Professional football will always be a bottom line business. With or without Al Davis the mission for the Oakland Raiders remains the same.
Mission accomplished as the Raiders took down the Texans in a thriller 25-20.
With heavy hearts the Raiders took the field to do battle with the Houston Texans. After a listless first half it appeared as if the Silver and Black were playing with a weight on their heart instead of a chip on their shoulders.
Jason Campbell missed a wide open Chaz Schilens on a first half flea-flicker that would have ignited the ordinary offense. These two would reconnect later in a big way but things could have been much different had they scored on a big play in the first half.
Raider Nation was treated to a poor performance by the defense that couldn’t mask the invisible offense. Houston moved the ball all too easily through the air, relying little on their high powered running game.
Whatever Hue Jackson said to his men at the half resonated like seeing Mr. Davis enter the locker room one day after his passing. The Raiders of the second half played with the passion, pride and determination you’d expect of a team honoring one of the greatest men in the history of sports.
For good measure some of Al’s infamous gambles paid off handsomely today.
Sebastian Janikowski’s name being called in the first round of the NFL draft made many laugh. Today, Mr. Davis was the one who laughed last. Jano was the only Oakland offense to speak of for the better part of three quarters. Of his four field goals today, Jano nailed three from 50+ with plenty of room to spare. You could have backed him up to San Antonio and Seabass would have still hung 3 on the board in Houston.
Even more eye opening is the continued development of Darrius Heyward-Bey.
If selecting Janikowski in the first round made Davis a joke then taking DHB in top 10 earned the iconic owner a permanent place as a punch line. But that was on draft day.
On gameday DHB has been lights out the last two weeks.
Hey-Bey’s route running was looking great in the preseason. That has carried over to the regular season. What is even more impressive is the manner in which he’s making catches and plays.
DHB’s 34-yard catch and run to paydirt helped to awaken the spirits of the Raiders. His 99 yards on 7 catches left Heyward-Bey one yard shy of his second consecutive week of 100 yards receiving.
But this was no easy win. It would take a gutsy fake punt and one last defensive stand to claim victory in Houston.
While the Raiders made their best effort to date to contain the run, Arian Foster was still a factor. Foster only ran for 68-yards on 22 carries but was a threat all day in the passing game as he led all receivers with 116 yards.
Still, the Raiders played that bend but don’t break style of D that allowed Matt Schaub to throw for over 400 yards yet didn’t allow a score at the most important time.
Oakland battled all the way back to take a 25-17 lead in the fourth. But this one was there for the Texans’ taking as they were down 25-20 with seconds left to play and the ball inside the 10-yard line.
Once again another one of Al’s hand-picked players came up big.
Michael Huff ended the drama with an INT in the end zone as Schaub struggled to decide between running or throwing for the game-winning score.
All that elation left Hue Jackson with no other response but to fall to his knees and cry. From high above in the owners’ box Al‘s son Mark Davis had a similar reaction.
Today the Raiders honored their fallen leader. They didn’t play perfect football by any measure. Darren McFadden was largely ineffective. Jason Campbell was highly inconsistent. The defense still has all kinds of issues as they couldn’t defend a passing game that was without its best weapon in Andre Johnson. Those penalties are still plaguing the franchise.
In short there is much work for Hue to do.
But this wasn’t about style points. Today’s game was not about winning with style. Today’s game was about honoring Mr. Davis with the most appropriate way possible.
Just win, baby!
Topics: Al Davis, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Chaz Schilens, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Houston Texans, Hue Jackson, Jason Campbell, Mark Davis, Matt Schaub, Michael Huff, Oakland Raiders, Sebastian Janikowski