HOUSTON – The Raiders couldn’t just cruise to victory. It’s not in their nature.
Sunday’s 28-23 victory over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium was a nail biter though it shouldn’t have been, when the Texans turned the ball over on downs three yards from pay dirt.
The Raiders held incredibly strong on 3rd-and-1 from their own 2 and wouldn’t let the Texans covert when it mattered most. The Raiders final stand came on 4th-and-4 from the 7, when one finalTexans pass fell incomplete.
The story of the rest of the game was Matt McGloin, who eliminated a small halftime deficit, ran the Raiders offense well and created a quarterback controversy in the process.
The undrafted rookie quarterback excelled filling in for injured starter Terrelle Pryor, who didn’t make the trip after being ruled out with a sprained knee.
McGloin threw sharp darts all over the field and eliminated pressure with a quick release and made big plays in the clutch. Despite several receiver drops and a few errant throws, McGloin completed 18-of-32 passes for 197 yards, three touchdowns and zero interception(s).
The Texans kept it close – thanks in large part to the Raiders' inability to convert third downs – but the Raiders defense held strong down the stretch.
The victory snaps an eight-game road losing streak and a two-game slide this season. It’s also Dennis Allen’s second road win as head coach.
While the victory brings a sense of relief and optimism to the silver and black, McGloin has added stress to the coaching staff. Will they start McGloin next week against Tennessee or will they go back to Pryor if his knee is healthy.
Rashad the feature back?: Raiders running back Rashad Jennings had 283 yards total offense in his two games filling in for injured starter Darren McFadden.
Jennings’ Sunday was even better. He finished with 150 yards on 22 carries despite the fact Houston put significant effort into stopping the run. Much of that came from a direct snap he ran 80 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Spent the rest of his day churning out tough yards, exactly what the Raiders were hoping for with McGloin at quarterback.
Allen said last week that Jennings had earned carries when McFadden is healthy. He might take a large chunk for the rest of the season.
Third-down troubles: The Raiders offense converted their first three third downs. Then they missed nine of 10. They struggled on crucial downs all game long, which kept the game far closer than it should’ve been down the stretch.
As a whole, the Raiders were 5-for-18 on third down, slightly worse than their abysmal 33 percent clip entering Sunday’s game.
Position groups shared blame for this failure, including McGloin, his receivers and some untimely penalties up front.
Short fields, easy touchdowns: The Raiders defense set up two easy touchdowns in the first half with takeaways.
Charles Woodson stripped Houston tight end Garrett Graham and Phillip Adams returned it 26 yards to the Texans’ 16. McGloin threw his first touchdown pass six plays later.
Later in the first quarterback, linebacker Nick Roach intercepted Keenum at the Texans 16. McGloin threw a touchdown to Rod Streater on the next play to give the Raiders a 14-0 advantage.
(Temporary) momentum shifter: The Raiders seemed in firm control during the first half, save one big play. Then they gave up another one, this time on special teams, that turned the tides.
The Raiders punt coverage slacked (although Taiwan Jones was cleared held) and Texans return man Keshawn Martin scampered 87 yards for a touchdown. The longest punt return in Texans history was part of a late first-half surge when Houston scored 17 unanswered points.
Sitting it out: The Raiders played without Pryor and McFadden on Sunday. The offense was structured differently, with more timing routes and short passes. Rashad Jennings ran with similar power.
The Raiders also designated safety Tyvon Branch, cornerback D.J. Hayden, linebacker Kaluka Maiava, tackle Matt McCants and receiver Juron Criner inactive.
Defensive lineman Daniel Muir missed the second half after sustaining a knee injury in the first. Right guard Mike Brisiel also left the game with a knee injury.
What's next: The Raiders play at home for the first time in a while against the floundering Tennessee Titans. Quarterback Jake Locker is out for the year, and running back Chris Johnson averaged 3.8 yards per carry entering Sunday.
The Titans will be rested after dropping a 30-27 result to Indianapolis on Thursday night.
The Raiders play much better at home, although they must reverse a trend of starting fast and finishing slow. They’d better enjoy the home cooking while it lasts because the Titans precede another two-game stretch on the road.