Instant Replay: Raiders beat Texans in Mexico City, sit atop AFC West

Instant Replay: Raiders beat Texans in Mexico City, sit atop AFC West


MEXICO CITY – The AFC West has been jumbled all season long. On Monday night, a pecking order was established.

The Raiders are all alone at the top. The Silver and Black took a one-game lead in the division with a 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans before a raucous sell-out crowd at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

The Raiders were behind most of the game but surged ahead in the fourth quarter and never looked back.

Amari Cooper pulled the Raiders ahead with a 35-yard catch and run for a touchdown, a dynamic play that gave the Raiders their first lead since the second quarter.

It was part of 14 unanswered points from the Raiders, who tied it on a long touchdown catch by fullback Jamize Olawale.

The victory in Mexico City elevates the Raiders to 8-2, a game up on Kansas City and Denver with six games remaining.

It was yet another example of the Raiders finding a way to win. They looked lost most of the game, and made uncharacteristic mistakes, but pulled it together when it mattered most.

After getting outplayed for most of three quarters, the Raiders struck back in the fourth. They tied the game at 20-20 after a 75-yard touchdown strike from Carr to Olawale on a play where the fullback lined up out wide and Cooper was in the backfield.

Houston generated another long drive on their next possession, but the forced a turnover on downs after a controversial spot and replay review ruled Houston short of the marker.

The Raiders caught a break there, and took full advantage.

The game was tied 10-10 at halftime, with the Texans scores sandwiching points for the Raiders. Jalen Richard caught a 17-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter, and a muffed kickoff recovered by Taiwan Jones put the Raiders in prime position to score again.

They couldn’t convert from the Texans’ 1-yard line, and settled for a field goal. That would prove troublesome against a stout Houston defense that controlled the line of scrimmage most of the game.

The Texans took a 17-10 second-half lead after Derek Carr threw an ill-advised interception. The Texans responded with a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended in a Lamar Miller touchdown.

The Raiders put together a strong drive after that, but settled for another short field goal instead of cashing in for a touchdown. That made it 17-13 near the end of the third quarter.

Smith lights the torch: Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith lit the Al Davis torch before Monday’s game. The San Jose State product, well known for holding up a fist during his gold medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics here in Mexico City, returned to the city for the first time in a while.

Raiders-friendly crowd: The Houston Texans are the closest team to Mexico City. Didn’t matter. Monday night’s crowd at Estadio Azteca was decidedly partisan, clearly favoring the Silver and Black. The crowd was boisterous and into a close contest, with chants that can’t be repeated here, and plenty of noise for the home team.

Laser pointer on Osweiller: If the cheers weren’t obvious, a green laser pointer certainly way. A fan locked a green laser pointer on Texans quarterback Brock Osweiller in the second quarter and continued it in the second half.

The practice is supposedly common from Mexican soccer fans, though it didn’t seem to have a negative impact on the Texans signal caller.

Sitting it out: The Raiders had the entire 53-man roster at their disposal, a luxury afforded by the return of cornerback Sean Smith and defensive tackle Stacy McGee.

The Raiders rendered Connor Cook, Johnny Holton, Dexter McDonald, Antonio Hamilton, Matt McCants, Vadal Alexander and Ryan O'Malley.

What’s next: The Raiders will return from this home-away-from-home game and host a real one next week with the Carolina Panthers coming to town. Their record isn’t good but they still have a shot to win the NFC South and are motivated to play well in a crucial game.

New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'


New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'

Rashaan Melvin has the supreme confidence of a No. 1 cornerback, with none of the pedigree. Top cover men are often drafted high, paid well or both, with a steady ascent to elite status.

This undrafted talent bounced around the league without job security, trying and often failing to find NFL footing.

Melvin spent time with Tampa Bay, Miami, Baltimore, New England and Miami again before establishing himself in Indianapolis. The Colts gave him a real shot and he took advantage, evolving into the team’s top cornerback. Last year was Melvin’s best, but it didn’t provide a long-term contract despite a bull market for cover men.

Melvin signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Raiders on Friday, the type of prove-it deal that could establish a big payday down this time next year. The 28-year old doesn’t consider that pressure. Melvin knowns another big year's on the way, one that proves he's an elite cornerback

"I’m here to dominate the league," Melvin said Friday in a conference call. "It might be time for some new faces at the cornerback position. That’s my take on that. I’m excited for it.”

Melvin wouldn’t trade his long road for a conventional path, and believes experience both good and bad has prepared him for a pivotal season.

“I’ve been cut four times,” Melvin said. “I’ve been in four different locker rooms, and I was able to gain my teammates’ trust, my coaches’ trust and the organization’s trust as well. My confidence just grows over time. There are not a lot of players that can say they’ve been cut four times and end up in a situation where I’m at today. Like I said, it’s perfect timing. My work ethic, my style of play and the way I approach the game and the way I approach my job, my business, it speaks for itself.”

Melvin’s work ethic is unquestioned. His reputation as a grinder is well documented, especially after establishing himself in Indianapolis. Commitment to a craft has created a player with consistent coverage and ball skills.

Melvin was excellent last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Melvin created an incomplete pass (combining passes defensed and interceptions) on 23.6 percent of his targets.

Passers had a 60.3 passer rating against him in 2017, with just 29 completions for 328 yards on 55 targets. The passer rating was 86.6 in 2016, his only other season as a regular starter.

The Raiders need that type of player on the outside. They’ve had inconsistent cornerback play (that’s being kind) in recent seasons, and are hoping Melvin provides stability at a key position. The Northern Illinois alum has loftier aspirations, individually and as the leader of a young position group.

“The goal is to be the best player I can be, first-team All-Pro,” Melvin said. “I’m going to show my leadership, help these young guys out this year. They have tons of potential to be successful in their own careers. For me coming in here and being the leader and showing that, hey, this is what it takes to be successful in this football league, that’s what I’m willing to do. That’s what I’m willing to bring to the table. On the football field, but outside as well.”

Paying $6.5 million for all that would be a bargain. Melvin’s the key acquisition in a secondary built around 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph and 2017 first-round cornerback Gareon Conley. This secondary can be solid if those guys can realize potential and Melvin’s a true No. 1 cornerback.

He considers that title appropriate, and is ready to show he’s more that a one-year wonder. The Raiders have great confidence in Melvin, something clear after targeting him early in the free-agent process. Financing’s always a big factor, but Friday’s meeting with head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and secondary coach Derrick Ansley convinced Melvin that Oakland’s a proper fit.

“I can relate to these guys,” Melvin said. “They have big plans for me, big plans for the organization. I was born to be a part of something special; that’s happening in Oakland. It was a good thing. We were able to get everything done, a deal done. I’m just excited to be here and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us as a team and me as a player.”

Raiders sign former 49ers defensive lineman


Raiders sign former 49ers defensive lineman

Update (3/17, 11:15 a.m.): The Raiders have officially signed former 49ers lineman Tank Carradine.


Raiders head coach Jon Gruden wanted veterans to help turn his defense around. He added a linebacker and defensive backs aplenty. Then, on Friday night, he gave the front some help.

Former 49ers defensive lineman Tank Carradine will sign with the Raiders, the 28-year old announced on his Instagram page. 

The Sacramento Bee first reported the news. 

He visited the Raiders on Thursday and was in Seattle earlier Friday, but will sign with the Silver and Black.

Carradine could help their transition to a more traditional 4-3 alignment, able to play end in the base defense. He has proven himself as a solid run defender, but believes he can be an effective pass rusher if given the opportunity.

Carradine didn’t get many pass-rushing chances with the 49ers, who generally removed him on passing downs. He has 5.5 sacks in four professional seasons. He played 37.9 percent of 49ers defensive snaps during eight games with the 49ers last season. He missed the same amount on short-term injured reserve with an ankle injury.

At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, he has the size to be a 4-3 base end. He’ll likely have to battle Mario Edwards Jr. for snaps opposite Khalil Mack, though Bruce Irvin will take that spot in sub packages.

Carradine will be the 10th free-agent signing expected to make the roster, which means the roster turnover this summer should be significant. 

Here was his Instagram post from Friday night: 

Proud to become an Oakland Raider! Let's go #raiders#nation

A post shared by Tank Carradine (@tank.carradine) on