It's been way too long since the last time the Oakland Raiders were in the playoffs but the wait is finally over! This Wildcard Playoff game got started with the Raiders kicking off to the Houston Texans to open up the game. The Brock Osweiler led Texans managed to drive into Oakland territory but got stopped in what appeared to be long field goal range. Houston played it safe though and punted with former Raiders great Shane Lechler pinning his former team back inside the 5 yard line.
After that it was the Raiders turn with the rookie QB Connor Cook making his first start of his career. He made history just by taking the first snap for the Oakland offense because he is the first player in NFL history to have his first start at QB be in the playoffs. Unfortunately his first starting drive was backed up against his own goal line so the ultra conservative play calling was in full effect and led to a quick 3 and out.
Marquette King's punt from his own end zone was a terrible one, it went only 31 yards before going out of bounds. Some very good defense from Oakland held the Texans to a 3 and out thankfully, but the great starting field position allowed the Texans to get a 50 yard field goal anyway. With the field goal from Nick Novak being good the Texans took the first lead of the game at 3-0. However, considering Houston's starting field position that still has to be considered a win for Oakland.
The ultra conservative play calling continued on the Raiders next drive, and the horrible play from the Raiders continued along with it. They started out with two very obvious failed runs, followed by yet another terrible screen call on 3rd down. Jadaveon Clowney read the screen easily and tipped it to himself for the interception deep in the Raiders own territory.
Houston got an added boost with a late hit on the Raiders on Jadaveon Clowney's interception so the Texans started their next possession at the Oakland 5. They quickly got their touchdown on the first play with a run to the outside by Lamar Miller who was not even slightly contested on the run from the Oakland defense. Just like that it was 10-0 Texans, and without a doubt they were helped by the terrible opening game plan by Bill Musgrave that clearly showed zero trust in Connor Cook.
After spotting the Texans 10 points the Raiders finally let their rookie QB throw a pass past the line of scrimmage and then sure enough, it was caught by Michael Crabtree for a first down. The next play was a sack on Cook though and then the 3rd down pass to Crabtree was called incomplete. The Raiders challenged the call and it was confirmed as incomplete so out came Marquette King for his 2nd punt of the day which went into the end zone for a touchback.
The Raiders defense came up with a big 3 and out to force a 2nd Texans punt on the day. Jalen Richard bounced off of a big hit on the return and changed directions for an impressive 37 yard return on the 51 yard punt to have the Raiders start their drive at the Texans 38. Oakland took advantage of the great field position and punched it in for the touchdown on the back of Latavius Murray who had 4 runs for 31 yards on the 5 play, 38 yard drive. The score made it 10-7 Texans and got the Raiders right back into the game after the terrible start.
Oakland's defense manhandled the Texans offense on their next drive for another 3 and out. A decent punt return again from Jalen Richard had the Raiders starting at their own 43. They got a first down into Texans territory with a pass to Crabtree but then it was a short run, a dropped pass and a bad pass which led to another Marquette King punt. This time the Raiders special teams downed the ball at the Houston 5 on a beautiful punt by King.
Houston quickly and impressively made its way out of the shadow of their own end zone and into Raiders territory anyway though by utilizing Lamar Miller and their TE Casey Fiedorowicz. The drive finally got stopped though at the Raiders 20 yard line so the Texans settled for a 38 yard field goal by Nick Novak. The kick almost missed but was just barely good, it made the score 13-7 Texans.
The Raiders response to the field goal was non existent, they went 3 and out and punted back to the Texans immediately. Oakland's defense seemed to come up with a big 3 and out themselves but a defensive holding penalty extended the Houston drive. They still ended up forcing the punt eventually anyway, partially thanks to very conservative play calling by the Texans, and the punt went into the end zone for a touchback.
Oakland's offense again went 3 and out leaving the Texans with just over 2 minutes left in the half and good field position after a bad bounce on King's punt had Houston starting at their own 40. The first play was a 19 yard completion to Will Fuller which put the Texans into Raiders territory at the 2 minute warning. The first play after that was a bomb to DeAndre Hopkins who made the catch for a 38 yard gain down to the Raiders 3 yard line. The duo finished it off with a 3 yard touchdown catch by Hopkins to make the score 20-7.
The Raiders offense then had just over a minute left in the first half to try and do something with it, which is one of the things that Derek Carr did the best with this Oakland team throughout the season. It only ended up reinforcing that Carr isn't there though because the Connor Cook led Raiders did absolutely nothing with the opportunity. Adding injury to the insult, Rodney Hudson went down with an ankle injury on the 3rd and long run.
Houston had decent field position after the Marquette King punt and over 40 seconds before halftime thanks to the Rodney Hudson injury stopping the clock for them. However, a holding penalty on first down made them second guess trying to get points and they just kneeled the clock out after that.
The Raiders are losing at the half 20-7 and it really isn't even as close as that score would have you believe. They do get the ball first in the 2nd half at least, though the Texans are 18-0 when leading at the half under their head coach Bill O'Brien. Seems like a good time for that streak to end, though at this point it's wishful thinking to say so.