5 things we saw from the Raiders on Monday Night Football


The Raiders invaded Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca and stole the game from the Houston Texans. This is one of the most poorly played games of the year for the Raiders and yet they still found a way to win. Great teams do that; I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face. The Raiders were dominated statistically through 3 quarters and still they pull it out. This game shouldn’t really have been that close. Perhaps it was bye week lag or maybe the altitude, but they looked flat for a big portion of the game.

Give credit to the Raiders strength and conditioning staff for this one. The Texans possessed the ball for nearly a full quarter more than the Raiders did. Lamar Miller gashed the defense for 104 yards, yet they hung in there at 7000 feet. They looked flat out gassed, but reached deep down and did what they had to do. I would give an assist to the refs though because it sure looked like the Texans had the first down on the 4th and inches play. Here are 5 things from that thrilling win on Monday night Football:

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5 – The refs made a difference:


This one went the Raiders way for a change. Referee Tony Corrente and his crew made multiple mistakes. Texans WR Deandre Hopkins was clearly inbounds on the first drive of the game. They ruled him out of bounds and stopped the play. The Texans wound up settling for a field goal on that drive. A bogus pass interference was called against the Raiders on a grossly overthrown uncatchable ball in the endzone. The Raiders had stopped the Texans and forced a FG try. That bad call resulted in a first and goal and eventually a TD for them.

There was a questionable personal foul called on Texans DB Jonathan Joseph for a hit on Clive Walford. The Raiders picked up the first down on that play anyway, but the extra 15 yards put them in FG range or at least got them close enough that it impacted the Texans defense. Lastly; and I am glad it went our way this time was 2 bad spots when the Texans were driving for the go-ahead score. On 4th down, the spot was even upheld on replay when it clearly looked like the Texans gained enough for the first down by a half yard. They were for sure in FG range and given the way they were abusing the Raiders defense probably could have scored a TD. Officiating came under fire from a couple of coaches in week 11 and this one will for sure add credibility to that argument.

4 – The culture has changed to a winning one:

NFL: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
NFL: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders

The Raiders came out incredibly flat in this game and seemed to be operating only on instinct for most of the game. They pulled together and found a way to win another one with 4th quarter magic. As I watched this game, I was having flashbacks to 2012 and 2013 under Dennis Allen. I’m convinced that had the Raiders played this game like that against a better team than the Texans, it would have been over by halftime. Raiders fans have enough garbage time to last 2 lifetimes under Allen. This game is a clear indication that the culture has changed in Oakland. In the past the team was so devoid of talent that the outcome of games like this were inevitable.

There is no more of that going on. This Raiders team believes it can win. They have the talent to get it done; even when they get outplayed or aren’t at their best. That is a sure sign of a great team and a winning attitude. They will need that as they push towards the playoffs. I can already hear the hearts breaking in Denver, San Diego and Kansas City. They haven’t really had to deal with a relevant Raiders team for 13 years. Now they will have to learn how to. The leaders on both sides of the ball have really stepped up and made this happen.

One thing that makes this turnaround even more remarkable is the fact that it is happening with a world of distractions with relocation looming large over them. It always finds its way into most discussions about the Raiders and that is a shame. Whatever the coaches and leaders of this team are doing to offset that is working. No team or its fan base should have to deal with that. Here we are; not only dealing with it for so many years, but for the second time in our history. Just when it seems Oakland finally has a winning team to cheer for, they are in danger of being yanked away. It is a major distraction that can destroy a team’s season. The fact that the team is winning like this and are alone in first place after week 11 is a testament to the winning culture they now have.

3 – The Raiders offense is versatile:


Bite my tounge! The Musgrave haters will have a field day with this one, but it was shown to be true this season; the offense is versatile. This game was against a Texans defense which was number 4 in the league coming in. The run game which put up 200 yards against the Broncos was not working tonight and the wide receivers had the dropsies. So what to do? How about use your running backs in the passing game? That worked well. 3 out of the top 4 receivers for the Raiders were running backs. They also accounted for 2 of Carr’s 3 TDs. In all, they had 199 yards and averaged 18 yards per reception. In other words,they were ripping off chunks of yards.

The game plan was not working well and they adjusted well. I have been very critical of this coaching staff over lack of adjustments and for good reason. It is very nice to see progress in this area. The defense still needs to adjust as I was repeatedly frustrated by the Texans gouging the middle of the defense again and again. The Texans had the worst passing offense in the league coming in and they seemed to move the ball at will through the first 3 quarters and their defense took the Raiders running back committee out of this game. Jadeveon Clowney had his way with our vaunted offensive line.

Had the offense not adjusted by getting the running back committee involved in the passing game, this would have been a loss. The offense is high powered, but they can also adapt to what the defense is doing. These last 2 games against the Broncos and Texans are a clear indication of that. This offense looked very different from last week to this week. They can move down the field very quickly of they can sustain a long drive. They also showed the ability to hold the ball in 4 minute offense and close out a game. Thank goodness because this is one game where we don’t want overtime!

2 – The defense still needs a lot of improvement:


You can blame DC Ken Norton Jr. or whomever you want to, but the blame game accomplishes very little. The fact is that the Raiders were gashed by the Texans. Coming into this game, the Texans were ranked 32nd overall; 32nd in passing; and 13th against the run. They were even missing Alfred Blue.which left Lamar Miller and their only real threat. After their game against the Broncos where they dominated, this was a terrible showing. They have the talent; what they are missing is consistency.

It is a bit late in the season to say that there is a problem with them gelling as a unit. This is a problem that must be addressed if the Raiders are to make the playoffs and get past the first round. Maybe they just had a bad game or maybe it was the altitude, but they looked like the same defense that showed up in the first few weeks of the season. Let’s hope they get it back together against the Panthers and keep it together.

1 – Raiders are still road warriors:

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Jacksonville Jaguars
NFL: Oakland Raiders at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Raiders were the home team, but this game was played on the road in Mexico City. The Raiders remain undefeated on the road. This is attributed in part to how well Raider Nation travels, but it is mostly because they have learned how to win. This skill is going to be put to the test against Denver, Kansas City and San Diego; all 3 division road games. It is very hard to go into Arrowhead stadium and knock off the Chiefs, but if the Raiders are to win the division, it is something they will have to accomplish. I’d like to think that if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can do it, the Raiders can. Denver and Invest co Field is equally as hard. San Diego; not so much, but there is no guarantee.

The turnaround on the road is remarkable. How long did the Raiders go without a win in the eastern time zone? They have 4 out of their 5 road wins in that time zone. That includes back to back games in Florida. It is safe to say that those troubles are behind them. That is a good thing if it comes down to a playoff game against the Patriots in Foxborough or barring a miracle finish by the Ravens and Raiders, a game in Baltimore. There are plenty of teams still in the playoff hunt and many from the eastern time zone.

There are no guarantees that the Raiders will even host a playoff game. Looking at the rest of the division and the teams still in the hunt and the way they have been playing tells us that just about anything can. You have to be able to win on the road and the Raiders have that part down so far. As I said before, the biggest test is yet to come. Should they pull it off, the doubts can finally be put to rest.

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