In what was a “must-win” game, the Las Vegas Raiders did exactly what they had to do.
Not only did the Raiders notch their second victory of the season over the Houston Texans, but they also did it convincingly with a three-possession, 38-20 victory. This was exactly what everyone was expecting — or hoping for, I should say — coming off the bye week against an inferior opponent.
Las Vegas took care of business, giving us plenty to be happy about and very little to be disappointed with for this week’s winners and losers.
WINNER: Josh McDaniels
Rightfully so, McDaniels took a lot of heat through the first five games of the season. The Raiders’ record was well below expectations and the team looked out of sync, struggling to play complementary football, not finishing games, etc. However, yesterday was a completely different story.
It wasn’t the prettiest win as the Raiders and Texans went back and forth and the Raiders were trailing to start the fourth quarter. But, unlike the beginning of the year, they managed to finish strong with 21 points in the final frame to put Houston away. That’s how teams win in the NFL as very few games are one-sided and the resolve Las Vegas showed is a reflection of the head coach.
McDaniels talked about being introspective during the bye week and the results showed on the field yesterday. Then again, the job is far from done and now comes the hard part, maintaining this level of play throughout the rest of the season, as the goal was never just to beat the Texans in Week 7.
Also, McDaniels gets bonus points for shaking the Raiders’ post-bye week woes as they were 3-16 since 2003 after a week off heading into Sunday.
LOSER: Tre’von Moehrig
Unfortunately, things are not trending in the right direction for Moehrig. Last week, he struggled to cover Travis Kelce in the red zone and gave up two touchdowns, and he had a hard time against another tight end yesterday.
Jordan Akins caught two of two targets for 58 yards and two first downs against the 2021 second-round pick. That’s nearly 30 yards per catch and far too much to give up to a player of Akins’ caliber. Getting beat by Kelce is excusable but if Moehrig is going to live up to the expectations he set as a rookie, stringing back-to-back performances together like these two simply can’t happen.
It also doesn’t help matters that he was beaten for a touchdown by Phillip Dorsett and allowed a near-perfect quarterback rating (156.3) as the primary defender in coverage.
WINNER: Josh Jacobs
I’ll keep this one short since Jacobs’ play has been speaking for itself this season.
He might be the hottest player in the NFL right now as he’s managed to have his “best game of the season” for the third week in a row. The impending free agent had 20 carries for 143 yards making it back-to-back weeks that he’s averaged over seven yards per tote and the third consecutive week he’s had at least 140 rushing yards. In the last three games combined, Jacobs has 69 rushes for 440 yards — 6.4 per attempt — and six rushing touchdowns, three of which came against the Texans.
With eight more on Sunday, his missed tackles forced count is up to 36 on the season, third-most among running backs, and his wallet is getting heavier and heavier as the weeks go by...
LOSER: Anthony Averett
To Averett’s credit, Sunday was his first game back from a stint on injured reserve and he was thrown right into the fire after essentially switching places with Nate Hobbs on IR. He was rusty and it showed.
Averett was targeted four times and surrendered three receptions for 57 yards. What makes those figures more troubling is all three grabs were impactful with two going for first downs and the other was a touchdown. He also allowed a perfect passer rating (158.3) when targeted, and that’s not ideal for someone who is expected to be a starter for at least the next three weeks.
Again, this wasn’t an ideal situation for the five-year veteran so there’s no reason to panic and think he can’t get the job done moving forward. That being said, he does need to turn it around quickly as the Raiders are razor-thin at cornerback with Hobbs out.
WINNER: Thayer Munford
It’s hard to describe but with a lot of rookies, there’s often a game where it looks like everything is starting to click for them and they’re adjusting to the NFL game. That’s what yesterday was for Munford.
Across the board, he earned the high grades of his young career from Pro Football Focus with a 79.1 overall grade, an 81.4 in pass protection and a 76.9 mark as a run blocker. That’s 12.9, 6.4 and 18.5 points higher than his previous bests for each respective category. Those figures also rank fourth, fifth and fifth, respectively, among all offensive tackles for the week, pre-Monday Night Football.
The rookie pitched a shutout as a pass blocker with no pressures yielded and while he didn’t start, he took the lion’s share of the snaps at right tackle with 43. For comparison's sake, Jermaine Eluemunor got the start but only registered 14 offensive snaps, one of which was at tight end as an extra blocker in a short-yardage situation.
So, if Sunday’s any indication, the Raiders’ drawn-out right tackle battle might finally be over with the seventh-round pick winning the job.
WINNER: Duron Harmon
As I said in the intro, there’s more to be happy about this week in Las Vegas so we’ll swap out one loser spot for an extra winner this week. And after celebrating a rookie finding his stride, why not celebrate one of the oldest players on the roster carving out a bigger role for himself?
Aided by the pick-six that slammed the door shut on the Texans’ comeback, Harmon earned the highest PFF grade (93.4) on the entire team. He even currently sits as PFF’s second-highest safety for the week, barely getting edged out by 0.5 points to Seattle’s Ryan Neal.
That highlight play at the end of the game was the perfect way to cap off Harmon’s impressive performance. He was stingy in coverage all afternoon, allowing just two receptions on four targets for six yards, and he currently has surrendered the second-lowest passer rating (16.7) among safeties with at least one target for the week.
The 10-year veteran got the start over Moehrig, and if the old man keeps playing like this, it will stay that way for a while.