The Oakland Raiders came into week five of the 2011 NFL season after losing an ugly game to the New England Patriots in what was easily the Raiders worst performance of the young season. However, unlike the Raiders of old, the tough loss did not cause the Raiders to crumble despite going on the road to face one of this season's more impressive teams in the Houston Texans.
One week after half of ESPN's experts picked the Raiders to beat the Patriots, the same experts unanimously picked the Texans to beat the Raiders this week. However, after the passing of Al Davis on Saturday, the Raiders played inspired football in Houston. Despite falling behind early, and having their offense stagnate for an entire half, the Raiders pulled off an impressive road win.
Passing Offense: Jason Campbell and the Raiders passing offense had another tough day. Campbell finished the game going 15 of 35 for 190 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The interception was an ugly one that really did not need to be thrown. In addition, late in the fourth quarter while the Raiders were attempting to run down the clock, Campbell opted to go deep to Denarius Moore, resulting in an incomplete pass and stopping the clock. Coach Hue Jackson was clearly displeased with the decision on the sideline. This was a game that the Raiders won despite their passing game, not because of it.
Rushing Offense: The Raiders run game was uncharacteristically bad this week as well. For the first time this season, the Raiders failed to put up 100 yards on the ground. In fact, if it were not for Rock Cartwright's 35 yard run on a fake punt, the Raiders would have only put up 59 yards on the ground this week. Darren McFadden was only able to put up 51 yards with 20 of those yards coming on one run. In addition, there were no rushing touchdowns this week. This was clearly a poor performance for the running game.
Passing Defense: The Raiders pass defense was the definition of bend but don't break. The Raiders, once again, gave up a boat load of yards through the air as Matt Schaub finished the game with 416 yards passing and two touchdowns. However, the Raiders were able to get two interceptions, including Michael Huff's game clinching interception on the last play of the game. The defense also racked up 3 sacks and 8 quarterback hits, many of which came at key moments in the second half. If the Raiders had done a better job of accounting for Arian Foster coming out of the back field, they would have gotten a much higher grade. Despite allowing so many yards and two touchdowns, the Raiders pass defense played a major role in this win.
Rushing Defense: The Raiders rush defense was humiliated against the Patriots as they allowed a weak rushing team to run the ball on them all day long with the greatest of ease. This week, the run defense played like it had a serious chip on its shoulder. For the majority of the game, Arian Foster had literally no where to run. The Raiders did a good job of covering the edge so that Foster was forced to turn up field as opposed to breaking out to the sideline. Foster finished the game with 68 yards and only one long run of 20 yards. Easily the best run stuffing performance by the Raiders this season.
Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski is a beast. He tied yet another NFL record on Sunday by hitting three field goals of 50 yards or longer in a single game. In addition, the Raiders continued to improve their kick coverage and did not allow the Texans to have a big game returning the ball. Finally, Jacoby Ford, who had three kick returns for touchdowns his rookie season, busted a huge return for 45 yards at a critical time in the game.
Coaching: In both of their losses, the Raiders coaching staff was given most of the blame, and rightfully so. In their two biggest wins of the season, in week three against the Jets and this past week at Houston, the Raiders coaching staff deserves much of the credit. In a week full of emotion, after being stomped by the Patriots and losing the team's iconic leader in Al Davis, this coaching staff did a great job of getting the team ready to play. Even more importantly, they did an amazing job of making adjustments during the game, something they have struggled with at times this season.
Overall: This was a huge win for the Raiders for a number of reasons. Not only because it was a game that they were supposed to win, or because it came on the day after the passing of Al Davis, but because it showed this is a different Raiders team. The Raiders have struggled greatly in the past to come back from early deficits in a game. On Sunday, the Raiders never gave up, never laid down. They kept fighting and kept believing that they could pull out a win, and that is what they did. Despite the very poor performance of the Raiders offense, this game showed so much heart that its hard not to give them a good grade overall.
Up next, a winnable game against the Cleveland Browns at home.