By Shawn Lealos
The Oakland Raiders had one of the best seasons of any team in the AFC this year, but lost their MVP-caliber quarterback Derek Carr and had to rely on a rookie to start his first ever NFL game in the playoffs. After losing to Oakland earlier in the season, the Houston Texans took advantage of the rookie’s inexperience and capitalized on turnovers to win their first playoff game since 2012 with a 27-14 win over the Raiders. Here is a look at the Houston Texans team grades for this big playoff win.
In the offseason, the Houston Texans signed Brock Osweiler away from the Denver Broncos with a $72 million deal. While the Texans were in first place for much of the year, they still were not happy with Osweiler’s play and benched him a few weeks back. Thanks to an injury to Tom Savage, Osweiler was forced back into action this week and looked solid. He threw a touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins and ran for a touchdown in his return to the starting lineup.
Lamar Miller had a productive game running the clock. He gained 73 yards on 31 carries; a low 1.3-yards-per-carry, but he was a ball hog in this game and did what he could to keep the clock running. He also ran for a touchdown.
The passing game was slightly more productive, with Osweiler throwing for 168 yards, with 67 of those to Hopkins. The most important thing is that Houston never turned the ball over. The Texans punted the ball away nine times in the game and they will have to do more in the second round, but they didn’t make mistakes and won the game.
When the Houston Texans lost defensive MVP J.J. Watt early on to a season-ending injury, things looked bleak for Houston. Many assumed that losing their best player would cause them to miss the playoffs. Not only did they make the playoffs, but they also won the AFC South and entered the post season with the NFL’s top-ranked defense. The fact that the Texans ranked first in total defense without J.J. Watt seems incredible, but they proved against Oakland why they are so good.
While the Raiders started a rookie quarterback in his first ever NFL start, the Texans still capitalized on errors and dominated the game. Interestingly, it was not the turnover battle that ranked them so high this season, but it was something that helped them win on Saturday. Conor Cook threw three interceptions to Jadeveon Clowney, A.J. Bouye and Corey Moore. The first interception led to the first Houston touchdown and the other two came in the fourth quarter with Oakland trying to come back from behind.
It was a very impressive performance and is something the Texans will need to rely on regardless of who they play in the second round. Oakland limited Cook to 161 passing yards and sacked him three times. The Raiders only ran for a total of 64 yards in the game, and while they did score two touchdowns, the game was never in doubt.
Special Teams: A
The Houston Texans punted the ball nine times in this game. The Texans offense gained 291 total yards while Shane Lechler punted the ball for 414 yards. Five of those punts were returned by Jalen Richard for 68 yards, but Lechler planted four of them inside the 20 with only one touchback. Nick Novak, on the other hand, only had the chance to try two field goals, making both including a nice 50-yard strike.
Houston knew that they were bringing Brock Osweiler back after benching him and he knew the only reason was due to an injury to Tom Savage. As a result, Bill O’Brien ran the ball 44 times in the game compared to just 25 passes. It was enough to win, but he took no chances and let his team punt the ball nine times. The defense was coached superbly, but this offense has to take more chances to get past the second round.
The Houston Texans are in the playoffs for only the fourth time in team history and rebounded from last year’s embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild card round with this solid win. However, Houston has never won in the divisional round of the playoffs and hopes to reverse their luck this year.
The Texans’ next opponent was determined by the winner of the Pittsburgh vs. Oakland game. Since the Steelers won, Houston now plays New England Patriots, the team who eliminated them from the playoffs in 2012. Expect revenge to be on the mind of the Houston Texans.