|Photo by Darla Tamulitis, La Vita Loca Photography|
Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved
Special for TexSport Publications
Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved
HOUSTON, TEXAS (January 8, 2017) Six weeks ago, a Houston Texans defensive breakdown and some questionable officiating led to an Oakland Raiders come from behind win in Mexico City. On Saturday afternoon in Oakland quarterback Connor Cook’s first NFL start, the Houston Texans defense left no doubt as to why they are the best in the NFL defeating the Raiders by a score of 27-14. The NFL’s number one defense sacked Cook three times, intercepted him three times, held the Oakland’s Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to four catches on 17 targets and stopped the Raiders on 14 of their 16 third down plays including all seven in the first half. The 13 percent third down efficiency was Oakland’s poorest effort of the season.
Houston entered the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend opener averaging a league worst 7.6 first half points through 16 weeks. With 6:16 left in the opening quarter, the Houston Texans had exceeded that average and built a 10-0 lead with help from LDE Jadaveon Clowney. Number 90’s first career NFL interception gave Houston the ball at the Oakland nine. An unnecessary roughing call moved it to the four and running back Lamar Miller did the rest giving the Texans their biggest first quarter lead of the season.
Brian McTaggart, the Houston Astros beat writer, tweeted that J.J. Watt mouthed to Clowney after the TD: "That's all you,” and Clowney in his first healthy NFL season, continued to justify his number one overall selection in 2014 according to Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien..
“He’s really stepped up for us,” said O’Brien about Clowney’s effort. “He makes plays on the football even when he’s getting after the quarterback or tackling the running back, there’s a chance that he could get the ball. He’s got that knack and that was a very nice play by him.”
A Latavious Murray touchdown drew the Raiders as close as they would get at 10-7 with 1:01 left in the first quarter.
The defense continued to harass Cook and the offense put up ten more points in the second quarter building a 13 point halftime edge. A Nick Novak field goal extended the lead to 13-7 and then in the half’s waning moments, quarterback Brock Osweiler put together his best drive in recent memory. The maligned Texans signal caller hit rookie receiver Will Fuller on first down for 19 yards from the Houston 40. He followed that with a perfectly thrown over the outside shoulder ball to DeAndre Hopkins for 38 yards and two plays later flipped a two yard scoring toss to Hopkins and the Texans never looked back.
Hopkins finished the catching five of nine targets for 67 yards and the score while Osweiler finished 14 of 25 for 168 yards and 90.1 QBR his best of the season. Houston scored touchdowns on all three trips into the redzone.
Cook looked more like the Texans Brock Osweiler of old completing 18 of 45 for 168 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions while the Texan’s run defense tops in the NFL held Murray to just 39 yards on 12 carries and the Raiders as a whole to 64 yards on 21 carries.
The Texans meanwhile ran for 100 plus yards again including Lamar Miller’s 31-carry 73-yard, one touchdown performance.
Houston matched their season high scoring output with their 27 point outburst and now await the outcome of Sunday’s Pittsburgh Steelers/Miami Dolphins game. Should Miami win, The Texans and their top ranked defense will face the Chief next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium hoping to revenge last year’s playoff embarrassment to Kansas City. If the Steelers prevail, Houston will travel to Gillette Stadium to face the Patriots who have won 14 of 17 home playoff games since the home of the Patriots opened in 2003. The Texans last second round playoff visit ended in a 41-28 loss to the Patriots in 2012.