By halftime in the Raiders’ first meeting with the Texans in Mexico City, the two teams were tied 10-10. With the way the Raiders were playing at that time, it was a downright miracle they were tied, let alone not getting trounced.
What was working for the Texans in that first half is what has made them the NFL’s top rated defense this season. It starts with Jadeveon Clowney and works out from there.
Clowney was a force to be reckoned with in the first half, with 3 run stuffs, two for a loss, leading to the Raiders putting up 7 total yards on the ground.
“I think I played to the run pretty good,” said Clowney. “I made a couple of tackles for loss. A couple of key plays in the game to help us keep the game close.”
While the Raiders offense would find a way to get their yards in the second half, it wasn’t on the ground, as they would finish with a season low 30 yards rushing.
“Yeah, he was very disruptive, very disruptive, and so was [Vince] Wilfork,” Jack Del Rio said this week of Clowney. “I think those two guys were a tough matchup. They’ll be tough again. They’re good players. There’s a reason that they rank on top of the league in gross yardage allowed and that they’ve been tough to run against because they’re not even using an extra man in the box very often. They play with a lighter box and they count on those big guys to be disruptive. They’ve done a nice job up front, and that’s without J.J. [Watt]. That’s a pretty strong job by a very good front.”
To do what the Texans have done this season with JJ Watt out is quite impressive. A lot of credit goes to Defensive Coordinator, Romey Crennel, and his defensive schemes.
“He’s moving me a lot,” Clowney said of Crennel. “so he’s really putting me where he wants me and how he wants it done. It’s all coming together the way he set it up.”
This match-up creates a serious problem for the Raiders as they absolutely MUST get things going on the ground if they are to have a chance against the Texans. Connor Cook, like McGloin last week, is making his first start of the season. Only with Cook, it’s actually the first start of his NFL career.
Cook will need all the help he can get, and if last week is any indication, the outlook is not promising.
In Denver, the Raiders needed the run game to step up and they put up just 57 yards against one of the worst rush defenses in the league, which was giving up an average of over 135 yards per game. Now they will hope to rise up against one of the better run defenses in Houston which allows fewer than 100 yards per game.
Just like last week, what the Raiders needed was the passing game to do enough to force the opposing defense to respect it and thus opening up the ground game.
That also proved difficult against the league’s top pass defense in Denver. They won’t get any rest in Houston where the Texans have been neck and neck with the Broncos all season for the best pass defense and finished second, allowing just over 200 yards per game passing.
Last week the Raiders put up a season low 164 yards passing. Though they had 295 yards passing in their first meeting with the Texans, only 68 yards of that went to wide receivers.
In the second half, which allowed the Raiders to pull out the 27-20 win, it was finding the running backs in the passing game that did the trick. Not only was that with Derek Carr at quarterback, but you can bet the Texans will have made the adjustment since last time, making it tough to see where the Raiders offense will find their yards Saturday.