On Sunday in Houston, Texas, the Oakland Raiders went out and got an emotional third win of the season over the Texans. The victory came just one day after the death of the father of the Oakland Raiders and Raider Nation, Al Davis. The final play of the game was epic in true Raider fashion as Matt Schaub appeared to have a clear path to the endzone that was closed quickly by safety Tyvon Branch, forcing Schaub to throw a hiccup of a pass that was intercepted by the free safety, Michael Huff.
It started rough for the Raiders as the offense didn’t even produce a first down until late in the first half. The Texans jumped out to an early 14-6 lead, with the Raiders’ only points coming off an interception return by Lamarr Houston that was returned to the Texans 35-yard line and a Bruce Davis Jr blocked punt that gave the Raiders the ball at the Texans’ 39.
Not only was the offense stagnant to start the game, but the defense was picked apart by Matt Schaub and the Texans’ passing game. Schaub completed 11 of his first 14 passes in the game and was over two hundred yards passing with two touchdowns almost immediately. The Raider defense looked dazed and confused until they came to life in the second quarter. It was like a tale of two defenses in this contest – once the Raiders figured out the Texan gameplan, they were able to almost completely shut down the potent Texans’ offense and force some three-and-out series against them.
The defense bottled up Arian Foster and the ground game of the Texans, but they allowed Foster a career high 106 yards receiving that included a 60-yard screen pass that had Raider fans on the edge of their seats in the third quarter. Ultimately, that drive would end with a missed 41-yard field goal by Neil Rackers and the Raider defense once again avoided catastrophe.
On the offensive end, the Raiders started to produce just prior to halftime and were sparked by Al Davis favorite Darrius Heyward-Bey. After having only six yards and no first downs through the better part of the first two quarters, DHB would end up getting the Raiders in the endzone on a 34-yard reception that had a lot more to do with the YAC than the throw from the quarterback. DHB went into the locker room with five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. He would finish with seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell later hooked up with Chaz Schilens for a touchdown pass on a drive directly after the Texans took a 17-15 lead on a 54-yard Neil Rackers field goal. That put the Raiders up 22-17 with 14:50 left in the fourth quarter. The pass was Schilens’ first touchdown grab of the season and Campbell’s second of the day.
Following that drive, the Raider defense held the Texans to yet another three-and-out series and Oakland got the ball back at their own 30-yard line. The Texans then held the Raiders to an apparent three-and-out of their own after outside linebacker Brian Cushing stuffed a Darren McFadden run on third down and one. But the Raiders took a risk in true Al Davis fashion, calling a fake punt to fourth string halfback, Rock Cartwright, which went deep into Texan territory for a 33 yard gain.
The Raiders would add another Sebastian Janikowski field goal to their lead, making it a 25-17 lead with 10:00 to go in the game. The field goal was the fourth of the game for the kicker that Al Davis took in the first round of the NFL draft in 2001. Janikowski hit field goals from 55, 54, 50 and 42 yards. Every single one of them was right down the middle and probably would have been good from 70 yards out.
Following a couple more three and outs by each team, the Texans marched down the field and kicked a field goal from 40 yards. They trimmed the Raiders’ lead to five, but they only had one timeout left, so there was speculation that the team might try an onside kick. They chose not to, however, and held the Raider offense to another three and out. They got the ball back after the two minute warning with no timeouts.
After a sack put the Texans in a third down and 23 to go, Matt Schaub chucked up a prayer that was answered by tight end Joel Dreesen at the Raiders’ seven yard line. The Texans spiked the ball with seven seconds left on the clock. That’s when Matt Schaub thought he could run it in the endzone on the next play, but was rejected by Tyvon Branch. Branch forced a pass that was picked off by Huff when Schaub was trying to get it to wide out Jacoby Jones.
Following the game, an emotional Hue Jackson went to his knees in tears at the 35-yard line. The picture on the television screen will stand out as one of the great moments in Raider history as Coach Jackson spilled his tears onto his hands and paid homage to the fallen leader, Coach Al Davis.
The 3-2 Raiders will pack up their belongings and head back home for a month long stretch and have an ample opportunity to head into the bye week riding a three game win streak. They will face the Cleveland Browns in week six, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs, then their bye week, and then the rival Denver Broncos at home. There’s a good chance that the Raiders will be 6-2 when they head down to Qualcomm Stadium to face the San Diego Chargers in a game that could be decisive in the final AFC West standings.
One thing for sure, the Al Davis logo that the players wore on the back of their helmets today will be emblazoned in the back of their minds for the rest of the season. Davis’ death will have a major impact on what happens from here on out.
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