HOUSTON (CBS Local) — The optimism surrounding the Oakland Raiders seemed to go up in smoke last Sunday, as the team was routed by the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, 42-24.
Heading into the game, there was some thought that the team, coming off a big win over the Chicago Bears and a bye week, would be able to stick with Green Bay and make the game interesting. Instead, the game produced a lopsided score that was more likely to elicit the response of “same old Raiders.”
But, NFL On CBS analyst and former NFL receiver James Lofton notes that there were some real bright spots in the loss, and the game was closer than the final score would indicate. The turning point in the game for Lofton came when quarterback Derek Carr lost the ball through the end zone as he was reaching to try and hit the pylon for a touchdown. Had Carr not fumbled and instead the Raiders scored, the team would have gone up 17-14, and things may have gone differently from there on out.
While you can’t re-do situations like that, and the team’s subsequent play wasn’t good enough, Lofton saw plenty to like from the Raiders offense.
“To me, the game was much closer, played on the field, than what was reported as the score. As you watch the Raiders move the ball down the field, whether they’re running, whether they’re throwing, they were really efficient in the ballgame,” said Lofton. “You had some huge plays by Aaron Rodgers and his receivers and some missed tackles. Like the young kids say, ‘don’t sleep on the Raiders.'”
To that end, the Raiders did out-gain the Packers (484 yards to 481) and posted just one fewer first downs (21 to 22) which would indicate, as Lofton suggests, that the game was closer than it appeared. Aaron Rodgers garnered the majority of headlines with his 429-yard, five-touchdown day, but Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had a quietly efficient day too. He completed 22 of 28 attempts for 293 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Those numbers came despite not having top receiver Tyrell Williams in the lineup due to a foot injury.
Sunday has been typical for Carr this season, putting up solid numbers without getting much in the way of attention for it. As Lofton puts it, “people forget about Derek Carr a little bit too often.” But, with Carr completing over 74% of his passes for 1,400 yards this season, he has put the team in good position in the AFC standings. Heading into their matchup with the Houston Texans this Sunday, the Raiders are just a half-game behind Houston in the hunt for a potential Wild Card spot. Furthermore, they are just two games back of the Kansas City Chiefs.
That makes Sunday’s game against Houston a matchup with potential playoff implications down the line. The Texans enter off a loss of their own, 30-23, to the Indianapolis Colts last week. Houston’s offense has shown itself to be prolific, with quarterback Deshaun Watson emerging as an MVP candidate as the team rolls up over 26 points and 390 yards per game. Watson can be a terror for a defense to handle, and the Raiders are smarting from being torched by Rodgers last week. That is why Lofton points to the pass rush as the key for Gruden’s team pulling out a victory on Sunday.
“They have to do it with their pass rush. Deshaun Watson has been sacked 21 times this year,” said Lofton. “But it really does start and stop with Deshaun Watson, who may be the best quarterback under 25 years of age in the NFL.”
The Raiders pass rush ranks 22nd in the league currently with 10 sacks and a 6.1% adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders. With Texans tackles Tytus Howard and Roderick Johnson dealing with injuries, this could be a week for the defensive line to make an impact.
The Raiders and Texans meet at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday, October 27th with kickoff set for 1:25 p.m. Pacific Time on CBS.