MEXICO CITY (AP) — While dealing with a green laser shining in Brock Osweiler's eye and the high elevation unique to a game in Mexico City, the Houston Texans feel like a few questionable spots by the officials on a key fourth-quarter drive made the difference in their loss to Oakland.
Derek Carr threw his second touchdown pass of the fourth quarter shortly after a disputed fourth-down stop and the Oakland Raiders went on to beat the Texans 27-20 on Monday night in the second regular season game played in Mexico.
“Very tough loss,” defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. “We should have won the game. We are trying to win every game. You don't leave the game in the ref's hands.”
The contest turned midway through the fourth quarter on a matter of inches for the Texans (6-4). On a third-and-2 from the Oakland 16, Lamar Miller ran wide and appeared to get the first down before being tackled by Malcolm Smith. But the officials spotted it short of the marker and coach Bill O'Brien opted not to challenge.
O'Brien then went for it on fourth-and-inches instead of kicking the go-ahead field goal. Akeem Hunt ran up the middle and the Texans thought he got the first down, only to have it marked about an inch short . O'Brien challenged this time but with no clear angle, the play was not overturned.
“I felt like we needed a touchdown there and obviously we did,” O'Brien said. “And so we went for it. Thought we had it, looked like it was clear that we had it, so I challenged it and they said we didn't have it. They said the call on the field stands, so I don't know.”
Five plays later, Carr connected on a 35-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper that gave the Raiders (8-2) a 27-20 lead and sent them to their fourth straight win.
The Texans were on the wrong side of another close call in the first quarter when DeAndre Hopkins took a short pass from Osweiler and ran into the end zone. But officials ruled he stepped out at the Oakland 36 after a gain of 24. The Texans were unable to challenge the play because it was blown dead and they settled for a field goal on that drive.
“I think we've really got to look at all those things,” O'Brien said. “We've got all these cameras and we can't get that right? I didn't think Hopkins was out of bounds, but the whistle had blown, so I couldn't challenge that play.”
While the disputed calls might have had a bigger impact, the green laser that kept shining in Osweiler's eyes might have been the oddest part of a festive game at Azteca Stadium.
“I never want to say one thing's a difference maker, but certainly having a laser zoomed in your eyeball definitely affects how you play a game,” Osweiler said.
Fans here have used the laser to try to distract opponents during World Cup qualifiers, but it caught some of these football players off guard.
“Yeah, that was kind of weird,” Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack said. “I saw that and I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.”
While the field was a bit slippery at times and the altitude did play a factor , the first game in Mexico City since 2005 was otherwise mostly a success.
It was largely a pro-Raiders crowd of 76,743 with a sizable contingent of Texans fans and a smattering of jerseys from other teams mixed in. What was originally scheduled as an Oakland home game featured Raiders music during stoppages, frequent “RAI-DERS!” chants and Tommie Smith lighting the Al Davis torch in a memorable return to Mexico City nearly a half-century after his Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics.
“The Raider Nation showed up tonight,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “I want to send a shoutout to the fans that showed up. It was a great atmosphere to play in.”
On a less celebratory note, there were also some homophobic chants during kickoffs like the ones used at soccer games on some goal kicks. Mexico's soccer federation has been punished by FIFA in the past for the chant during World Cup qualifiers.
Players on both teams were in favor of more games here in the future.
“It was great,” Clowney said. “All the NFL setup was great. Most of our fan base is Hispanic, so why not bring the game to them?”