With 6:26 on the clock in the 4th quarter, the Raiders get the ball back after Deshaun Watson’s unreal “Arden Key kick to the face” touchdown pass. The Raiders were down 3 points, and only need to get into field goal range at the very least to tie things up.
Derek Carr and the offense hadn’t exactly moved the ball at will against the Texans, but Houston’s banged up secondary already yielded three touchdown passes on the day, the most they’ve allowed all season. Here’s a look at the Raiders last gasp at a win.
1st and 10, Oakland 25 yard line, 6:26 remaining
The drive started off promising. This sweep play by Josh Jacobs, coupled with a jet motion going the opposite way, is good enough to give the ball carrier room for an 8-yard gain. Tyrell Williams seals off the defensive end and Kolton Miller releases outside for a lead block against the cornerback.
2nd and 2, Oakland 33 yard line, 5:49 remaining
The Raiders follow up that run with a brilliant call to beat Cover 4. The Texans had played a version of this coverage all game, allowing for their safety Justin Reid (among others) to blanket inside receivers, namely Darren Waller.
Gruden knows the CB has to defend deep and inside in this coverage, so he calls for Tyrell Williams to run what is called a “blaze-out,” where the receiver sells the post inside before breaking back out towards the sideline. Not to be confused with a post-corner where the receiver continues running to the pylon. Great call... beautiful route... perfect throw.
1st and 10, Houston 45 yard line, 5:07 remaining
This is where the wheels start to fall off. The Raiders like their chances in single coverage, again opting to target Williams on a “stutter-go route.” Williams nods inside and chops his feet before turning it into a fade route. The issue occurring here is either; A) The ball placement, or B) Williams’ adjustment to a back-shoulder fade.
Carr puts this pass in a position where Williams will have to make a leaping grab. Generally in the NFL, if a QB sees the back of the defender’s helmet, he will make a throw like this, because only the receiver knows where the ball will be. Williams fails to haul in a pass that hits both of his hands, so the mistake is likely his. Either way, these two are out of sync on this play.
2nd and 10, Houston 45 yard line, 5:02 remaining
There’s still a lot of time left in this game, so the Raiders call another run play to hopefully drain more of the clock in the event the Texans get the ball back. This run gets the Raiders in field goal position...or does it?
The referees don’t like Incognito grabbing the defenders shoulder pads on this inside zone play that would have netted 12 yards. Incognito initiates this block with his helmet first and isn’t able to get his hands in an optimal position. You can’t fault Incognito for holding to make sure Jacobs gets through the hole cleanly. But you can fault him for bad technique in a critical moment.
3rd and 16, Oakland 49 yard line, 4:09 remaining
The 2nd-and-20 play after the holding call was a 4 yard dump-off to DeAndre Washington. This puts the Raiders in a dire 3rd-and-16 situation. Third and very long is an offensive coordinator’s nightmare because it drastically limits the play calls available, meanwhile the defense can zero in on how to best defend the sticks.
The Raiders look for another jump ball for Tyrell Williams, this time, with ex-Raider Gareon Conley in coverage. There is hand-fighting from both players at the top of the route, so as much as it pains me to say it, no flag was the correct call. If Williams can give a slight push off, Conley can give a slight tug in return. Williams again gets both hands on the pass, but is unable to haul it in. This ended the Raiders final drive.
Derek Carr’s ball placement on this drive and throughout most of the game was NFL caliber. The fault of the incomplete passes lies on his receivers for failing to beat man coverage. Carr was forced to throw into windows that were tighter than they should have been, considering the Texans’ secondary fielded only one Week 1 starter.
If you noticed the absence of Darren Waller in this final drive, it’s because he couldn’t shake loose from Justin Reid. Remember this game before time you start telling your friends Waller is the best TE in football.
Often, the difference between the best football teams and average ones are the absence of these drive killing mistakes when the game is on the line. The Raiders are 1-4 against playoff caliber teams, while wins against the Broncos and Bears are looking less impressive by the week.