Instead, the Silver & Black’s inability to match the Texans’ gusto was due to one particular thing — something he keeps harping on, actually.
“I don’t think we were flat from an energy standpoint. I don’t think we executed very well,” McDaniels said during his day-after press conference on Monday.
Houston, in comparison, arrived determined to take the fight to Las Vegas and Lovie Smith’s crew surely did that behind a powerful run game, efficient quarterback and fast-as-hell defense. That allowed the Texans to jump out to a 10-3 lead by taking advantage of Raiders miscues, leaving the partisan Raider Nation crowd inside Allegiant Stadium stunned and silenced.
That was not the ideal start McDaniels envisioned for his Raiders — especially coming off a bye — but you play with the hand your dealt. Las Vegas did find its bearings as the game went on, much Houston’s chagrin. McDaniels’ offense got out of its own way, the defense limited the damage and the game was knotted 10 apiece at halftime.
“I thought we had our first drive and we kind of overcame a penalty to get down there, and then we kind of got stopped down there in the fringe area,” McDaniels recapped. “And then we had the fumbled snap, followed by the sack. It’s like we just couldn’t get out of our own way, honestly, at the very beginning of the game. And so, I thought we settled down there right before the two-minute drive offensively. And again, at that point, it’s 10 to three. So, the defense had done a decent job of holding them to a few field goals as the game wore on. We just had to kind of get into a rhythm and start just doing our job.
“And sometimes the answer isn’t, we need one guy to go out there and make a miracle play. That’s not really the answer. The answer is we just all got to go out there and do what our responsibility is, and I thought our guys started to click when they started to do that. And that’s a simple formula.”
There’s nothing more simplistic — and in-your-face brutal — than what the Raiders did in the second half: Give the rock to running back Josh Jacobs. Running through gaping holes — untouched at times — No. 28 ripped through the normally-stingy Texans defenses. The second half, particularly the middle of the third and entire fourth quarter, showcased Las Vegas’ ability to execute McDaniels’ plays. The offensive line, the tight ends, and fullback Jakob Johnson were working in unison to road grade Houston defenders and giving Jacobs the room to operate.
“You can throw in Foster (Moreau) and Jesper (Horsted), because Jesper played some yesterday, Foster did a really good job in there and Jakob (Johnson) too. Those guys have to do a lot of different things, and yesterday was really a challenge, because there was a lot of movement up front,” McDaniels said when asked about the other blockers beyond the offensive line. “Look, the fullback by nature — we don’t have Kyle Juszczyk, and Jak is the first one to tell you that. He and Kyle aren’t necessarily the same type of player. But Jak has his strength and he knows what he is. He’s a good blocker, he’s an incredible teammate, he’s an unselfish guy and he’s a physical player. So, he adds that element of physicality to our group. He knows what his role is, and he goes in there and he does it as well as he can and he usually doesn’t well.”
Was it perfect? Far from it. But even when it appeared Jacobs was going to get corralled by Texans defenders, he made something out of nothing.
Where the Raiders were perfect was inside the red zone (finally): 3-for-3 to be exact. Yes, the defense yielded one touchdown in Houston’s three trips, but that 33 percent clip is way better than the 80-plus percent Las Vegas defense allowed heading into Sunday’s tilt.
“Yep. We’ve talked about it for a while. It doesn’t mean that next week is automatically going to be the same result. But we’ve said this for a number of weeks is, when you when you don’t play your best, or you lose a game, you have an opportunity to learn from that. And so, we’ve tried to find some solutions. We have to identify the problem first and then try to find some solutions to it. So, we’ve worked really hard at that, the players deserve the credit.”
In classic McDaniels — actually, ever NFL coach — fashion, he preached the need to harness consistency. Yes, his Raiders have shown the ability to do things “the right way”. Now it’s about doing it consistently and turn the flashes into a bright long-sustaining flame. That begins this week. And the proving grounds is this coming Sunday in New Orleans.