PFF Recap: Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans

Reaction and analysis to the Pro Football Focus grades of the Oakland Raiders in Week 11.

Two days removed from the Oakland Raiders’ comeback win over the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football, Raider Nation is sitting on a relative high going into Thanksgiving weekend, for it will be the first time in a long time that the Raiders’ season is still relevant when the turkey comes out of the oven.

In an effort to take a close look at Oakland’s performance in Mexico, we dive into ProFootballFocus.com’s single-game grades of the Raiders’ top performers.

Nov 21, 2016; Mexico City, MEX; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans during a NFL International Series game at Estadio Azteca. The Raiders defeated the Texans 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr Remains Poised Through Adversity, Again

With the MVP race tightening, Raiders third-year quarterback Derek Carr pushed aside all doubts surrounding his campaign, as he single-handedly willed Oakland back from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to push the Silver and Black to their best 10-game start since 2001.

Nothing was clicking for Oakland’s offense entering the second half of the contest, and Carr added to the dismay by throwing an ugly interception on the Raiders’ first offensive play of the third quarter, leaving the Raider Nation with a lump in their throat.

Carr soon put their stress to rest.

With just under 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Carr capitalized on the Texans’ blown coverage with a 75-yard touchdown strike, and he never looked back.

On the following drive, Carr completed three of four passes for 82 yards and what would be a game-winning touchdown to sophomore receiver Amari Cooper.

“We got punched in the mouth, for lack of a better word, and we were throwing them back and it was 10-10, tie game, tough game at half,” Carr said when asked of the Raiders’ fourth quarter comeback. “We weren’t doing things the way we usually want to do things, executing wise. But there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that we were going to come back and win the football game.”

Despite his interception, Carr stood above the rest as the Raiders’ top offensive performer (87.3), per PFF.com.

With his performance on Monday night, Carr separated himself from the pack. He had enough ability and poise to ignite an offense that failed to show a pulse through 50 minutes, a feat only accomplishable by the elite.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio praised Carr for his efforts, highlighting his poise as a quality that stands out above the rest.

“Having that trigger man that can make those kind of plays is everything,” Del Rio said. “He did a great job tonight staying poised. I thought that’s one of the keys, is the poise he’s playing with, kind of unstoppable. He stays the course, keeps making good decisions, keeps putting balls in a good spot, accurately, and then we started making some plays at the end.”

Carr’s ability to remain unstoppable will be put to the test against the visiting Carolina Panthers this Sunday, but it’s unlikely he has any doubts.

Nov 21, 2016; Mexico City, MEX; Oakland Raiders fullback Jamize Olawale (49) scores on a 75-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans during a NFL International Series game at Estadio Azteca. The Raiders defeated the Texans 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jamize Olawale Pulls Off his Best Marcel Reece Impression

Just three games into the 2016 season, the Raiders released former Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece in favor of veteran fullback Jamize Olawale, and though it was a tough decision for Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and the organization, it’s turning out to be the right one.

Olawale, a fourth-year undrafted free agent, has expanded his role beyond the fullback position in wake of Oakland’s inconsistent play at tight end, and as a result, he’s emerging as a dual-threat fullback with great blocking and receiving ability.

Against Houston, Olawale caught all three of his targets for 90 yards and a touchdown, his most impressive reception coming early in the fourth quarter.

Olawale snuck out of the backfield to find a gaping hole in Houston’s zone coverage and turned the open space into a 75-yard touchdown, effectively waking up the Raiders’ dormant offensive attack.

The former North Texas product earned an 80.4 overall grade from PFF.com and now sits as the 11th ranked fullback in the NFL.

Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders guard Gabe Jackson (66) and center Rodney Hudson (61) hug after they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Oakland Raiders defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders guard Gabe Jackson (66) and center Rodney Hudson (61) hug after they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Oakland Raiders defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders’ Offensive Line Comes Up Big in Pass Protection

Lining up against the Texans’ physical, athletic defensive line, the Raiders’ offensive line took their fair share of punches in the run game, but when it came to keeping Carr upright, Oakland’s big men left the match relatively unscathed.

Though Houston’s edge-rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus were pinning their ears back on nearly every down, the Raiders’ trench warriors didn’t back down from the challenge.

According to Nathan Jahnke of PFF.com, Oakland’s offensive line allowed pressure to affect Carr on just two of 31 drop-backs, which happens to be the best percentage for a quarterback this season.

The Raiders’ top performers along the offensive line were right tackle Austin Howard (81.9), right guard Gabe Jackson (78.0) and left tackle Donald Penn (75.5), per PFF.com.

Carr credited his offensive line for sparking Olawale’s touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

“First and foremost, it starts with the offensive line,” Carr said. “Because to do what I wanted to do, we talked about this actually at the press conference earlier this week, to do some of the things that I want to do to help the game grow, they kind of got to be stout and those kind of things. And Austin ran a great pass rusher by, we were firm inside, and out step-up tries to help the safety inside and he was on Mike. I thank the Lord I had enough time to make the flat player try and jump our flat. And then I had time to throw it to Olawale. And all of those things, everyone pats me on the back and gives me a high five and all that, but it really only happens because our offensive line gave me so much time.”

It’s time to pat the backs of the Raiders’ offensive line, for they are the players deserving of the praise and high-fives.

Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (51) congratulate each other against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Oakland Raiders defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin Controls the Edge

Entering Monday night’s matchup against Houston, the Raiders’ veteran edge-rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin had the advantage against the Texans’ tackles, and by no surprise, the two put together a dominant performance.

Irvin accumulated 10 combined tackles (nine solo), one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss, effectively dictating the edge when playing both the run and pass.

The former Seattle Seahawk earned an 80.1 overall grade and is now ranked as the 15th best edge-rusher in the NFL, per PFF.com.

Opposite Irvin, Mack had similar success, as he garnered three combined tackles, one sack and two QB hits in route to becoming the Raiders’ top defensive performer (84.4), per PFF.com. And, it wasn’t even on his best day.

“Khalil Mack was unable to continue his amazing hot streak where he recorded 21 total pressures in the past two weeks, instead he recorded a more mortal seven total pressures,” per Michael Mountford of PFF.com. “His speed and power was too much for the Texans to handle, as it is for most teams.”

Irvin and Mack applied constant pressure to Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler, often forcing him to check the ball down or make poor decisions with the football.

Osweiler’s single-game grade against Oakland was 53.3, per PFF.com.

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