By Sam McPherson
It’s a testament to the Oakland Raiders defense that they bent so much in Week 1 against the New York Jets on the road without breaking too often. But in the NFL, generally, that’s not a recipe for success long-term, and the Silver & Black know this as they prepare for their Week 2 matchup at home against the Houston Texans.
The Raiders held it together on the scoreboard—not the stat sheet—for almost three and a half quarters last Sunday. Sure, they’d given up some yards, but the defense created the only scoring opportunity for the offense early in the game, and otherwise, they’d held the Jets to just 13 points.
Oakland was just one touchdown away from taking the lead—and then the levee broke.
Chris Ivory’s 71-yard touchdown run with just 8:03 left in the game all but sealed the Raiders’ fate, even though the offense gamely made it closer at the end. The TD run for the Jets’ backup running back was probably overdue, as the Oakland defense had just been hanging in there all day by a thread.
For the Raiders to win this Sunday at the Coliseum against the Texans, the defense will have to get better—obviously. This isn’t news, but you’re not going to win a lot of games giving up 402 yards—which included 212 on the ground, thanks to Ivory’s fourth-quarter heroics.
In fact, it’s hard to critique the Oakland defense too much, even if we must. Charles Woodson’s first-quarter interception was a thing of beauty for the old man of the secondary, and it set up the Raiders’ first score. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr gave the Raiders a 7-3 lead with his TD toss to Rod Streater: thank you, defense.
And then, again, the defense held it close for as long as they could, forcing another turnover when the Jets were in scoring position later in the first quarter and forcing four more punts before Ivory’s clincher. Yes, they gave up a field goal and a touchdown in there, too, but this isn’t a defense that is capable of throwing shutouts, anyway.
What more could anyone ask of the Raiders defense on a day like that?
Well, the team has to ask for more from the defense, every week—always.
Yes, Oakland was playing without middle linebacker Nick Roach, and that is never a fun time going it without your defensive signal caller. And the conservative play calling on offense didn’t help the defense get any rest, either. With the coaching staff keeping the chains on Carr for most of the game, the Raiders offense only held the ball for 25:10 overall—leaving the defense on the field for a long time.
Both these situations can improve in Week 2. The offense will get more dynamic, and the defense will get healthier. They need the same effort, however, from guys like Woodson—forcing turnovers always helps a team win the game.
The Texans played pretty well in Week One, beating the Washington Redskins at home, 17-6. Houston turned the ball over just once—running back Arian Foster fumbled—and retread quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick managed the game well for his team. But look at how the Texans scored their two TDs within a 2:06 span toward the end of the second quarter: a 76-yard lightning strike from Fitzpatrick to DeAndre Hopkins and a blocked punt return.
Otherwise, Houston didn’t move the ball with any consistency all day, putting together just two drives of over six plays all day—a 13-play, 83-yard drive that ended with Foster’s fumble, and a 13-play, 68-yard drive right after that ended with a field goal. Both came in the latter parts of the second half when the Redskins were probably just tired, because the Washington defense isn’t any great unit.
Putting the Texans on the road in a hostile Black Hole environment will be a benefit to the Oakland defense, and as long as the offense opens up and holds on to the ball, the Silver & Black can get the kind of defensive effort they need to win in Week 2.
They just need to make sure they bend less this time out—and don’t break again late.
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Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.