HOUSTON – The Raiders finally have finished a brutal five-game stretch played entirely away from Oakland, facing legitimate playoff contenders without a single game’s respite.
The Raiders were disadvantaged by this run, one that could define a season. The Silver and Black finished that stretch with a frown.
They let a golden opportunity slip Sunday in Houston, losing a late lead and a winnable game. The defense simply couldn’t make a stop in the second half as the Texans charged to a 27-24 victory here at NRG Stadium.
The Raiders went 2-3 during this road stretch, with victories over Indianapolis and Chicago sandwiched between some tough losses.
They also fall behind in the wild-card race, losing an important tiebreaker to the Texans. This wasn’t a must-win, but it was an important battle that could’ve set up the Raiders well heading into three straight games at home.
Now this will be viewed as an opportunity missed.
Here are three takeaways from a close loss the Raiders will regret down the stretch.
Raiders can’t get stop they need
The Raiders defense couldn’t make a positive impact on this game, allowing a lead to slip away over four straight scoring drives leading to the Texans lining up in victory formation to seal this win.
The Texans never punted in the second half, marching on long drives to put up one score after another.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson made some spectacular plays down the stretch, though the Raiders had plenty of opportunities to slow Houston’s scoring machine down. Arden Key had a sack in hand, but Watson somehow escaped and threw a touchdown pass that proved to be the difference. The Raiders had no answers for DeAndre Hopkins, and he kept the chains moving consistently.
Tyrell Williams brings quick-strike capability
Tyrell Williams didn’t play or practice for three weeks dealing with plantar fasciitis, considerably weakening the Raiders' receiver corps. He’s their best deep threat and most reliable player in his position group, and someone who must be respected in the pattern.
That was clear Sunday afternoon, when quarterback Derek Carr went at Williams three straight times midway through the third quarter, producing two catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. And, just like that, the Raiders' quick-strike capability was back. It sorely was lacking against the Bears and Packers and adds a dynamic element to their offense.
Williams wasn’t targeted before that aforementioned sequence, but Carr found matchups that allowed him to take chunk yardage and help Williams score his fifth touchdown in as many games with the Raiders.
The Raiders' top receiver will rue a pair of missed opportunities late in the game that could’ve put Oakland in field-goal range down three points late in the fourth, but he certainly makes the offense more complete.
Losing Hudson a significant blow
Elite center Rodney Hudson left the game early with an ankle injury that required he get carted off the sideline. It’s uncertain at this point exactly how long Hudson will be out but losing him for any stretch is a killer. He’s the offensive line’s unquestioned leader, a cerebral player integral to the Raiders’ offensive operation.
Undrafted rookie Andre James took over for Hudson and fared well, but losing Hudson over an extended period would be hurtful to an offensive line that can’t stay whole. This summer’s presumptive starting five has only been together for a few series until Hudson went down. That’s certainly a disappointment for a team that prefers to control possesion.