The second-round pick from Alabama finished with a game-high 15 tackles to go along with an interception, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and three passes defensed to pace a Texans' defense that collected five total takeaways and five sacks.
Head coach Gary Kubiak is running out of superlatives for his prize rookie.
"It's kind of been his year, really," Kubiak said at his post-game press conference. "Those things stand out, when you start talking about turnovers. But you and I both know that the kid's had a year that's been special as a rookie. I don't know that I've been around one like that. Now with those types of things happening for him turnover-wise, I'm sure he'll get a lot more recognition because he sure as hell deserves it. He's been special this year."
Combined with Kris Brown's three field goals, the Texans' defensive effort – which also included a fumble return for a touchdown – was able to compensate for a difficult day on offense. Although the Texans rushed for 130 net yards, the unit totaled minus-five net passing yards, allowed five sacks and lost two fumbles.
"It's obvious we didn't throw the ball a lick," Kubiak said. "But it's a credit to the people in that locker room that we found a way to win that football game under those circumstances. I don't know if it's ever been done. To have the character to find a way to win like that, it's just tremendous."
The defense started off strong when free safety C.C. Brown forced a fumble on fullback ReShard Lee at the Houston 42 on the fifth play of the game. Cornerback Demarcus Faggins picked up the loose ball and returned it 58 yards for his second-career touchdown.
The Raiders began their second drive of the game with 11:48 remaining in the first quarter. Defensive end Jason Babin sacked quarterback Aaron Brooks on the fifth play from scrimmage, knocking the ball loose as Brooks cocked back his arm to throw. Babin recovered the fumble at the Houston 43 and returned it 20 yards, but the fumble call was overturned after an Oakland challenge, leading to the first punt of the game.
The Texans' offense started its first drive with 9:44 left in the first quarter from its 20-yard line. Running back Wali Lundy gained 12 yards on three consecutive carries to move the chains. A nine-yard completion from quarterback David Carr to wide receiver Andre Johnson gave the Texans another set of downs. On third-and-six from
the Oakland 49, Carr's pass was batted down near the line of scrimmage to force punter Chad Stanley onto the field.
A sack by Ryans for an eight-yard loss led to another Oakland punt from their 17-yard line with 3:19 remaining in the first quarter. Shane Lechler's kick went 63 yards to the Houston 20, and cornerback Dexter Wynn was tackled after a nine-yard gain.
An intentional grounding call on Carr on third-and-13 from the Houston 36 led to Stanley's second punt. The special teams unit was pushed back five yards to the 14-yard line after a false start penalty on linebacker Charlie Anderson. Following a 41-yard punt, cornerback Chris Carr gained 34 yards on the return to the Texans' 21-yard line. Four plays later, running back Justin Fargas dove in for a three-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, wide receiver Jerome Mathis dropped the ball in the end zone and was tackled at the four-yard line after a six-yard gain. Three plays later, Stanley punted 41 yards to the Oakland 48, where Carr picked up five yards on the return.
With 11:04 left in the first half, cornerback Dexter McCleon intercepted Brooks at the Houston 12 after defensive end Mario Williams pressured Brooks in the pocket. McCleon returned the pick 19 yards to the 31-yard line for the Texans' second takeaway of the afternoon.
After the Texans' second consecutive three-and-out possession, the Raiders' offense returned to the field with 9:00 left before halftime at their 41-yard line. The Raiders killed their field position after a 10-yard holding penalty, followed two plays later by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for an illegal chop block. On third-and-28 from the Houston 45, Babin sacked Brooks for a 15-yard loss to force a punt.
Five plays into the Texans' drive, Carr was sacked by defensive end Derrick Burgess for a 10-yard loss at the Houston 29. The ball came loose on the tackle, and defensive end Kevin Huntley recovered the fumble for no gain. Since there was less than two minutes left in the first half, the Texans could not challenge the ruling on the field that Carr was down by contact.
The Raiders lost six yards on four plays after defensive end N.D. Kalu sacked Brooks for a 12-yard loss to the Texans' 35-yard line on third down. Sebastian Janikowski attempted a 53-yard field goal that fell short.
Carr dropped back on the first snap of the next series and was sacked for a seven-yard loss by defensive tackle Warren Sapp. The ball popped loose, and linebacker Kirk Morrison returned the fumble for a 35-yard touchdown. Janikowski's extra point gave Oakland a 14-7 lead with 1:08 left in the second quarter.
To open the second half, Mathis broke loose for a season-long 87-yard kickoff return. Former Houston Cougars cornerback Stanford Routt dragged down Mathis at the three-yard line. One play later, Lundy dove in for a touchdown to tie the game 14-14 only 16 seconds into the second half.
Oakland responded with a game-long 14-play, 56-yard drive highlighted by wide receiver Randy Moss' three catches for 23 yards. Brown broke up a third down pass intended for wide receiver Ronald Curry at the Houston 19, leading to Janikowski's missed 37-yard field goal attempt that bounced off the left upright.
Huntley and Burgess split a sack on Carr for a seven-yard loss on the Texans' subsequent series to force another three-and-out. Oakland began its second drive of the second half near midfield after Stanley's 39-yard punt, as well as a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on wide receiver David Anderson, who ran out of bounds from his gunner position on the punt coverage unit.
Brooks completed three passes for 37 yards to help Oakland to the Texans' 11-yard line. But Janikowski missed his third field goal of the game on a 29-yard attempt when his kick hit the left upright again and ricocheted to the ground.
The Texans' offense took over with 2:27 left in the third quarter and followed running back Ron Dayne's 57 yards on six carries into Oakland territory. Brown's 41-yard field goal attempt missed wide right, though, leaving the Texans empty-handed and giving the Raiders field position at their 31-yard line.
On the following punt return, Wynn faked a handoff to Mathis and sprinted a season- and career-long 58 yards to the Oakland 21, where he was tackled by Lechler. After Johnson was tackled at the 24-yard line for an 11-yard loss on third down, Brown nailed a 42-yard field goal attempt to give the Texans a 17-14 lead with 9:58 remaining in the game.
The Texans collected their third takeaway of the game when McCleon forced a fumble on tight end Randal Williams at the Oakland 40. Ryans recovered the ball at the 47-yard line for no gain.
Dayne rushed four consecutive times for 14 yards, setting up Brown's 47-yard field goal, which gave the Texans a 20-14 advantage with 4:44 remaining in the contest. Dayne touched the ball of 15 of the Texans' final 18 offensive plays. He finished 95 yards on 18 carries (5.3 avg.).
"He probably should have had about 40 of them," Kubiak said of Dayne, who had been inactive the previous two games. "The kid wanted the ball at the end. He wasn't going to let us not get it done. Our guys up front stepped up and knocked them off the ball at the end. That was the difference, being able to get in position to kick those few field goals.
"And Ronnie's a big load. You can see, Ronnie was screaming from the huddle, 'Give me the ball.' Heck, Ronnie was even calling some of the runs we were running. We were running tight zone, and he said, 'Let me go wide.' He was making the call. It's a credit to him and the guys up front."
On the first play of the Raiders' penultimate drive, Ryans forced another fumble on Williams. Linebacker Morlon Greenwood recovered the ball on the Oakland 26 to record the Texans' fourth takeaway. Four plays and five yards later, Brown converted a 39-yard field goal to seal the Texans' 23-14 win with 2:15 on the game clock.
On the Raiders' final play, Ryans picked off Brooks for the Texans' fifth takeaway and returned it 16 yards to Texans' 17-yard line. Carr took a knee to seal the team's fourth win of the season.