The Texans lost a close game on Monday Night Football—and their first one possession game of the year—to the Raiders. Houston was on the opposite end of some questionable spots, Oakland made the big plays at the end: a wide open touchdown to Jamize Olawale who ran past a flailing Andre Hal, then Amari Cooper breaking multiple tackles to make the game 27-20 on his touchdown catch, and finally Derek Carr found his running back open down the sideline as Latavius Murray picked up a fourth down run to finish it.
Although the Texans lost, it’s impossible to be upset at how the team played. They went on the road to a weird stadium and actually played well against a team playing great football. There’s no such thing as moral victories, but after getting destroyed by New England, Minnesota, and Denver in similar situations, it’s a beautiful sight to watch this team, late at night, on the road, against a good team playing well.
To keep it close, Brock Osweiler actually made throws. He was on target, showed some accuracy, and found the open receivers. He threw for 243 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, though he was bailed out of some other picks thanks to Oakland drops. Osweiler successfully threw to the tight ends and attacked the middle of the field, exploiting the bad Raiders’ inside linebackers. He also actually completed passes to DeAndre Hopkins. It was a great start by Osweilerian standards and decent by NFL standards, yet it was so much better than the worst quarterback in the league.
The star of this game was the defense and specifically Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was a tornado, taking on two blockers at once, multiple pullers other times and staying strong through out it all to stop the run. He and the no-names across the line got penetration and ate up the Raiders’ run game. By way of comparison, Oakland ran for 200+ yards against Denver. They ran for only 30 against Houston, averaging just 1.5 yards a carry. Houston covered well against Oakland’s offense, but the mistakes killed them. The Olawale catch came on against wide open blown coverage. The Cooper touchdown was the result of missed tackles. For 95% of the game, the Texans shut down Oakland. It was the 5% that killed them.
Of it all, the worst controllable part of this game for the Texans were Bill O’Brien’s decisions. He kicked a field goal early when he should have gone for it. Tyler Ervin was still being used to return kicks, which led to a fumble deep in Houston territory and a subsequent Oakland field goal. O’Brien used Akeem Hunt on a 4th and 1 run with the game on the line. He punted with only one timeout and the two minute warning on 4th and 5 late in the game; Houston never got to put their little fingers on the ball again. These are all things smart coaches don’t do. The weeks and opponents may change, yet O’Brien still makes inexcusable decisions.
Houston could have won this game. They probably should have won this game. That is so much better than getting bashed and obliterated.