Raiders-Texans Game Grades

In what was a winnable game on Sunday, the Raiders fall to the Houston Texans, 31-24. It was a tale of two halves as Arian Foster led a second half charge for the Texans. The offensive line continues to be a major concern while the defensive front has a let down performance in the second half.

Quarterback: B

You have to give it up for Bruce Gradkowski. He put up 278 yards and two touchdowns on 24 of 39 passing—all this while playing under constant duress from the Texans pass rush. It makes you wonder what kind of numbers he would put up if he had pass protection that was simply adequate.

Gradkowski makes this offense move. He and Zach Miller had great chemistry the entire day. Perhaps the best pass he threw though was a 26-yard strike that hit Johnnie Lee Higgins perfectly in stride late in the fourth.

He did throw two interceptions, fumbled the ball twice and was flagged for an intentional grounding that set the Raiders back on their final drive. But again, a lot of that was forced because of the pressure and his last interception should have been a big first down grab by Louis Murphy.

Gradkowski also took a number of big hits. One hit in particular, courtesy of Bernard Pollard, sent Gradkowski to the locker room for a brief moment before coming back in time for the next offensive drive.

Running Backs/Fullbacks: B-

Darren McFadden carried the Raiders in the first half, but his contributions dwindled in the second before a hamstring injury forced him to the sidelines.

It's tough to say whether Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson went away from McFadden in the second, or the Texans just did a better job at keeping him in check. Either way, what's obvious is that when McFadden isn't a factor, the Raiders are forced to compensate elsewhere—on Sunday it was the passing attack—and the results usually don't go well.

After the game, McFadden played off the seriousness of the injury and said that he'll take it day-to-day.

Michael Bush only got seven carries, but he ran hard, finishing with 40 yards and a touchdown. Bush is obviously not the dynamic weapon that McFadden is, but his power running is a great complement to McFadden's speed and versatility. As Bush gets comfortable again, it's finally looking like the Raiders will have the dynamic running game they always envisioned with their two young backs.

Marcel Reece finished with a key touchdown grab in the second quarter and a couple of carries as well.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-

Together, the wide receivers and tight ends receive a B- mark, but that's thanks in large part to Zach Miller's A+ performance.

The 11 receptions is a new career high for Miller while the 122 yards is the second most in his career. Miller was all over the field for Gradkowski. It isn't simply a matter of a quarterback finding his receivers, but there's just as much responsibility for the receivers—especially when pass protection is poor—to make themselves open for the quarterback. Miller obviously understands this very well. Whether it was on the flat or down the middle, Miller made himself available by exploiting the soft coverage spots and making himself open.

After two consecutive weeks of standout performances, Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey were virtual non-factors in the game. But in Murphy's case, you can make the argument that he played a big factor on his fourth quarter drop and tip that resulted in an interception. The pair had a catch apiece and they finished with a total of a measly seven yards.

Johnnie Lee Higgins had his best receiving game of the year, although it's nothing to get amped up about. Higgins finished with two catches for 38 yards. He and Gradkowski connected for a picture-perfect 26-yard play, but the two also got crossed up on another in which Higgins came back on a route that Gradkowski had going into the endzone.

Offensive Line: D+

If you haven't gotten it by now, this has been and will continue to be the offense's Achilles' heel. A brief look at the stats would indicate the unit played fairly decently, but in reality, Gradkowski has done a heck of a job at making his line look adequate.

You had an idea that the line had their work cut out for them when tasked with stopping Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans and company. And if it was a challenge that was presented, the line did not answer the call.

The biggest bright spot of an otherwise poor performance is that the line did not beat themselves. The Raiders finished with only two penalties, none of which came on holding calls or false starts.

Defensive Line: D

This unit's grade plummeted as the game wore on.

In the first half, they played at a respectable level. Then you realize Arian Foster was held out for disciplinary reasons, and once he made his return, the Texans took control of the game.

Foster finished with 131 yards on only 16 carries. That's an average yards per carry of 8.2 yards. Of course, most of those yards came on a 74-yard touchdown scamper in the third, but inexcusable nonetheless.

But perhaps the most glaring statistic of all is zero—as in the number of sacks on quarterback Matt Schaub.

Surely, there was pressure. The defensive line put some pressure on Schaub, forcing him to move a bit in the pocket and making him uncomfortable. But there was far more of it in the first half than in the second, and ultimately, the Raiders were never able to put Schaub on the ground. What makes this tidbit worse is that Schaub entered the game tied for most times sacked in the entire league.

And the Raiders could do nothing with that.

Linebackers: C-

Unlike last weekend against the Cardinals, the linebackers did not fill the holes as well against the Texans. Of course, the Texans run a zone blocking scheme that makes it difficult for linebackers to run freely, but regardless of scheme, Rolando McClain and company were simply outplayed.

When you watch what Defensive Coordinator John Marshall has done with his defensive front, you like the versatility and unique looks that he's putting on the field. He's got hybrid guys like Kamerion Wimbley, Trevor Scott and Quentin Groves who can play all around the place. But sometimes it works. Most of the time, it doesn't.

McClain finished with four tackles but struggled for most of the day. He made one spectacular play in the second quarter on a screen pass he sniffed out from the get-go, bringing down Steve Slaton for a loss. But other than that one play, McClain looked stiff and too meticulous on the field. McClain's lowlight is definitely when he bit on the play action that led to Arian Foster's fourth quarter touchdown grab.

Maybe he's still getting acclimated to the NFL, but we're still waiting for him to play with the fluid tenacity that he did at Alabama.

Secondary: C

Overall, not a terrible performance but it was also an unspectacular one.

Schaub and tight end Joel Dreessen, who is filling in for the injured Owen Daniels, had the defense's number all day on Sunday. Part of the blame goes to the linebackers, but the secondary takes the criticism flush.

And remember, Andre Johnson was not playing.

With that said, despite the inability of the defensive line to get any sacks, Schaub threw a lot of balls away and that's thanks in large part to the coverage down field.

Again, not terrible but unspectacular.

Special Teams: A-

Nice bounce back performance for Sebastian Janikowski—although some would argue that missing a game-winning field goal is unforgiveable. Janikowski went 3 for 3 on his field goal attempts and sent a couple of kickoffs out past the endzone.

Shane Lechler had one bad punt out of five. He only averaged 43 yards on them, but four out of the five were downed inside the 20-yard line.

Jacoby Ford continues to do a good job on kick returns. He ran back three for 85 yards, including a long of 64. Rock Cartwright had one return for 14 yards.

Johnnie Lee Higgins hasn't been able to reclaim the fire he once had two seasons ago. Higgins had three opportunities on punt returns, but was taken down easily on all of them. He had three returns for only four yards total—not much help for the offense's field position.

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