This was a total team effort. Offense, defense, special teams and coaching contributed to a loss that derailed the dream of a winning season.
On offense, the Texans ran for the second fewest yards against the Raiders this year. Oakland is usually very generous on the ground, but they turned into Scrooge and forced the Texans to try to win through the air. No problem, right? Wrong. Matt Schaub and friends picked today to have their first substandard aerial attack since the first date with Tennessee.
The defense made JaMarcus Russell look like a number one pick. Oh, wait a minute, he IS a number one picked, but you would hardly know it until Sunday. Russell threw for two scores as the Raiders had their best offensive day all year.
The Raiders were known for their return game with four kick returns for touchdowns coming into the game, so there was no way they would run one back against Houston with the Texans fully prepared. Wrong again. Johnny Lee Higgins went 80 yards to put Oakland up two scores and turn a leisurely Sunday afternoon into a horror show.
And after the defense got a big turnover courtesy of Amobi Okoye's first sack of the year, the Texans misfired on two pass plays on third and fourth down on the five with one yard to go. Questioning play calling is always easy when things don't work. If Schaub connects with Kevin Walter on either of those plays, Gary Kubiak was right on the money. But they went incomplete so start the interrogation. To say this was a winnable game is like saying Christmas is on the 25th.
The Texans learned something in the last two weeks that will help them a great deal next year. One is that they are capable of winning games like they did against the Titans. The other is that they are fully capable of losing an apparent gimme game to a team like Oakland. The coaches can always point to these two games for inspiration and warning.
Now, come the Bears to round out the season. 8-8 won't seem so bad after an 0-4 start, but the first winning record in Texans history will not happen in 2008. When it finally comes, let's hope a postseason ticket is attached.