Raiders Fall Flat Against Patriots

They're playing out the string in a schedule that didn't seem all that daunting when the season started but in reality turned out to be far more difficult than the Raiders imagined.

The Oakland Raiders have helped to make it that way, changing coaches four games in and blowing a couple of games early against Buffalo and San Diego in which they held substantial leads entering the fourth quarter.

By and large, however, the Raiders' problems have been of their own doing, and their upcoming game against the Houston Texans comes against an opponent on a roll while Oakland looks as if it will have difficulty finishing anything other than 3-13.

"Fourteen weeks into the season, two games remaining, there ain't too much changing," Raiders middle linebacker Kirk Morrison said. "We are who we are."

That being the case, the Texans can count on starting fast when they visit Oakland in search of an 8-7 record, something they've never achieved in their brief history.

In a 49-26 loss to New England at the Coliseum, the Patriots were ahead 21-0 with 3:43 left in the first quarter, and the Raiders never seriously threatened again in a steady drizzle and rain.

The Texans can count on getting some damage done on the ground with Steve Slaton. The rookie is one of the NFL's hottest backs and he'll be facing a Raiders team that gave up 277 yards rushing to the Patriots -- the fourth time this season Oakland has given up more than 200 yards.

New England's Sammy Morris had 117 yards on 14 carries and ex-Raider LaMont Jordan had 97 on 12 attempts, including a 49-yard run for the game's final touchdown.

As the Raiders gradually fell out of the playoff race with loss after loss, it happened against teams struggling to remain upright, getting Baltimore, Atlanta, Carolina, Miami and then Denver in succession -- with the Raiders actually beating Denver.

Then came an inexplicable loss against the Chiefs, and the closing quartet of San Diego (trying to remain an AFC West contender), New England (fighting for a division title), Houston (on a four-game win streak) and finally the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, is the father of deposed Raiders coach Lane Kiffin.

After falling behind 24-0 to San Diego the previous week, the Raiders took 10 days off and promptly found themselves trailing 21-0 against New England.

"There's something inside you that says, 'I can't believe this happened again,' but you've got to be a professional and keep playing," linebacker Thomas Howard said. "I thought we did that. We stunk in the first half, but played well in the second."

They Said It: "I like our team. I've said that all along. I have not changed my mind on that." -- Raiders coach Tom Cable.


-- Left tackle Mario Henderson got what amounted to a one-game trial to supplant incumbent Kwame Harris. He had no penalties -- already an upgrade, considering Harris had an NFL-high 15 false starts and 11 overall. The Raiders also played a reasonably decent game on offense with three touchdowns and a 4.3 yards-per-carry average rushing. Henderson appeared to have no egregious errors.
--DE Trevor Scott had two sacks, his first in five games, giving him five for the season and tying him with Kalimba Edwards for the team lead.
--S Gibril Wilson did not start or play on the first series but led the Raiders with 12 tackles and intercepted a pass off a deflection.
--QB Andrew Walter, a backup quarterback all season except for one game when injured, was healthy but dropped to No. 3 behind Marques Tuiasosopo for the Patriots game.
--QB JaMarcus Russell threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins in the first quarter, only the Raiders' second touchdown in the first half this season.
--C Jake Grove resumed his role in the starting lineup after missing four games with a calf injury and played the entire game.

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