The Oakland Raiders let a close game versus the Houston Texans slip through their fingers and there’s plenty of blame to go around. The biggest culprit this week is the defense as they struggled to stop Deshaun Watson all game and couldn’t come up with a clutch stop towards the end. Head coach Jon Gruden bit his tongue as much as possible, but he clearly wasn’t happy with the performance from his defense.
“It’s hard to win when you have 100 yards in penalties and give up 30 first downs,” said Gruden to the media after the game.
The Raider offense only got three possessions in the second half and they scored on two of those drives. The defense couldn’t get the Texans’ offense off the field. Watson finished the game with three touchdown passes.
On top of their inability to stop what Houston was dishing out, the defense committed many costly penalties. The unit committed six infractions for 60 yards. Gruden is right, it’s hard to overcome those kinds of setbacks and the Raiders let a winnable game slip away. The Texans have one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines and they lost their starting left tackle in the second half. The fact that they couldn’t get to Watson more is a testament to how bad the team’s pass rush is.
The offense isn’t completely blameless. Tyrell Williams dropped two big passes that would’ve put the Raiders in scoring range. If he catches one of those passes, we could be having a very different conversation right now. That being said, this one is one the defense.
How Long Is Paul Guenther’s Leash?
Defensive Paul Guenther has now had 23 games to turn this defense into a respectable squad, but he’s failed. Week in and week out, the Raiders are torched by opposing quarterbacks. Oakland had almost no talent on defense in 2018, so he deserves a pass for that. However, general manager Mike Mayock did a lot to give Guenther the tools to succeed. Yes, the talent on defense is still not elite, but they haven’t been showing much improvement.
Gruden has a very high opinion of Guenther, but he can’t keep him around if the defense is going to play this bad. The Raider offense is very close to being among the best in the NFL. If they only get the ball three times in a whole half, that’s not going to win the team many games. Guenther should start feeling his seat heat up considerably after two straight abysmal showings by his defense.
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Things Get Easier From Here
Though the Raiders have now lost two straight games to playoff teams, their schedule eases up significantly now and they finally get to play some home games. They only have one game left on the schedule against a team that currently has a winning record. Obviously, there are no easy wins in the NFL, but the Raiders are still very much in the playoff hunt. The loss to Houston is crushing, but it’s not the end of the season. There is a good team to be found when they limit costly mistakes. This team may be a year away from true playoff contention, but they’re certainly headed in the right direction and are much better than anybody was expecting this year.