The Oakland Raiders went into Monday Night's matchup against the Houston Texans looking to take control of the AFC West following a loss by the Chiefs and the Denver Broncos in their bye week.
The Raiders defense struggled to get off the field early, allowing Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler to keep the drive alive on third down four times on the opening drive with a 13-play scoring drive. Luckily for the Raiders, the defense held strong in the red zone and limited the Texans to just a field goal giving the Raiders the early 3-to-0 deficit.
Quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders offense were unable to match the Texans offense on the opening drive, going backwards and ultimately having to punt the ball after a three-and-out. The Raiders wouldn't get on the scoreboard until the first play of the second quarter when undrafted free agent rookie Jalen Richard spread out wide and beat the linebacker on a nice route for his first receiving touchdown of his career. The score gave the Raiders the 7-to-3 lead.
Head coach Jack Del Rio's team had a chance to take control of the game on the next play after San Jose State and Texans return man Tyler Ervin muffed the short kickoff by Sebastian Janikowski as Taiwan Jones recovered the ball giving the Raiders the ball back.
The Raiders offense got the ball all the way to the Texans four-yard line with a 1st and goal but was unable to punch the ball in and had to settle for a field goal, extending the lead to 10-to-3.
But that lead wouldn't last, as the Texans drove right back down the field with a nine play, 75-yard drive to get into the end zone for the first time of the night. Facing another long third down, Osweiler found Braxton Miller who shook cornerback David Amerson for the 12-yard touchdown reception to tie the game heading into halftime.
Looking to get his team back on pace after receiving the second-half kickoff, Carr made a costly mistake as he threw the ball up for grabs when he was pressured as the Texans came away with the interception.
The Texans once again took advantage again, driving 65 yards on 13 plays and taking care of a critical penalty on slot corner DJ Hayden. Osweiler was looking for Miller in the end zone but threw the ball high and away on what looked like an uncatchable ball, but Hayden was called for pass interference to extend the drive. Running back Lamar Miller punched the ball into the end zone on the next drive to give the Texans the 17-to-10 lead.
Now playing from behind, Carr and the Raiders looked to get back into the end zone to tie the game but their red zone offense once again stalled. It looked as if Carr would find Michael Crabtree for a big touchdown but the veteran was unable to hold on to the ball. A couple of plays later, Crabtree would draw a pass interference call to extend the drive and get the Raiders into the red zone. Facing a 3rd and goal from the two-yard line, Carr's pass to rookie DeAndre Washington would fall incomplete and the Raiders would have to settle for a field goal to make it 17-to-13.
Needing a big stop to start the fourth quarter, the Raiders defense could not slow down Osweiler and the Texans offense that struggled heading into the game. The Raiders did however force a field goal though, keeping them down just one touchdown at 20-to-13.
Carr and the Raiders would fire right back as offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave used some creativity on the very next play from scrimmage. With Amari Cooper lined up in the backfield, Carr found fullback Jamize Olawale for a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game again at 20-to-20.
Looking to capitalize on a good return to give them a short field, the Texans faced a short fourth and one on the Raiders 15 yard line where Bill O'Brien elected to go for it instead of taking the field goal. It looked as if they made it, but the referees decided the call stood and the Raiders took over on downs.
With the offense now finding some chemistry, Carr remained poised and continued to find his running backs for big gains as it worked throughout the game. This time it was Latavius Murray who found some room for a big 39-yard reception to get into the Texans territory. Cooper had just four catches, but none were as big as his fourth-quarter catch that he hauled in on the next play where he used a nice move to sprint 35 yards to get into the end zone and give the Raiders the 27-to-20 lead.
O'Brien made another costly coaching decision late in the fourth quarter when he elected to punt the ball back to the Raiders offense with just three minutes left in the game with only one timeout.
Needing just one first down to basically ice the game, Carr went back to his running back Richard who beat the linebacker for a big catch and first down. Overall, the Raiders running backs had 11 catches for 199 receiving yards. All other receivers had just 96 receiving yards total.
Del Rio has proven he's willing to gamble late in the game if he believes that's the best decision to be made and he did so again on Monday night. Facing a fourth and 1 with just one minute left, Del Rio kept his defense on the field to finish the game as Murray bursted through the left side to get the first down.
The Raiders now sit atop the AFC West with their 8-2 record and will return home to take on Carolina Panthers next week.