By Dave Thomas
What looked like a possible long playoff run for the Oakland Raiders just a few weeks ago came to a crashing halt in the Lone Star State Saturday afternoon.
With their 27-14 loss to the Houston Texans (10-7), Oakland (12-5) saw its season come to an end—a season that could have been so much more were not it for MVP candidate Derek Carr breaking his right fibula in the team’s next-to-last regular season game against Indianapolis.
That said, even Ken Stabler or Jim Plunkett in their respective primes would have had trouble leading Oakland to a win against this Texans’ defense. Throw that in with Oakland receivers dropping balls, and you had a recipe for disaster on this first Saturday of January.
So despite a great overall season, thrown in with Oakland making the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, the Raiders pack up the gear for yet another season.
If Carr comes fully back to healthy next season, along with a defense that is continuing to improve through the efforts of guys like Khalil Mack and Malcolm Smith, the Raiders could once again be a major threat in the AFC West and the AFC as a hole.
Were it not for a pair of touchdowns, Oakland’s offense may very well have been totally non-existent. With third-stringer Connor Cook under center, the Raiders were already starting the game in a hole. Making his first-ever NFL start, Cook looked shaky for much of the day. About the only time Cook did look relatively comfortable was when Oakland went with the no-huddle offense. Surprisingly, head coach Jack Del Rio and the Raiders got away from the no-huddle too often. Not to say it would have won the game, but Oakland seemed at its best offensively when it would avoid huddling up and giving Houston’s top-ranked ‘D’ a chance to set up.
For the day, Cook went 18-of-45 for 161 yards and three interceptions. Cook’s lone TD came with a fourth quarter, eight-yard strike to Andre Holmes. As mentioned earlier, several Oakland receivers and backs were finding it hard to catch the ball on the day, making it all the more difficult on Cook. Holmes led the way with 50 yards receiving on four receptions. Oakland’s ground game was once again all but non-existent, with top back Latavius Murray notching 39 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Even though Houston QB Brock Osweiler was not lighting them up, the Raiders failed to come up with some big stops when they needed them. Most notably, Oakland failed to sack Osweiler (14-of-25, 168 yards, one touchdown) on the day, allowing the $72 million man to lead his team to victory. The Raiders were led by Mack’s 11 total tackles (nine solo) and Perry Riley Jr. (six total stops (five solo). Not coming up with a big turnover to swing the game’s momentum also came back to haunt the Raiders when all was said and done.
Special Teams: (C)
Punter Marquette King had a busy afternoon, punting 10 times for an average of 49.2 yards. Safe to say, when your punter is getting a tired leg, your offense is not doing much of a job of moving the ball.
When you look back at the totality of the Raiders’ season, Del Rio and his staff did a fantastic job of leading a franchise that had seen a playoff drought for more than a decade. Given backup QB Matt McGloin was battered and bruised (injured shoulder) in the regular season finale at Denver, Del Rio had to go with Cook, something he would have much rather avoided. Given his team’s inability to put together consistent drives on the day, Del Rio was probably lucky the Raiders only lost by 13 points.