Inside linebacker Brian Cushing had his best game of the season for the Houston Texans and it still wasn't enough.
Cushing was all over the field, especially in the first half, honing in on Oakland running back Darren McFadden, and yet when it was over the Raiders had rallied to a 25-20 victory and held off the furious final charge by the Texans.
"It was a tough fought game," Cushing said. "It was always like they were just able to hang around and win the game at the end. I thought we'd be able to come back and we just weren't able to do it. It was one of those games that's going to be tough to swallow."
Cushing, healthy and relaxed after a 2010 season of turmoil, had eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for losses, a pass defensed and a quarterback hurry.
Still, that performance couldn't lead to a victory.
"We needed to do something to spark the team and we weren't able to do it," Cushing said. "This is the NFL. Every week is a dog fight and the great teams find a way to win and we weren't able to do it today."
The Texans bounded to a 14-6 lead in the second quarter and seemed to have control. Then, the Raiders cranked up their running game and scored a touchdown shortly before the half.
"I think that one series when they moved the ball running the ball, in the second quarter…I think that was a big shift," nose tackle Shaun Cody said. "They scored some points there and then we gave up a cheap touchdown which we can't give up."
Defensive end Antonio Smith noted that the Raiders got energy from when they pulled within 14-12 at the half.
"When it came down to it, it was self-destruction on a lot of plays that could have won us the game," Smith said. "We let them hang on and get some juice at the end of that first half."
The Texans' defense took a big hit in the first quarter when outside linebacker Mario Williams left the game for good with a pectoral injury. Rookie Brooks Reed stepped in for Williams.
"You're not going to be able to replace a guy like Mario," Cushing said. "At the same time, it's the next-guy-up attitude. There's 11 guys out there and we lost a great player. I don't know how long for, but we need to step up.
"When one guy goes down, it's the same with Andre, the offense needs to step up. And when one guy like Mario goes down, we need to step. Injuries are part of the game. We have to find a way to respond."
Coach Gary Kubiak credited the defense facing big setbacks.
"It wasn't good," Kubiak said."We got a punt blocked. We had some penalties and then we got beat on the fake punt. That's something we worked on all week and we don't handle the situation like we should."
Reed felt ready to play.
"I had a lot of playing time when Mario went down early but I was ready to play and just like you said, you're preparing to play special teams one play and all of a sudden someone goes down and you've got to step up to the plate."
Reed finished with four tackles.
The Texans dropped to 3-2 on the season with the Baltimore Ravens next up on the road.
Cushing said he was pleased with his performance, but he knows an even bigger challenge awaits next Sunday.
"I was, but at the same time there's room for improvement," Cushing said. "I could have made more plays and we needed to make a big one to change the momentum and we weren't able to do it.
"We can't hang our heads. We're going to play a great team next week at their place. It will be a test but we've got to find a way to come back."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.