Second half failures doom Texans in 38-20 loss to Raiders

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Becker/AP/Shutterstock (13489109ak) Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks looks on before an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, in Las Vegas Texans Raiders Football, Las Vegas, United States – 23 Oct 2022

Second half failures doom Texans in 38-20 loss to Raiders

A competitive first three quarters dissipated into a fourth-quarter fiasco.

For about 42 minutes, the Texans and the Raiders played a hard-fought, back-and-forth, competitive game. Much to the chagrin of Houston, there were still 18 minutes of play remaining.

The Texans completely unraveled defensively in the second half, and the offensive line made critical errors late as the Texans fell to the Raiders 38-20 in Las Vegas.

The game certainly started pretty well for the Texans. The Raiders’ opening drive went 11 plays, but only 44 yards and the Texans’ defense stopped Las Vegas on third and ten from the Texans’ 34 and forced a 50-yard Daniel Carlson field goal to limit the Raiders to three.

Houston responded on their next drive and moved the ball reasonably well. They drove nine plays and 54 yards, but the drive stalled at the Raiders 21 yard line. Ka’imi Fairbairn, who has been very good for the Texans this year and nailed multiple 50+ yard field goals, missed just his second FG attempt of the season when he was wide right from 39 yards.

Houston’s defense would force a three and out on a drive in which the Raiders would lose 16 yards. The Texans would drive 13 plays and 62 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

On a drive where the Texans were four for four on third down conversions, the biggest being a third and nine at the Vegas 37 where Davis Mills connected with Brandin Cooks for 11 yards, Mills found Chris Moore for a 13-yard score and Houston took a 7-3 lead with 11:17 remaining before the half.

The Texans’ defense would come up with another stop on third and six from the Vegas 47 to force the Raiders into another punt, and then the offense would get on the board again.

A seven-play, 43-yard drive by the Houston Texans resulted in a 55-yard field goal from Fairbairn to extend the Texans’ lead to 10-3 with 4:57 remaining before halftime. Dameon Pierce accounted for 35 of the Texans’ 43 yards on the drive, including a 22-yard run.

The Raiders would answer on their next possession. Taking over with 4:57 to go in the second quarter, the Raiders embarked on a 10-play, 82-yard drive that consumed 4:32. Vegas converted a key fourth and one from the Houston 33 when Derek Carr hit Josh Jacobs for a four-yard gain on a play that the Texans have surrendered to multiple teams this season. Carr found a wide-open Mack Hollins over the middle for a 26-yard touchdown, and the Raiders tied the game at 10 just before halftime.

The Texans would get the ball first in the second half and add more points. They capped off an eight-play, 67-yard drive over 4:01 with a 35-yard FG from Fairbairn to retake the lead at 13-10. Back-to-back chunk plays keyed this drive, as Mills hit Jordan Akins for a 39-yard catch and run on third and three from their own 23 and then fired a strike to Philip Dorsett for 20 yards on the next play. However, on third and nine from the Raiders’ 17, Mills threw a pass to TE Brevin Jordan, who never turned to look for the ball. The play would have resulted in a first down and goal-to-go situation, but instead, they had to settle for three.

This started the most exciting stretch of the game as the two teams went back and forth for the duration of the third quarter, with the two teams combining for three consecutive touchdowns.

The Raiders answered the Texans’ field goal with a 10-play, 75-yard drive over 5:11 to retake the lead at 17-13. The key play involved backup TE Foster Moreau, starting due to an injury to regular starter Darren Waller, who converted a third and four at the Texans’ 21 with a 17-yard reception. Josh Jacobs would punch it in from the four to give Las Vegas the lead again.

Houston was up for the fight. They answered with their own six-play, 74-yard drive in just 2:34 to take the lead right back. Mills hit Cooks for a 24-yard strike, then four plays later, on a third and seven, Mills found Philip Dorsett from 25 yards out for a touchdown. Houston retook the lead at 20-17.

Once again, the defense couldn’t hold the lead. Vegas drove 76 yards in seven plays over 4:42, ending it with a seven-yard touchdown run by Josh Jacobs, his second of the game, to take a 24-20 lead. Carr connected with Davante Adams on three straight plays for eight, 15, and 16 yards to move the ball from his own 24 to the Houston 42. Three plays later, they were in the end zone.

Houston’s next drive would be the most decisive of the game. Pierce was stopped for no gain on third and one at their own 33. Recognizing his defense couldn’t get a stop, and the run defense, which was solid in the first half, was being trampled on in the second, Lovie Smith decided to go for it on fourth and one. The Texans didn’t like the look they had and called time out. Coming out of the time out, the offense went back on the field to try to convert the fourth and one, but they never got a play off because OG Kenyon Green was flagged for a false start. That turned fourth and one into fourth and six, and the Texans had to punt.

Smith was right about his defense because they surrendered a fourth consecutive touchdown to Vegas, and the game was getting away from the Texans. The Raiders went 81 yards in just seven plays over 4:15, culminating with Josh Jacobs’ third TD run of the game. Jacobs accounted for 40 of the 81 yards on the drive on just three carries, as the Raiders took a 31-20 lead with 7:06 remaining in the game.

With the defense struggling badly, the offense would need to find a way to score quickly and hope the defense could get a stop to let them catch up. Houston ran 10 plays but had only gained 35 yards over a critical 3:40 span, and the drive ended in disaster. Davis Mills threw a short pass over the middle intended for TE Brevin Jordan that was intercepted by backup safety Duron Harmon and returned 73 yards for a touchdown. Vegas converted the extra point, and what had been a competitive game was now a rout at 38-20.

Houston continued to fight, taking their next possession for 11 plays and 66 yards over 2:19, but the drive ultimately failed, and the Texans turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert on fourth and six from the Raiders 14-yard line.

With the loss, the Texans fall to 1-4-1 on the season and maintain their grip on the cellar of the AFC South.

The good news for the Texans? Dameon Pierce continues to look like a stud. Davis Mills easily played his best game of the season, throwing for 302 yards and two scores. Jordan Akins has established himself as TE 1 and a legitimate threat in the passing game. The loss has them currently sitting with the second-worst record in the NFL, which would mean the number two pick in the draft. The Browns also lost, and their pick conveys to Houston; they are currently sitting with the fifth pick.

The bad news? The run defense completely collapsed in the second half. After holding Jacobs to 45 yards on 10 carries in the first half, Jacobs had 10 carries for 98 yards and 3 TDs in the second half. The offensive line had multiple protection breakdowns in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. The offensive line also had critical penalties at bad times. Brandin Cooks dropped a pass that hit him in both hands right in front of his face, causing a drive to stall. The usually surehanded Cooks has four drops this season and only two receptions of over 30 yards.

Next week, the Texans host the 4-2 AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans.

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