Passing Game, with a wrinkle – Offense
1. “Carr Insurance”
On offense, the Texans combination of Jadeveon Clowney and Vince Wolfork completely shut down the Raiders’ run game. While the big boys up front plowed through the Denver defense in the prior matchup, the Raiders could not run on the Houston front in this game.
However, the OL still proved critical as they completely neutralized the Texans’ pass rush, allowing for Derek Carr to find Raiders’ RBs (and WRs at times) for big plays.
The OL allowed zero sacks and Carr was only hurried twice, both elite marks for the Raiders’ OL.
All five starters — LT Donald Penn, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Austin Howard — played the full 53 offensive snaps of the game. One question heading into the game was how the big men up front would handle the 7,000+ feet elevation. They passed that test.
Rookie Denver Kirkland played just 8 snaps as the 6th lineman, as the Raiders were not in “power mode” too often in this matchup.
Overall, the OL played a strong game. The run blocking was not up to par, but the excellent pass protection ultimately more than made up for the issues in the run, as the Raiders were able to compile the requisite 27 points.
Certainly, the “Carr Insurance” that GM Reggie McKenzie assembled paid off in this game.
2. Backfield as pass catchers
As noted above, the run game was silent, with just 30 yards on the ground. However, Raiders’ backs compiled a huge 199 yards through the air in leading the way to the win.
Starter Latavius Murray played 29 snaps and ran 12 times for just 33 yards. But he did contribute 5 receptions for 59 yards through the air, including a key 39-yard reception on the game winning drive.
Rookie Jalen Richard served as the complementary versatile tail back. Despite playing just 12 offensive snaps, Richard caught 3 passes for 50 yards and the Raiders’ first TD. Late in the game, he caught a critical fade pass that was apparently drawn up in the Mexico City grass, which helped finish the game.
FB Jamize Olawale played just 16 offensive snaps, but had a HUGE 75-yard TD catch and run that got the Raiders back in the game in the 4th quarter. If Olawale isn’t the fastest FB in the NFL, I don’t know who is. The big man can FLY.
Rookie DeAndre Washington played just 4 offensive snaps and appears to have fallen out of the primary rotation in favor of Richard, which is looking like the right move until proven otherwise by a Washington resurgence.
Overall, the Raiders RBs were hardly notable on the ground, but they played a major role via sticky hands and YAC ability in the passing game.
3. Derek Carr
Derek Carr has proven to be the leader at QB that this franchise has starved for since the Gannon era ended. Basically every week he re-proves this conclusion. This time, he did so against the franchise that passed on him due to his brother being a #1 pick bust.
In Mexico City vs. another good defense who was steamrolling the run game, Carr solidified his place once again, and poked his brother’s former team. While the Texans quality DB corps slowed the Raiders’ WRs, and early drops slowed the team as a whole, Carr stood in and continued to work.
Finally, when crunch time came, the passing offense broke out. Carr has been a magician at coming back in the face of adversity and leading the team from when their backs are to the wall.
After the slow start, Carr’s finish earned the win and yielded a passing line of 21 for 31 passing for 295 yards (explosive 9.5 YPA) with 3 TDs. Carr did throw an ugly pick when hurried on a bootleg, but overall, he showed the poise and calm demeanor needed to enable the Raiders to not fall apart when the chips were down. This has been a characteristic all year.
4. Passing Targets
Stud WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have been money all year. However, this was just a middling effort for the pair, as Crabtree dropped multiple passes and Cooper was used surprisingly little.
Cooper again led all Raiders skill players with 42 snaps played. Coop put up 4 catches for 57 yards and a beautiful TD to close the scoring in the game on a WR under screen. Despite being quiet most of the night, Coop did still end up making a game changing play.
Crabtree played 39 snaps and had a very forgettable night with just 3 catches for 5 yards and multiple drops. He had trouble with footing most of the game. The Raiders need Crab to step up down the stretch.
Seth Roberts checked in with 22 snaps, and had just one catch for 6 yards. He did make an incredible block on the Cooper TD.
TE Clive Walford played 37 snaps and had 2 catches for 28 yards. He got absolutely wrecked by Clowney in the run game.
Overall, the story on offense was the Raiders again finding a way to produce. After running all over the Broncos, this game turned into a clinic of passing to the RBs.