By Sam McPherson
A couple of bench players in starting roles came through for the Oakland Raiders offense in the team’s 28-23 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, and the defense forced two turnovers to help the team hang on for its first road victory of the 2013 season.
Quarterback Matt McGloin was making his first NFL start, after getting his first taste of league action in the team’s loss to Philadelphia a few weeks ago. Running back Rashad Jennings has been playing well for a while now, but the much-maligned defense came through when it mattered against the Texans – forcing two turnovers and doing what they couldn’t do last week against the New York Giants (i.e., holding a big second-half lead).
All in all, not a bad Sunday for the Silver and Black as they improved their record to 4-6 this year, and considering Sunday was the 45th anniversary of the infamous “Heidi Game.” the Raiders just may claim November 17 for their own use going forward.
Offense Grade: A-
Overall, it was a great day for the Raiders offense. McGloin threw three touchdown passes without turning the ball over once (see below), and Jennings ran for 150 yards as well – including a huge 80-yard TD run late in the third quarter that put Oakland up by double digits, 28-17.
The Raiders had 341 total yards on 65 plays, for a healthy 5.2 yards-per-play average. They didn’t have a lot of sustained drives on the day: the first two TD drives were set up by the defense, and each “drive” was a mere 16 yards. The key here is that they scored seven points off each of the two turnovers, and kicker Sebastian Janikowski was on the field mostly for extra points and kickoffs.
That can’t be underestimated in terms of how an offense takes advantage of the opportunities the defense provides it.
Six different receivers registered a catch today from their new quarterback, and no one fumbled away the ball. That, as well, cannot be undervalued in assessing the offense’s day. Even if you take away Jennings’ long run, he still had 70 yards against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense overall.
And yes, the Texans are down right now, after their eighth straight loss this year – but that team has talent, and for the Raiders to post 341 yards and 28 points against the top-ranked defense in the NFL based on total yardage per game allowed really makes a statement. It was a very good day for the Oakland offense, albeit a mildly inconsistent one in terms of generating its own magic.
Defense Grade: B
The Texans had two long drives in the fourth quarter, when they were trailing by 11 points initially. The first drive took nine plays and the second one consumed 10. And when both were over, all Houston could muster in the rally were two field goals – they were still down five points. And that was the different between the Oakland defense this week and the Oakland defense last week against the Giants on the road.
The Raiders forced two turnovers in the first quarter deep in Texans territory that generated two TDs and a 14-0 lead. They held both Houston quarterbacks, Case Keenum and Matt Schaub, to just a 51 percent completion rate on 49 attempts. That was huge, as the Texans ran the ball well with Ben Tate in this game (19 carries, 88 yards).
The maligned pass defense held firm when it needed to late in the game, and the pass rush generated two sacks as well.
All in all, the Oakland defense gave up just one TD on the day, and Houston never really got a good rhythm on offense until the fourth quarter – and then all they could manage were field goals.
Quarterback Grade: B+
The Raiders didn’t announce McGloin’s start until late in the week, but perhaps McGloin knew he was going to be The Man this week because he looked really good, and the former Penn State QB might be in a position to keep the starting job even if Terrelle Pryor’s knee heals soon.
McGloin was just 18-for-32, but that’s not bad for a rookie QB. The key was not throwing any interceptions, and when you add in the three TD passes, to three different receivers, it’s clear McGloin felt comfortable back there. And that’s what you’re looking for with a young quarterback making his first NFL start (and on the road, no less).
He did take two sacks for 21 yards, and there’s room for improvement with the accuracy. Seven three-and-outs in one game is a lot, and two one-play touchdown drives in a single contest is unusual for most offenses run by a rookie QB. The Raiders didn’t put together any long drives in this game, and McGloin can improve that area with some more game experience.
Special Teams Grade: B-
The Texans scored on an 87-yard punt return by Keshawn Martin in the second quarter that tied the game at 14-14. That was the low point for the Raiders special teams play. Oakland allowed Martin to average 31 yards on two kickoff returns as well.
There’s no shame in giving up a few big returns to Martin, as he is one of the best return men in the NFL today. But the timing of the punt return – and the distance of it – were tough to stomach at the moment, as the Oakland lead had evaporated fully at that point.
Janikowski missed his only field goal attempt, from 51 yards out, and Marquette King boomed 11 punts to the average of 49.1 yards per boot – dropping four of them inside the 20-yard line as well. That average matched former Raiders punter Shane Lechler’s mark for Houston in this game, too, giving some satisfaction to the Oakland organization, for sure.
Taiwan Jones had a good day with his three kickoff returns (25.7 yards per return), although Jacoby Ford could have done a little better with his four punt returns (7.5 yards per return). Luckily, the defense put the offense in good position to score early in this game, taking a little pressure off the special teams to do so as well.
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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.