In what has to go down as a major upset, the Matt McGloin-led Oakland Raiders traveled to Houston and took down the Texans, escaping with a goal line stand in the final seconds to maintain the margin of victory.
This was very much a tale of quarterbacks as McGloin played well for much of the game, while Case Keenum, who had been enjoying some fine play before this game, ended up being benched for Matt Schaub to take over and attempt to lead the comeback. Keenum can count himself pretty hard done by for such a severe reaction, given the Raiders were essentially spotted 14 points early in the game thanks to positive field position from pair of Houston turnovers (a fumble from Garrett Graham and an interception thrown by Keenum when he was hit as he was throwing).
The Raiders made the most of their opportunities to score, and the Texans couldn’t get out of their own way for much of the game, consigning them to their eighth straight loss and into the competition for the first overall pick come April.
Oakland — Three Performances of Note
A New Option at QB?
I was pretty unimpressed with McGloin during preseason, and he earned a heavy negative grade for three of his four outings in the first year PFF has been grading the preseason, so I wasn’t expecting much from him in this game. Actually, if I’m honest, I was expecting something of a crash-and-burn trainwreck. As I mentioned earlier, the Texans did their best to help him out with early turnovers setting the Raiders up with great field positions, but McGloin then hit the passes that turned those turnovers into points, and seven points each at that. He looked far more accomplished passing the ball than Pryor has looked all season, and though Pryor is unarguably more fun to watch, and can probably create a few more big plays, McGloin showed he might be a more viable passing option within the offense. He only threw for 197 passing yards, and his completion percentage wasn’t stellar, but he hit on three deep passes and was unlucky not to hit on another as the receiver couldn’t come down with the ball in bounds. The one blot on his copybook was his performance under pressure, which accounted for a -3.2 grade on 15 drop-backs, while his grade with no pressure was +4.1,
Lone Bright Spot on the Line
The Oakland O-line didn’t cover itself with glory, struggling to deal with the Texans all game. The lone exception to the sea of red grades was Stefen Wisniewski, whose +4.2 grade was comfortably the best mark among the line and one of the standouts from the game. Wisniewski allowed just a single bit of pressure from 34 pass blocking snaps — a hit to J.J. Watt coming on a freakishly fast stunt that he was late in recognizing and picking up. His run blocking, however, was where the real positives came, controlling Houston’s nose tackles in particular with remarkable ease, and getting his fair share of linebackers at the second level. While the rest of the line floundered, Wisniewski had a fine day, and has propelled himself (at least temporarily) to the No. 3 spot in our center rankings.
Grades Contradicting Stats
Sometimes a guy’s stat sheet looks fantastic but the grade doesn’t come close to matching. Does that mean the grading is out of whack, or that sometimes not all stats are created equal? We have just such an example in Lamarr Houston, who earned a -3.9 grade despite notching a sack, two hits and three hurries from his day. He rushed the passer 46 times, so that mitigates the pressure total somewhat, but you would still expect it to generate a better grade than that, until you look at those pressures closely. His sack was unblocked, as was one of his hits. The rest came late in the play or involved chasing down the QB. He missed Keenum twice when he should have had a sack, turning what would have been positive pass-rushing plays into a negative. All of a sudden the pressure total doesn’t seem nearly as impressive, and he failed to make much of an impact in the run game, either, notching just a pair of tackles.
Houston — Three Performances of Note
The QB Debate
Benching Keenum for Schaub is a sign of a staff that doesn’t have any idea what the hell they’re doing. Keenum’s stats weren’t exactly pretty, and his fumble was poor ball security, but he was undone in this game by two vaguely unlucky turnovers. He also made some plays, and was quite clearly the best option the Texans have for making that offense look the way it is supposed to, and also for providing that offense the spark it needed to execute a successful comeback. Aside from anything else, the Texans’ season is a write-off at this point, what benefit do you get from putting Schaub back in over the guy who might have a future with the team? Schaub managed to almost triple Keenum’s negative grade (-3.0 vs -1.1) in four fewer snaps once he came in. He had some success moving the chains, but had far more routine throws miss by a good distance. It was fitting that in the end the final throw was him mailing it into double coverage in the end zone rather than trying to find the correct outlet for the ball.
How Hard is it to Stay Still?
That’s the question I ask to Brandon Brooks, who managed to false start three times. That in itself is bad enough, but he timed those false starts incredibly. Not one came on an early down, but instead he was flagged on 3rd-and-6, 4th-and-2, and the coup de grace, another 4th-and-2 down by the goal line as the Texans were trying to punch the ball in for a go-ahead score. Brooks actually had a reasonable day in his bread-and-butter of blocking, but has earned himself a -2.5 grade on the back of three catastrophic mental lapses to jump early and torpedo his team on drives they needed in order to win this game.
I really wanted to write this ReFocused without mentioning J.J. Watt, or at least avoiding waxing lyrical in one of the ‘Performances of Note’, assuming we can all just take it for granted how dominant he is. Ignoring this performance, though, would have just been silly. He got a pair of sacks, that much was obvious, earning only his second double-sack performance of the season, but he also added a pair of hits and three more hurries on 30 total snaps rushing the passer. What is as impressive, though, is that he almost matched that performance in the run game, knifing in and blowing up plays for fun. All six of his tackles (solo tackles and sacks) were defensive stops, and his swim move remains a total mystery to offensive linemen tasked with blocking him. He is one of the few players of his dimensions that is capable of actually using that length as an advantage, jacking linemen back on contact and then shooting through the gap that creates. The Texans have also been lining him up on the edge as a 4-3 DE more in recent weeks, and he is proving just as impossible to block there as he is inside.
– Schaub completed just three passes (from eight attempts) that traveled 10+ yards in the air.
– McGloin had a passer rating of 125.8 when not under pressure. That fell to 76.8 when pressured.
– Rashad Jennings had another impressive rushing performance, recording 150 yards on 22 carries, with 128 of them coming after contact.
PFF Game Ball
In all honesty, J.J. Watt probably deserves this game ball, but for helping both his run and pass game Stefan Wisniewski gets the nod ahead of him.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam