HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – In their 27-14 win over the Oakland Raiders in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card Game at NRG Stadium, the Texans defense intercepted Raiders quarterback Connor Cook three times. Two ended Oakland’s last two drives of the game, but the first might have been most important.
On the Raiders second drive of the game, they had the ball at their own 21 yard line on third down and 12 with the Texans leading 3-0. Cook tried to find running back Latavius Murray on a screen pass, but Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney read it, knocked it up in the air and snatched, returning the ball to the Raiders’ 9-yard line, setting up the game’s first touchdown, giving Houston a double-digit lead.
“That play kind of got us going, kind of got us juiced up,” Texans nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “Any time you get any type of miscues, you gotta take advantage of it, and I think that was a hell of a play by him. Being able to tip the ball to himself, and come up with a big play and offense turn right back around and put the points up we needed, I think that really got the team going early.”
Clowney actually tipped the ball in the air twice before securing it, and for Texans defensive end Antonio Smith, next to Clowney on the play, it was in the air for a long time.
“It took him long enough to catch it, Smith said. “The whole time I was looking ‘Is he gonna catch it?’, and then he caught it. I tried to hold him up so we could run into the end zone, but he was too clumsy.”
Smith for one, was surprised that Clowney even caught the ball.
“All this week he’s been dropping them,” he said. “We had the tip-drill yesterday in walk-throughs, day before yesterday, dropped them, dropped all the balls, but I’m glad he caught this one today.”
After catching it, Clowney was tripped up by Murray, and that bothered Wilfork, who was on the sideline while the play took place.
“He should’ve scored,” he said with a big grin. “If I was on the field with him, I would’ve took the ball from him.”
That failure aside, Wilfork knows that if the Texans are to move past New England or Kansas City next week, Clowney will have to step up like that again.
“We’re going to need more plays like that,” he said. “Any time you get a chance to make a play, you have to be able to make them.”