Invariably in history the Texans’ inexplicable collapse against Oakland on Sunday may go down as the game in which Raiders owner Al Davis channeled Lester Hayes through Michael Huff the day after he passed away.
Maybe it was Davis’ one last, `Just win Baby!’ to the franchise he defined?
The outcome was just that miraculous for the Raiders.
The end result – a 25-20 defeat — was anything but for the Texans who forked over what should have been a win at Reliant Stadium. Instead the Texans have to be questioning if they will ever get over this crunch-time hump that has been the difference between them being a good team or being dominant NFL franchise.
Right now their identity hangs in the balance.
We can’t be sure if these Texans are front-runners who at their best only when teams are too weak to put up much of a fight. They are looking more like a team that crumbles in a toe-to-toe battle.
Sure, the excuse will be they were without their primary offensive playmaker Andre Johnson the entire game. Then their enforcer on the defensive line, outside linebacker Mario Williams, left in the first quarter with a pectoral injury.
But even then the Texans were in a position to defeat the Raiders and couldn’t do it in the second half, managing just two Neil Rackers’ field goals to counter a spirited Oakland comeback – figuratively speaking, of course.
The offense began to sputter and quarterback Matt Schaub fell apart while the defense all of a sudden became accommodating to Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Darren McFadden.
This game will forever be remembered for Schaub’s decision at the end to throw and not run despite there seeming to be only wind and opportunity between him and the five yards he needed to the end zone. But something in Schaub’s vision told him to try to lob a pass to Jacoby Jones for the win, but instead Huff stepped in front of Jones for the game-saving interception as time and hope expired in Reliant.
“I had a safety coming down, six yards away he’s on the goal line coming at me,” said Schaub, who completed 24 of 51 passes for 416 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on the day. “I made the decision to give my guy the chance to make a play.”
It seemed almost fitting the Texans chance for victory was snatched away at the end after the disappointing effort they put forth for most of the second half.
Most of Schaub’s passes that made it past the line scrimmage were often low and off the mark, while the offensive line got pushed around like paper, giving the ground attack next to no opportunity to get going (2.8 yards per carry on 25 rushes). Then there was the most poorly timed snap exchange between Schaub and center Chris Myers during the late drive.
We also got confirmation that while Jones is filling Johnson spot he is still a long ways from even resembling the playmaker Johnson is.
There were so many issues it was hard for even Gary Kubiak to comprehend.
“Just trying to overcome mistakes all the time: snap problems, penalties, tipped balls,” said Kubiak, whose team had seven passes tipped at the line scrimmage. “Just seemed like it was one thing after another all day.
“The bottom line offensively, in my opinion without looking at the film, they controlled the line of scrimmage and we didn’t run the ball a lick.”
Defensively, the Texans played well enough to win about three-quarters of the day. But there were a couple series that just seemed unexplainable.
There was the drive at the end of the first half that ended with Campbell completing 34-yard touchdown pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey for the Raiders first touchdown and first real sense that could actually move the ball on the Texans.
Then late in third quarter and spilling into the fourth, Texans started allowing McFadden some running lanes where there had been no daylight previously. Campbell’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Chaz Schilens that put the Raiders up 22-17 early in the fourth quarter was set up off three straight runs by McFadden 8, 14 and 20 yards during the drive.
“When it comes down to it, it was a little self destruction on a lot of plays that could have won us the game,” said Texans defensive end Antonio Smith. “I think that early in the game we could have really closed it out but we let them hang and on and get some juice at the end of that first half. Before that last little drive at the end of the first half, they were kind of dwindling down. But once we gave them that little juice they came out the second half and they had like one drop or one or two times where they did something.”
Now you have to wonder where the Texans go from here. They had to Baltimore next week and then come home to face AFC South foe Tennessee. This thing could get ugly real fast, especially if Williams and Johnson are still unavailable.
But Smith vows he won’t let this loss to the Raiders create a snowball effect that will be hard to recover from.
“We are going to be excited about playing the next game. That’s it,” he said. “Next game we are going to have to be pumped up, that’s just the bottom line. It ain’t going to get no easier with Baltimore.
“We just have to make plays that out there for us to make.”