Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Becker/AP/Shutterstock (13489125ag) Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, left, scores a touchdown as Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens defends during the second half of an NFL football game, in Las Vegas Texans Raiders Football, Las Vegas, United States – 23 Oct 2022
It’s inconceivable – not to mention indefensible – the Texans can play such wretched run defense for a third consecutive season.
But that’s a fact.
Sunday was another example of just how rotten the Texans can play the run and the damage it can do to a team desperate to leave Las Vegas with an upset victory but instead departed with their most decisive loss of the season.
In the 38-20 defeat in which the Texans actually led 20-17 going into the fourth quarter, it wasn’t the sheer volume of the Raiders’ rushing yards. It was the way they went about it, pounding the Texans into submission like some lopsided heavyweight fight at Caesars Palace.
Running back Josh Jacobs, whose fifth-year option wasn’t picked up and is playing for a new contract, was limited to 45 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Then he erupted for 98 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries in the second half.
On the Raiders’ four touchdown drives that covered 82, 75, 76 and 81 yards, Jacobs ran for 119 yards on 13 carries – a 9.2-yard average. His touchdowns covered 4, 7 and 15 yards.
The Texans have allowed more yards rushing this season. The Raiders gained 164 – the Texans’ average over the first five games when they were 30th against the run. In the second half, when Davis Mills and his teammates were playing their best game, the defensive players stumbled and staggered around Allegiant Stadium like they were hung over from partying all night on the Vegas Strip.
What the Raiders’ running game did to the Texans was pitiful and painful to watch. Jacobs, who averaged 149 yards rushing in the previous two games under new coach Josh McDaniels, had runs of 13, 11, 12, 12, 12, 13 and 15 yards. He wore down the Texas without a run longer than 15.
“Defensively, we just didn’t play well enough,” coach Lovie Smith said. “In the first half, I thought we were in pretty good shape. In the second half, we didn’t do what we needed to. They got the run going. Jacobs is a heck of a back. We had breakdowns near the end. You miss a gap, and you miss a tackle, and that’s what can happen. He’s done that to everybody (because) he’s a good running back.”
Smith, his defensive coaches and his players knew what the Raiders were going to do. They entered the game with a 1-4 record. Two games ago, McDaniels changed his strategy, putting the offensive emphasis on Jacobs rather than quarterback Derek Carr.
In the first three games, Jacobs had 42 carries for 192 yards. In the last two, he carried 49 times for 298 yards. The Raiders didn’t try to fool the Texans. Jacobs’ running helped Carr, who completed 21-of-27 for 241 yards and a touchdown without an interception. He was sacked once by Rasheem Green and finished with a 116.2 rating.
“We weren’t stopping them defensively,” Smith said. “Breakdowns, (missing) tackles – just weren’t physical enough at the end. Right now, there’s a lot of disappointment.
“Giving up some of those runs (and) the touchdown pass right before the half gave them momentum. That was a big one in coverage where we shouldn’t give up that type of play.”
On the tying touchdown at the end of the first half, Carr threw a 22-yard pass down the middle to receiver Mack Hollins, who caught it between safeties Jalen Pitre and Jonathan Owens. Pitre committed to the wrong receiver and couldn’t get back quick enough to prevent the touchdown that made it 10-10.
The Texans battled to a 13-10 lead in the third quarter and took a 20-17 advantage into the fourth before the defense collapsed in alarming fashion. The players got pushed around like schoolyard bullies were taking their lunch money.
Carr didn’t beat them. Neither did Davante Adams, who had eight catches for 95 yards and no touchdowns. Jacobs and his linemen wore them down and embarrassed them throughout the second half.
Coaches and players come and go, but the run defense is still rotten.
“It’s important to us,” Smith said about improving the run defense. “We haven’t played the run well, and we didn’t play it well today. We’ll keep working on it. Eventually, we’ll get it right.”
That might have to be next season.
If you’re a fan with the glass-half full philosophy, you’ll look at Sunday’s defeat in a positive manner: The Texans moved one step closer to the first pick in the draft.
But if you’re a half-empty believer, then the trip to Las Vegas was the worst defeat of an already-lost season that’s not going to get any better.
(John McClain writes four columns a week for GallerySports.com. He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on SportsRadio610.com).