HOUSTON – Arden Key came screaming into the Houston backfield, charging hard off the Raiders right edge. He cut inside and had Deshaun Watson dead to rights, wrapping him up with both hands. The Texans quarterback somehow escaped the alligator roll, ran to his right and completed a touchdown pass that decided Sunday’s 27-24 Week 8 loss to Houston at NRG Stadium.
Key couldn’t believe what happened. He though the biggest sack of his young career was done, that the Raiders held strong in an important moment. Instead, Watson got loose, avoided the brunt of a sack attempt by Maxx Crosby and threw a touchdown strike despite not being able to see out of one eye.
“It’s still on me,” Key said. “That’s a sack, and they kick a field goal and it’s a tie game. Then we go to overtime and we score. It’s tough. We made some bad plays on that drive. We shouldn’t have been down there in the first place, but it’s on me. I should’ve made that play.”
It was one of several dramatic turns in a second half Watson dominated. All told, he was 27-for-39 for 279 yards and three touchdowns.
The Raiders were applying steady pressure in the backfield so the Texans sent Watson out of the pocket on bootlegs and rollouts that kept the chains moving.
“They did a great job attacking holes in our zone,” Raiders defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said. “They were dinking and dunking, frustrating us a little bit. They were taking 2 yards here, 3 yards there, after a 12-yard play where somebody slipped and missed a tackle, just annoying s--t like that. It wasn’t anything explosive. They weren’t out there beating us physically.”
They were wearing the Raiders down psychologically with extended drives and excellent third-down play that kept the scoring coming. The Texans scored on four consecutive drives and didn’t punt after the second quarter.
Houston maintained possession most of the second half, including 12:25 of the third quarter. The Raiders only had three second-half possession, scoring on quicker strikes but unable to keep up with the Texans steady drives.
“We got the rush going several times, but he finds a way out of trouble and completes a pass over and over again,” Key said. “Mentally, it drains you.”
That was a cause for frustration and the main reason why the Raiders lost a winnable game.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden pointed a finger and tipped a cap to Watson for an excellent game.
“He was awesome today. Doggone Watson,” Gruden said. “We had the ball three times in the second half. It was very unfortunate.
“… If you’ve watched Watson play, we’re not the first team he has gotten. He’s a spectacular player. He wills it out of his team, makes something out of nothing. He did that a lot today. It’s a credit to him.”
The Raiders defense also took some blame for the effort. They had plenty of opportunities to shut second-half drives down and put the Texans star quarterback down. They couldn’t do it enough.
“We were getting pressure,” Raiders edge rusher Clelin Ferrell said. “I just feel like the issues were on the bootlegs and scramble plays. It’s about getting pressure, but you have to get the guy on the ground. He’ll burn you if you don’t.”