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Raiders’ quick slants: Texans edition

Las Vegas hits blackjack in fourth quarter as sloppy first half leads to final-stanza dominance of Houston

Houston Texans v Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders safety Duron Harmon (30) steps in front of a pass for the interception during Sunday’s game. The veteran defensive back housed the pick for a 73-yard touchdown return.
Photo by Sam Morris/Getty Images

Hitting blackjack in Las Vegas portends both prosperity and poverty. Fortunately for the Silver & Black, they hit the all-important 21 in the fourth quarter to power a 38-20 win over the visiting Houston Texans this past Sunday.

In a matchup of slumping teams, the host Las Vegas Raiders (2-5 overall) ensured the Texans’ (1-4-1) left with nothing in their pockets in an impressive second-half performance. In what was truly a tale of two halves, the host Raiders were akin to the degenerate gambler who pisses away his money at the casino habitually. The Texans rolled into allegiant stadium and controlled the line of scrimmage holding a 10-3 lead with 4:57 left before halftime.

Houston didn’t wane in the third quarter building a 20-17 advantage after the trio of initial stanzas. But something started to happen in the second half. The trench dominance Lovie Smith’s Texans displayed was deteriorating. Josh McDaniels’ Raiders were making sure of that. Those 20 points were last Houston would put on the scoreboard that afternoon.

Like any desperate gambler looking to swing their fortune, the Raiders hit blackjack when they needed it most: 21 points in the all-important fourth quarter. Las Vegas’ much-maligned offensive line paved the way for running back Josh Jacobs’ to gallop for a game-high 143 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries — that netted him a franchise record (he surpassed Marcus Allen (3,688 yards) for most rushing yards by a player in their first 50-career games).

The line of scrimmage — on both sides of the ball — was owned by a marauding pirate powered by the Autumn Wind. And just like the illustrious poem, the Raiders pillage for fun, knocked the Texans ‘round and upside down and laughed when they conquered and won.

That was a welcome sight considering the sloppy Raiders football that preceded it — something that wasn’t flattering for a team coming off a bye. Jacobs, the offensive line and McDaniels (the Raiders head honcho and play caller) took Sunday’s game by the throat and squeezed.

“There were a few things, subtle little adjustments that we tried to make,” McDaniels began in his post game press conference, “I didn’t think we played very clean in the first half. Offensively, had a couple penalties. Had a couple penalties in the kicking game. Fumbled a snap. Just little things like that, that created maybe harder situations than what we needed. So, just talked about trying to do our job a little bit better. We expected the game to come down in the fourth quarter because, like I said, every one of our two teams has. So, I thought they stepped up and played really well.

“I thought the communication was better. I thought the execution was better. I thought the offensive group up front really gave Josh (Jacobs) an opportunity to get started a bunch of times there in the second half and was able to run it in.”

Jacobs trio of touchdowns arrived in timely fashion. His first, a four-yard burst with 5:48 left in the third quarter gave the Raiders a brief 17-13 lead. His seven-yard power run with 13:32 on the clock in the fourth quarter put the Silver & Black ahead 24-20 and his most impressive score, a 15-yard gallop that showcased his patience, vision, power and speed, with 7:06 left to play capped his afternoon and gave the Raiders a 31-20 lead.

NFL: Houston Texans at Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) reaches the ball inside the pylon for the first of his three touchdowns against the Houston Texans this past Sunday.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

And it was “old man” Duron Harmon’s 73-yard pick six which put the feather on the Raiders’ cap with 3:26 left to play; 30-28 Las Vegas.

The Raiders turned around their red zone fortunes going 3-for-3 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and the team was able do so largely on the back of it’s capable tailback Jacobs. Quarterback Derek Carr noted that’s a byproduct of adding wide receiver Davante Adams to the mix.

“When we traded for Davante, I said it from the beginning, the happiest person in the building is Josh Jacobs by far,” Carr said. “If teams want to give him attention, then Josh is going to be the happiest man on the planet. And you see it in the red zone; teams lean into him, doubling him, playing a split-safety, or doing this or different ways to do it. You can play single-high and do it certain ways to just get help there and it gives you good angles in the run game, or it gives you this or that. And so far, we’re seeing that pay off. And Josh is one of the best backs in the league. He’s not a slouch back there.”

Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as the game turned for the Texans:

—Carr was an efficient 21 of 27 for 241 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked once but climbed the pocket to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes downfield and firing the ball to his receiving options.

—Harmon’s interception marks his second pick of the season. From Week 2 on, the veteran safety’s snap count on defense is near 100 percent (with only Week 4 and 5 being only two games where he didn’t play all the defensive snaps). He’s arguably the best safety in the Las Vegas secondary.

—Raiders pass rushers Clelin Ferrell and Chandler Jones picked up their first notch in the sack category splitting a quarterback takedown. Jones flew from his usual edge spot while Ferrell burst through from the interior. Perhaps we’ll see more of Ferrell lining up inside.

—Raiders receiver Mack Hollins ran a solid route and leapt up to haul in Carr’s 26-yard dart for the touchdown to tie the game at 10 apiece late in the second quarter. Hollins used his big frame to leap and snare the ball while absorbing a hit and hanging on to the ball.

—Houston quarterback David Mills operated with comfort for much of the first half and finished 28 of 41 for 302 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once. But once Houston was forced into catchup mode, Mills looked pedestrian.