Clowney and Mercilus wreaking havoc, the Raiders could have made the game close.
The first touchdown that the Texans gave up towards the end of the first quarter came after a 37 yard punt return. Latavius Murray ran for 31 of his total 39 yards on this drive, including an 18 yard run. Their touchdown in the 4th quarter seemed a little cheap because with a 27-7 lead the Texans were playing off coverage and the Raiders took advantage and scored their second touchdown. Aside from these two possessions the Texans dominated.
Tyler Ervin muffing two punts is worrisome, Texans were fortunate to recover both especially the one that bounced straight to Eddie Pleasant. A big reason for the lopsided loss against the Patriots was turning the ball over twice on kick off returns. The Texans also can’t afford self-inflicted mistakes like fumbling on the Center-Quarterback exchange.
Going into the game I said that the factor that was going to determine how close the contest would be was Brock Osweiler’s performance. It was assumed that the defense would limit the Raiders offense, but Osweiler struggling to put up points was in play.
I felt that when Osweiler was inserted into the Titans game he was an improved player, in the recap of that game I mentioned the things that he did better. He carried some of those over against the Raiders and had a decent overall game. Osweiler completed 56% of his passes going 14/25 on his attempts but he was very accurate on the ones that did connect.
He was very impressive on the drive at the end of the second quarter were he hit Fuller and Hopkins with money passes. Fuller had a step on Amerson, and Osweiler placed the ball in a perfect spot ahead of him and out of the reach of Riley Jr’s out stretched arm. The following play Osweiler threw a 38 yard beauty to Hopkins along the sidelines. It’s a thrown Osweiler has routinely failed to complete this year. Two plays later an easy money quick inside slant touchdown pass to Hopkins with Shaun Smith covering.
I liked the play action call on the goal line in the 4th quarter when Oweiler ran it in for the touchdown. The play had Griffin running into the corner of the endzone with Khalil Mack trailing but Osweiler took it in himself. Osweiler is very comfortable with play action and has some decent speed once he is 3 strides in.
Osweiler didn’t throw for 250 and 3 TD but he moved the ball well and managed the offense. Osweiler 168 total passing yards can be attributed to O’Brien taking the foot off the gas of the offense in the second half. In the 3rd quarter with a 20-7 lead O’Brien slowed the offense down and tried to establish the run game to milk the rest of the game.
I’m continue to be disappointed that the Texans aren’t able create opportunities for Fuller and Hopkins to get the ball in spots where they can run after the catch. Fuller especially can do a lot with just a little bit of because of his breakaway speed. Ryan Griffin had 3 receptions in the first quarter but then remained without a reception after that.
In the second half Osweiler had 9 pass attempts, only two were completed for 22 yards (both to Fuller). Another 2 attempts were wiped away because of a defensive holding and interference penalty on the Raiders. The conservative play calling is the reason Osweiler didn’t finish the game with more offensive output.
The Patriots have a much better defense than the Raiders, hopefully Osweiler can take these positives into this next week.
The offensive line did a great job containing Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin coming off the edge on pass plays. In the previous 2 weeks the Texans right side and interior line struggled to keep pressure off of the quarterbacks. Against Raiders they kept Osweiler clean.
Run blocking was a different story, they couldn’t seem to open up alleys for the running backs to run through. In the second half Lamar Miller ran the ball 16 times for 31 yards. Miller and the line have to do better than that.
Johnathan Grimes seems to make things happen more times than not in his limited opportunities. On his 3 carries in the second half he had 12, 6, and a 10 yard runs. The 12 and 10 yard runs came on Shotgun formation draw plays. Grimes’ 10 yard run with 4 minutes left in the game was a clutch 3rd down conversion that allowed the Texans to continue drive and force Raiders to use up timeouts.
Enough can’t be said about the Texans defensive backs, again had an exceptional showing. At least four different players broke up a pass, and they limited the Raiders’ talented wide receivers. Ironically ever since the Raiders game week 11 Clowney has been a monster, up until that point Clowney was starting to show flashes of what he could prove to be. After coming back from missing the Packers game Clowney has been a disruptive force every week.
Whitney Mericlus came up big as well, his most impressive play was when he shot though the Raiders line from the middle linebacker position and tackled Richard from behind. Mercilus and Clowney have so much speed, and they will need to come through more than ever if they are to challenge the Patriots.