The Oakland Raiders had a big time victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday. The Raiders’ offense had an outstanding performance, despite missing their top two offensive players in Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden. Their stand-ins, Matt McGloin and Rashad Jennings, had top rate performances to lead the Raiders to the most points they have scored in a game this season. A clutch performance from the defense was able to preserve the first road victory of the season for the Raiders.
Here are the three biggest factors in their victory over the Texans:
1. Matt McGloin’s exceptional debut:
The undrafted rookie McGloin got his first NFL start in place of the injured Terrelle Pryor and shocked the pundits with a solid, if not spectacular, game. McGloin led the most efficient offense that the Raiders have seen this season. The 28 points but on the board is the highest output from the Raiders’ offense this season.
McGloin was an effective 18-for-32 for 197 yards and three touchdowns. The best stat of his day was the zero interceptions that he threw. McGloin was an undrafted rookie making his first start against a defense that prides itself on creating pressure from all over. Expecting that kind of output from McGloin would have been crazy, but he has been exceeding expectations for his entire career, beginning at Penn State.
While featuring less than ideal arm strength in college, McGloin has shown improved arm strength in the NFL and several of the throws he made opened the eyes of many around the league. He showed the ability to drive the ball into the throwing windows down the field. The area in which McGloin outshines Pryor is in his ability to read a defense and the quickness in his release.
While he is nowhere near as athletic, McGloin is much more polished as a passer in the pocket than Pryor. If he can get any production from a traditional running attack like on Sunday, then he gives the Raiders best option to win right now with his ability to make better decisions in the passing game.
2. Rashad Jennings runs wild:
Filling in for the oft-injured Darren McFadden, Jennings made the most of his opportunities to be the primary ball carrier. Jennings for most the season has actually been more effective than McFadden with 128 yards on three less carries. His 5.2 yards per carry average is 1.6 yards more than McFadden’s 3.6.
Jenning’s 150 yards on the ground was the best output by any Raiders’ ball carrier this season. Jennings’ power running style proved to the difference in the running, as 109 of his 150 yards came after initial contact. The biggest play of the game, which proved to be the difference, was when Jennings ran over Texans’ safety D.J. Swearinger and broke loose for an 80-yard touchdown.
Jennings is looking more and more likely to maintain his hold as the primary ball carrier with McFadden’s injury. The Raiders can afford to wait for McFadden to be 100 percent healthy before bringing him back. It also provides the Raiders with an option in the offense if they choose to let McFadden walk in free agency.
3. Defense provides clutch plays:
The Raiders’ defense came up huge in some key situations that led to their victory over the Texans. They created two turnovers that set up touchdowns by the offense and then had a key stop late in the game to preserve the five point victory.
The tone was set early on the first drive of the game, as Charles Woodson forced a fumble that was picked up by Phillip Adams and returned to 16-yard line of the Texans. They then forced a punt on the second drive. On the third Texans’ drive, they followed up with Case Keenum’s first interception of his career, which Nick Roach returned to the Texans’ 16-yard line. That allowed Oakland to jump out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
The defense then stumbled in the second quarter, as the Texans scored 17 unanswered points. After the break at halftime, the defense came out much better. They rebounded to stall the Texans’ offense in the third quarter, which allowed their offense to take back the lead. It also forced the Texans to replace Keenum with the much-maligned Matt Schaub.
The key series came on the final possession for the Texans. The Raiders were nursing a five point lead with about four minutes remaining. The Texans had to travel 64 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. A big 22-yard pass to Andre Johnson would put the Texans in Raiders’ territory. Two plays later they would get inside the red zone.
The key play would be on second down from the nine-yard line, as Schaub would find Ben Tate in the flat and Charles Woodson would stonewall the big running back just in front of the first down marker and would nearly force a turnover. The play would be costly, as Woodson would come up injured on the play. The defensive front would stand tall on third down stuffing the Texans for a one-yard loss. Following a false start penalty, the Raiders would knock away the fourth down pass in the end zone to seal the victory.
The defense did not have a great game, as they gave up 394 total yards and 23 points. They were able to create some key turnovers and stops. They were able to stall the momentum of the Texans following halftime, which kept the Raiders in the game and provided the offense a chance to retake the lead. This type of clutch performance pays dividends with the younger players down the line, as it gives them the confidence to succeed in similar situations down the line.