Houston Texans’ (3-1) running backs Arian Foster, Derrick Ward, and Steve Slaton combined to rush 33 times for 248 yards and Matt Schaub used three different tight ends to complete 10 of his 16 completions in 29 attempts to help defeat the Oakland Raiders (1-3) 31-24 Sunday at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in front of the lowest non-strike year attendance for a Raiders home game in 43 years.
“I thought the game was won and lost on the line of scrimmage, period,” said Raiders head coach Tom Cable of his teams’ third defeat in four tries this season. Along with allowing a season-high 249 yards on the ground on defense, the Raiders were unable to get to Schaub once during the game — allowing the quarterback to throw for 192 yards and two touchdowns on 16-29-0 passing and a QB rating of 98.6. The Raiders, however, allowed four sacks, two resulting in fumbles when quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was hit from behind.
“I’ve just got to protect the football,” said Gradkowski, taking the onus off of his porous offensive line. Gradkowski (24-39-2-2 78.8 rtg) rarely had time to throw, forcing him to be called for grounding on the Raiders’ final drive of the game — which ended up taking the Raiders from second and three on their 44 to third and 16, and making it nearly impossible for the quarterback to produce another last second drive.
While the game may have been won or lost in the trenches, it was backup tight end Joel Dreessen that lessened the loss of Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson (ankle), his replacement Jacoby Jones (calf), and starting tight end Owen Daniels (hamstring). Dreessen finished the game as Houston’s leading receiver with five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. After Jones left the game due to injury, the Texans played with only three receivers and were forced to play two-tight end sets in the second half.
“We played with three wide receivers in the second half,” said Texans’ head coach Gary Kubiak. “We never could go to three wides or anything from an offensive standpoint.”
Despite being short on wide receivers for the game, Kubiak benched the NFL’s leading rusher, Foster, to start the game. Even though Foster didn’t get into the game until midway through the second quarter, he finished the day with 131 yards on 16 carries and a 74-yard touchdown run.
Kubiak said that he was teaching Foster a lesson. “I’m going to make one comment on that and then, really, I’m not going to talk about it anymore,” said the head coach when asked why Foster didn’t start. “Bottom line is we all have responsibilities. Over the course of the last couple weeks, he neglected a couple responsibilities and been unaccountable in a couple situations. When that happens you have to learn a lesson, have to pay a price. I’m disappointed in him and I’m proud of him coming back and playing like he did.”
The Texans also came into the game without starting free safety, Eugene Wilson (hamstring). As with the offense, Wilson’s backup Troy Nolan came in and looked as if he was a Pro Bowler. Nolan picked off Gradkowski twice in the second half, one leading to a Texans’ touchdown and the other to put the game away.
“When you get your rear end kicked like that it is what it is,” said Cable of what he said to his team after the game. “You don’t sugar coat that, you don’t talk around that. You have to deal with that.”
The Raiders will be dealing with how to win their first divisional game next Sunday when the San Diego Chargers (2-2) come into Oakland. The Chargers demolished the Arizona Cardinals (2-2) in San Diego 41-10, a week after the Cardinals beat the Raiders 24-23 in Arizona.
- The paid attendance was 32,218. The last time the Raiders drew fewer fans for a home game was Oct. 4, 1987 in Los Angeles against the Kansas City Chiefs (26,645). The game was held with ‘scab’ players who crossed picket lines while the players were on strike. The Raiders won 35-17.
- The last time the Raiders had fewer than 32,218 fans at a home game in a non-strike year was during a 28-21 victory over Buffalo in 1967 (30,738). Ironically, the Raiders’ performance had nothing to do with the low attendance. The last game of the season, the Raiders recorded their 13 win of the 14-game season (13-1) for the best record in AFL history and went on to lose Super Bowl II three weeks later to Green Bay 14-33.
- Raiders’ leading rusher Darren McFadden finished the game with 47 yards on 12 carries, six receptions for 82 yards, and left the game with a hamstring pull after a 23-yard run — his longest of the game. Former starter Michael Bush finished the game with seven carries for 40 yards and two receptions for 16 yards.
- RB Michael Bennett (hamstring) and LB Thomas Howard (knee) also didn’t finish the game for the Raiders. The severity of all three player’s injuries was not known after the game.
- Rookie KR/WR Jacoby Ford continues to impress on kick returns. He had three returns for an average of 28.3 yards per return with a long of 64 yards.
- Zach Miller led all receivers with 11 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown.
- Of the 40 passes completed between the two teams, only five were to wide receivers. Johnnie Lee Higgins led all wide receivers with two receptions for 38 yards, and his longest reception was for 26.