Matt McGloin’s first NFL start was a magical one. The undrafted rookie out of Penn State threw three touchdowns to lift the Raiders to a 28-23 win over the Houston Texans and within one game (gulp) of the AFC Wildcard. McGloin showed poise in the pocket and the confidence to make throws from his first pass of the game until the final whistle, outdueling Case Keenum and Matt Schaub at Reliant Stadium.
He got a lot of help.
Big turnovers, including a forced fumble from Charles Woodson inside the Texans side of the field in the first quarter and on the goal line to stop Ben Tate from the win in the final minutes, and all around solid play from Jason Tarver’s defense helped seal the game at the end.
The game was a back and forth one with the Raiders going up 14-0 quickly on two turnover led drives resulting in great field position for the rookie McGloin who threw two touchdowns on his first two passes in his first NFL start. Houston tied the game before halftime off a controversial 87 yard part return after gunner Taiwan Jones appeared to have had his jersey held.
In the second half the Raiders got some plays out of McGloin in what was the first strong offensive showing in the second half for a long while. Executing in the pocket McGloin found Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, and Mychal Rivera often and despite some missed throws and drops had arguably the best passing game of the season for Oakland to date. McGloin would find the rookie Rivera for a 27 yard touchdown to give Oakland a 21-17 lead, later in the third quarter Rashad Jennings busted out for a 80 yard touchdown to push the lead to 28-17.
Like in their other victories, Oakland would let things get close late as Matt Schaub came in and threatened the Raiders who gave him tons of room to find targets with Tarver calling soft zone plays protecting the lead. In the end a goal line tackle for the ages from Woodson and great coverage from Usama Young on Andre Johnson in the end zone on fourth down sealed the deal for the Raiders.
At the end of the day the win for the Raiders gives a sense of relief after two frustrating losses and snaps a long road losing streak at the same time. At 4-6 the Raiders are still technically in the AFC title race with games with Baltimore and San Diego involved currently down to the wire and Oakland one game out of the playoff chase with losses by the Browns and Jets this afternoon. It is unlikely that Oakland will overcome a string of missed opportunities and injuries to make the playoffs. But the win points things back in the positive frame of mind that the organization was in before Pryor’s injury and the losses to the Eagles and the Giants. This is a team with talented football players, maybe it isn’t the total puzzle yet, but some of the pieces are on the table.
For McGloin his debut will be one that is remembered for a long time. McGloin completed 18-of-32 passes for 197 yards, three touchdowns and most importantly no interceptions in an impressive debut. Given field position situations that were similar to Pryor’s in the Giants game, McGloin created enough offense and drives on his own to help the Raiders just enough to get the win. Heading into a now suddenly intriguing AFC clash with the Titans in Oakland on Sunday Dennis Allen is now going to be saddled with a true QB controversy between a not 100% Terrelle Pryor and the underdog rookie in McGloin. For four quarters, McGloin showed he deserves a second start.