The offense struggled in this game, but the defense picked them up, and that is a wonderful thing. This defense has been getting destroyed this year, but they were dominant enough in stretches in this one to carry the offense through a poor performance.
Almost every player on this defense turned in their best performance of the year. This was, by far, the best tackling by the Raiders we have seen in 2011.
As you would guess, with the Raiders, their solid play was sparked by the defensive line.
They were matched up against an elite offensive line, and they had their way with them. The D-line made life easy for the linebackers in the run game as they spent most of the day in the Texans backfield. The defensive tackles, as they have been all season, were amazing. Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and John Henderson were absolutely brilliant.
The biggest improvement though, and the key to holding the Texans to just 70 rushing yards at a stellar 2.8 yards per carry, came at the defensive end spots.
Lamarr Houston had his finest performance of the season, and his performance was matched by Des Bryant. Bryant switched series with Jarvis Moss at defensive ends in this game, and he was fantastic. He consistently sealed of the edge and funneled running plays to the heart of the Raiders defense. I can't say enough for about the undrafted Bryant who was playing this game out of position.
The linebackers deserve credit as well. Rolando McClain played this game at half speed and still managed to make his impact felt. He was solid when he blitzed and he put the hurt on Schaub on one play and tipped a pass on another.
Quentin Groves actually played a decent game. He got badly toasted in coverage on one play, but he did a good job of flowing to the ball and eluding blockers.
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- The offensive line turned in their worst performance of the year. Although they did get better in the second half. Khalif Barnes and Cooper Carlisle were especially shaky in pass protection in the first half, and no one was that great in run blocking.
- Joe Barksdale got a couple of series at LG when Satele was out. He promptly got used and abused on his first play, but, the Raiders still managed a gain on a quick hit to McFadden who was lined up at receiver. Bruce Campbell took Barksdale spot for the next play and did well on two plays, but Barksdale came back in and was much better. I have no idea why the switch was made.
- Stefen Wisniewski looked fantastic at center when he filled in for Satele.
- Darren McFadden, with just 68 total yards, but, it was certainly not his fault. He had little room to run, and he lost over 60 yards when his two biggest plays were called back on penalties.
- DHB was amazing. He had the kind of game that a No. 7 overall pick is supposed to have. He did have one drop, but he was flawless catching the ball other than that and he was outstanding after the catch. He and Campbell essentially sparked the offense to life at the end of the first when DHB caught the Raiders first first down, made another catch and then busted off his touchdown catch and run. He ended with seven catches for 99 yards and the TD.
- Jason Campbell was awful on his deep throws. He left a lot of yards on the field, and the early miss on a wide open Chaz Schilens on a flea flicker is an easy throw for an NFL QB and one Campbell has to make. That said, he was resilient and made plays when it counted. Campbell showed excellent awareness as he created Schilens easy TD catch and run by sucking in the defender with his scramble and throwing the ball just before the line of scrimmage.
- Sebastian Janikowski was amazing. Simply put, if the Raiders had any other kicker in the NFL they lose this game. He tied an NFL record by booting three 50+ yarders, and all but one of his went exactly through the middle of the goal posts, and the other wasn't that far off.
- The coaching staff deserves a ton of credit. They were aggressive and had a solid game plan. The missed two point conversion could have cost the Raiders, but Hue had his foot on the pedal and that pedal on the metal—I am not going to blame him for that. Chuck Bresnahan had a diverse game plan. He sent blitzes at the right time, and mixed in zone coverages well.
- The Raiders had too many blown defensive plays. That has to stop. Too many times guys were wide open as they slipped past the defense. But, as I said, this was a solid effort, and the only thing the Texans really had working for them in the second half was dump offs to Foster, and the occasional play to the TE. Like the second to last play on third and 23. That was an inexcusable completion as Boyd double covered the deeper guy and let Daniels slide underneath him for the easy completion.
- Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch made a play! The last drive was looking depressingly similar to the Bills winning drive. No one wanted to make a play. Then Schaub broke the pocket and it looked like he would waltz into the endzone until Branch astutely broke off his double coverage and made a bee-line for Schaub. This forced Schaub to throw his horrible pass and Huff made a play and hauled in the game clinching INT.
- Last but certainly not least is Al Davis. Sons first pointed this out, and it is worth repeating: Guys that Al Davis drafted or held onto or traded for in the fire of criticism were the centerpiece of this win.
- They said a first round draft pick was too much for Seymour. They said Tommy Kelly was grossly overpaid and needed to be cut. Both were huge. They were the most dominant players on the field.
- People laughed when Al Davis drafted Sebastian Janikowski in the first round. It could realistically be argued that he was the most valuable player on any NFL field on Sunday.
- The selection of DHB has been a widespread joke. DHB produced like a true No. 1 receiver.
- Michael Huff has been saddled with the bust label. His re-signing this offseason was chided as a huge overpayment. He made the play that won the game and was solid all day.
- For some of those decisions, I was among the critics. I was a fool to ever doubt.