As usual after a game like this, I will await your responses suggesting that the Raiders had no Ballers. Funny thing is, it’s games like this which make the Ballers & Busters that much more necessary. At least in my mind, anyway.
It’s games like this that Raiders fans were all too used to seeing over the team’s long bout with futility in which they were barely competitive much of the time. These are the times when digging deep to find those players who earn the term diamond in the rough for doing their jobs well while everything collapses around them.
I will agree, however, that there was very little to like about the Raiders’ performance in Houston Saturday. They were ousted from their first playoffs in 14 years as if they didn’t belong there in the first place.
They belonged there so long as Derek Carr was behind center. But without him, this team toppled like a house of cards. They were prepping for the offseason by halfime.
I’m sure if I’d have asked a Raiders fan who didn’t catch the game who they would guess would be the easy choice for Top Baller, probably every one of them would say Khalil Mack. He often is. Just looking at the box score tells a bit of a story. Mack led the team in tackles, with nearly twice as many combined tackles as anyone else on the team. His 8 solo tackles were as many as the next two defenders combined. Two of those tackles were for a loss.
Mack’s first tackle of the game was for a loss on a run play, helping to result in a three-and-out. Unfortunately the Texans started the series in field goal range so they went up 3-0 on a 50-yard field goal.
That turned quickly to 10-0 after an interception by Connor Cook with the Raiders’ backs at their own end zone.
To begin the second quarter, the Raiders were able to drive for a touchdown to pull to within three. Mack set about trying to keep it that way with another run stuff and his second tackle for loss on a screen pass on third and ten.
Later in the quarter, he added a run stuff for one yard, but it was with the Texans in first and goal from the 3 and the next play they went to the air to get the touchdown to take a 20-7 halftime lead. Fittingly, it was Mack getting around his man, who had to clothesline him to keep from getting Osweiler killed. And that’s where the first half would end.
The second half was mostly just playing out the inevitable. The Raiders offense wasn’t doing much and the Texans went conservative, knowing it was enough to pull out the victory. Mack would add a pressure to force an incompletion on third down and three more run stuffs.
Yes, I found another Baller. No, I didn’t have to reach. Andre Holmes is a low key special teams stud. Every week he’s making plays on special teams, and this week was no different. First he, Darren Bates, and Brynden Trawick teamed up to make a stop on a kick return at the 18-yard-line. The next special teams play was a punt by Marquette King that was headed out of bounds until Holmes volleyed it back into play and it was downed at the 5-yard-line.
Having made his mark on special teams, he stepped in at receiver for Michael Crabtree who was lost to a concussion. The Raiders’ first drive of the fourth quarter was all Holmes. He made a brilliant leaping grab for 20 yards on third and 7 to keep the drive alive. Two plays later he caught a 9-yard pass for another first down. Then on third and 16, he fought to get open and his man was called for pass interference to put the Raiders in first and goal at the 8-yard-line.
Fittingly, the next play was Cook nailing Holmes for the touchdown. Holmes also made a 13-yard catch on the next series on a high pass, but for the Raiders it was too little too late. Their hopes would end on a Cook interception. Holmes finished with a team leading 4 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. He also tied for the team lead with 2 combined special teams tackles.
Brynden Trawick – Sharing safety snaps with Karl Joseph, Trawick had another fine performance, putting up 3 combined tackles, one for a loss, along with his usual standout special teams work.