The Oakland Raiders (8-2) defeated the Houston Texans (6-4) 27-20 in a Monday Night Football showdown at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The game had everything from laser pointers to a 75-yard fullback touchdown, but despite that, this one will be most remembered for its terrible officiating.
Officials robbed the Texans
On Houston’s opening drive of the game, receiver DeAndre Hopkins ran in a 60-yard touchdown, but the officials whistled him out of bounds after picking up 24 yards. According to the instant replay, he did not step out of bounds.
Texans head coach Bill O'Brien couldn't challenge the play. According to the NFL rulebook, a team cannot challenge a play if a player steps out of bounds.
Hopkins finished the game with 58 yards on five catches.
The refs struck again in the fourth quarter on a critical Texans drive with the score tied 20-20. Houston handed off to Lamar Miller on third-and-2 from the Raiders’ 16-yard line. It looked like he had the yardage when he got pushed out, but the refs said no.
O’Brien went for it on fourth down. They handed off to Akeem Hunt who ran up the middle and appeared to scratch out the needed distance for a first. Nope. The officials said no.
It sure looked like he had it. O’Brien challenged the spot on fourth down, but the replay upheld it. Turnover on downs. The Raiders scored on the next drive to win the game.
After the game, O’Brien was clearly upset, but held off on any direct criticism of the officials.
“I’m not going to stand here and get fined,” O’Brien said. “I’m just a third-year coach. But with all these cameras and things we have and we can’t get that right?”
As for the call in the first when Hopkins supposedly went out of bounds, O’Brien said: “Did he look out of bounds to you?”
No, he didn’t.
Carr’s exceptional performance
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr did not have a bad game, but he didn't have a good one either. He got off to a good start by connecting on a 17-yard touchdown strike to running back Jalen Richard early in the second quarter.
Richard lined up in the slot and split two defenders on his touchdown reception. This touchdown gave the Raiders a 7-3 lead. Carr wasn't finished carving up Houston’s pass defense.
Down 20-13 early in the fourth quarter, Carr threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jamize Olawale to tie the game up at 20. Olawale slipped out of the backfield on the play-action pass, and Carr threw the deep pass to him.
After Oakland’s defense stopped the Texans on fourth-and-inches on the Raiders’ 15-yard line, Oakland got the ball back with a little over six minutes left in the game.
Carr led his team down the field and found receiver Amari Cooper for a 35-yard game-winning touchdown pass.
Carr took the snap, threw a short pass to Cooper, and Cooper turned up the field and outran defenders to the end zone. Carr finished the game with 295 passing yards to go along with three touchdowns and an interception.
Oakland’s nonexistent rushing attack
Anytime you have a quarterback like Carr and receivers like Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, you don't need an explosive rushing attack to move the chains. However, that was not the case in this game. Because of Oakland’s struggles on the ground, the offense was one dimensional.
Raiders running back Latavius Murray had a hard time finding holes to run through. He finished the first half with 12 yards on six carries. As a team, Oakland had seven rushing yards on 10 carries in the first half. The Raiders struggled all game to find success on the ground.
Houston’s defense dominated in the run game
Orchestrated by Carr, Oakland has a high-octane offense that can move the ball on the ground and through the air. Throughout most of the season, the Raiders have operated like a well-oiled machine on offense.
On the other hand, Houston’s defense, led by defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney, stifled Oakland’s offense thought the whole game. The Texans’ defensive front bullied the Raider’s offensive line in the run game. Murray kept getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
Houston’s front seven clogged up rushing lanes and gang-tackled Murray every time he took a handoff. Since their rushing attack struggled throughout the game, Oakland had to depend on Carr’s strong arm to lead the team to its eighth victory.
Houston held Oakland to 30 rushing yards for the game.
Osweiler looked sharp, despite the laser in his face
Indeed, Texans running back Lamar Miller had a good game by rushing for 104 and a touchdown. But it was quarterback Brock Osweiler who kept the offense on the field with exceptional throws.
Down 10-3 early in the second quarter, Osweiler orchestrated a nine-play, 75-yard drive. That drive capped off with a 12-yard touchdown reception by rookie receiver Braxton Miller, which is his first reception touchdown in the NFL.
Miller beat Texans’ cornerback David Amerson with a double move, and Osweiler threw an accurate pass to him. Osweiler looked comfortable operating from the pocket. He made difficult throws on third down and executed play-action passes very well.
However, his solid performance could not secure a victory for the Texans. He finished the game completing 26 of his 39 passes for 243 yards to go along with a touchdown and an interception.
Having a green laser in his face was a first for Houston’s quarterback.
“I’ve never experienced a laser being shined in my eyeball during a football game, let alone a professional football game in the National Football League,” Osweiler said.
“I never want to say one thing is a difference-maker, but certainly, having a laser zoomed in on your eyeball definitely affects how you play a game.”
What’s next for both teams
The Raiders will head back home for a Week 12 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Indeed, the Raiders are great on offense, but they need to be more consistent on the ground.
The Texans will also head back home for a Week 12 matchup against the San Diego Chargers. Houston must find ways to win games and score points. The Texans cannot keep loosing close games if they want to clinch a playoff spot.