Oakland Raiders Commentary & Analysis with Joe Hawkes Beamon: Cook, Raiders fall short in Houston

Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) sacks Oakland Raiders quarterback Connor Cook (8) during the second half of an AFC Wild Card NFL football game Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

HOUSTON, TX — Make no mistake, the Texans’ defense was a big catalyst for Houston’s 27-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Wild Card game at NRG Stadium on Saturday afternoon as they forced rookie quarterback Connor Cook into throwing three interceptions and sacking Cook three times.

Cook, who became the first rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first career start in a postseason game, completed just 18-of-45 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.

Houston took an early 3-0 lead behind a 50-yard field goal from kicker Nick Novak.

Cook’s first interception came off a screen pass to running back Latavius Murray that Houston’s Pro Bowl defensive end Jadeveon Clowney snuffed out in Oakland’s territory. Running back Lamar Miller would coast into the end zone with a easy 4-yard touchdown run that pushed Houston’s lead to 10-0.

Oakland’s offense showed some signs of life by going to an uptempo offense in the first half, when Cook engineered a five-play, 38-yard drive that ended on running back Latavius Murray’s 2-yard score that put the Raiders on the board, 10-7. Murray was the bellcow on the drive, taking some heat off of Cook who only needed to throw the ball once.

Cook finished the first half completing just 4-of-14 passes for 41 yards, an interception and a 9.8 passer rating, but the entirety of Oakland’s loss doesn’t fall on the former Michigan State Spartan’s shoulders.

Just as Oakland (12-5) was adjusting to life without star quarterback Derek Carr, out with a broken fibula, Raiders’ Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn was scratched from the game due to a small fracture in his knee. The good news is that the fracture won’t require surgery, but Penn couldn’t suit up snapping a streak of 155 straight starts.

The injuries didn’t stop there for the Silver and Black.

Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson injured his ankle shortly before halftime where the Raiders were already trailing 20-7. Hudson missed a couple of snaps in the second half, but returned and finished the game.

Houston had more total yards (207) than Oakland (75) in the first half and collected 12 first downs to Oakland’s five.

Oakland’s premiere wide receiver duo of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper were missing in action.

The combination that became just the second Raider wide receiver tandem to each record 1,000-yard receiving season since 2001 when Hall of Famer’s Jerry Rice and Tim Brown accomplished that feat, couldn’t find no separation against Houston’s No. 1 defense.

Crabtree and Cooper combined for just four catches, for 43 yards, on 17 targets (10 for Cooper and 7 for Cooper). For an offense that finished sixth overall during the regular season, managed just 2.9 yards per play while finishing 2-for-16 on third down.

Oakland was 0-for-7 on third down in the first half.

After Oakland’s first offensive touchdown of the game, the Raiders would go on to punt six straight times as the offense would sputter.

Crabtree left the game in the fourth quarter and didn’t return after being diagnosed with a concussion, was replaced by backup Andre Holmes.

On Oakland’s final scoring drive of the game with Crabtree in the locker room, Holmes would become Cook’s favorite target hauling in three catches for 37 yards, one of those receptions resulted in a 8-yard touchdown that made the score 27-14.

Holmes finished the game as Oakland’s leading receiver with four catches (on 5 targets) for 50 yards and a touchdown.

Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 14-of-25 passes for 168 yards in his first start since being benched on Dec. 18 against the Jacksonville Jaguars where Osweiler was booed mercifully off the field by Texans fans.

The same fans that booed him that game, were the same fans that cheered Osweiler on this day.

Osweiler relied on a controlled passing game highlighted by a 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (5 catches, 67 yards, TD), and steady running by starting running back Lamar Miller (31 carries, 73 yards, TD).

Houston held the edge in time of possession, holding onto the ball for 33:29, while Oakland possessed the ball for only 26:31.

The Texans (10-7) will either travel to New England or Kansas City next week for the Divisional Round once the winner of Sunday’s other AFC Wild Card game when the Miami Dolphins travel to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1:05 p.m. ET (10:05 a.m. PT for us West Coasters).

For Oakland, the losses to key offensive personnel was too hard to overcome and now head into the offseason earlier than they hoped.


Raiders nipped by Browns, remain winless

Turnovers loom large in Oakland’s loss at Cleveland

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

CLEVELAND — Brian Hoyer completed 19-of-28 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown, as the Cleveland Browns forced three turnovers to upend the Oakland Raiders 23-13 Sunday afternoon in Week 8 action.

Andrew Hawkins caught a game-high seven passes for 88 yards, including a four-yard touchdown pass from Hoyer to push Cleveland’s lead, 16-6 at 14:51 mark in the fourth quarter.

Browns’ strong safety Donte Whitner leveled Raiders’ running back Darren McFadden late in the third quarter, forcing McFadden to fumble which was recovered by cornerback Joe Haden to give Cleveland the ball clinging to a 9-6 lead. Haden led Cleveland with eight tackles.

Running back Ben Tate finished with 15 carries for 26 yards and a touchdown for Cleveland (4-3), who bounced back after falling to the Jaguars 24-6, in Jacksonville in Week 7. Cleveland was horrendous on third down, converting 2-of-12 opportunities, while gaining 15 first downs.

Paul Kruger sacked Raiders quarterback Derek Carr three times, and recorded a forced fumble.

Oakland (0-7) have now lost their 13 straight game dating back to last season, but this loss is tough to swallow.

Whenever Carr wasn’t under pressure, he actually threw the ball well, completing 34-of-54 passes for 328 and a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Holmes in the fourth quarter to make the score 23-13.  Oakland controlled the time of possession, 34:52 to 25:08, but fumbled the ball four times, two by Carr.

The Raiders’ 32nd ranked running attack had its moments, but still couldn’t muster its first 100-yard runner of the season with the aforementioned McFadden finishing with 59 rushing yards on 12 carries. Oakland ran the ball early well in the game, but appeared to abandon the run as Cleveland’s defense started to clamp down as the game wore on.

With Cleveland leading 3-0 in the first quarter and Oakland’s opening drive stalled, the Raiders outsmarted themselves by faking a field goal that lead to place kick holder Matt Schaub throwing an interception to Browns safety Tashaun Gipson.

That was the sign of things to come for Oakland who remains 0-for-2014, and may have squandered one of their best chances to win a football game this season.

The Silver & Black continue their two-game road trip with a voyage to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Super Bowl Champion, Seattle Seahawks in Week 9.

Seattle gritted out a 13-9 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte Sunday to improve to 4-3 behind quarterback Russell Wilson’s 20-of-32 passing for 199 yards, one touchdown and one interception performance.

Coupled that with games divisional games against Denver, San Diego, and Kansas City, Oakland could be 0-11 by Thanksgiving.

Defensively, linebackers Sio Moore and Miles Burris each recorded nine tackles to lead Oakland.




Palmer, Cardinals visits Oakland for Sunday encounter

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND, Calif — As one of the two winless teams remaining in the NFL (Jacksonville is 0-6), the 0-5 Oakland Raiders will try to breakthrough into the win column again as they take on the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals at O.co Coliseum Sunday at 1:25 p.m. PDT.

The Silver and Black are coming off a hard-fought 31-28 loss to their AFC West rivals, the San Diego Chargers, at O.co Coliseum in Week 6 where the team played tough for all four quarters, but couldn’t give interim head coach Tony Sparano his first win after taking over for the fired Dennis Allen.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had his best game as a rookie, completing 16-of-25 passes for 282 yards, and four touchdowns, but it was his lone interception to Chargers rookie cornerback Jason  Verrett with 1:13 left to play that sealed Oakland’s 10th straight loss dating back to last season.

“He made a great play,” Carr said. “Brice [Butler] went up, he had it and the guy made a great play. Those things are going to happen. Yeah, it hurts. It hurts because that’s the way it ended.”

Defensively, Oakland got good games from linebacker Sio Moore, who led the team with seven tackles (three assisted), and strong safety Usama Young, who finished with six tackles.

“The goal is to win the game,”  linebacker Sio Moore said. “We didn’t do that. We didn’t execute in the last bit of plays when we needed to, how we needed to.

“It’s a very sick feeling because we let a team off the hook that’s not supposed to be let off the hook. They’re not what they’re acclaimed to be, whatever the situation is. I’m pretty pissed about it.”

Arizona (4-1), has gotten off to a hot start this season, sitting in first place in the ultra-competitive NFC West.

Former Raiders’ starting  quarterback Carson Palmer returns to the Black Hole to lead a Cardinals team that are coming off a 30-20 home victory against Washington in Week 6.

Palmer returned under center for Arizona last week after missing the previous five weeks with nerve issues in his throwing arm, and threw two touchdowns — one to Michael Floyd, the other to Larry Fitzgerald — to lead Arizona to victory.

“I’m not going to say I wasn’t nervous or wasn’t a little on edge,” Palmer said post game per the Associated Press, “just going into a game and really only have a quarter or maybe a half of a practice over the last five weeks.”

The Cardinals come in with some weapons that will pose some serious problems for the Raiders.

In addition to the emerging Floyd, and the Canton-bound Fitzgerald, Arizona has speedster in rookie wide receiver, John Brown. Brown leads the team with three touchdown catches.

Running back Andre Ellington has been a huge bright spot for the Cardinals this season. Ellington is a shifty runner who has a knack of ripping off big runs and with a Raiders team that is suspect against the run, Ellington is the wrong running back you want to face.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers leads a Cardinal defense that ranks 32nd against the pass, giving up 309 yards per game this season.

Powers is tied for the league lead in interceptions with three.

Players to Watch:

Oakland: WR, Andre Holmes. Carr appeared to have found a connection with Holmes. Carr found Holmes for a 77-yard touchdown on the Raiders’ third play of the game against San Diego. Holmes finished the game with four catches, for a game-high 121 yards, and could be emerging as the Raiders’ No. 1 wide receiver.

Arizona: WR, Larry Fitzgerald . Did it really take  five games for the Cardinals’ franchise leader in receptions (846), receiving yards (11,367), and touchdowns (87), to have a his best game of the year? The answer, yes. Fitzgerald finished with six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in the win against Washington, after not finding the endzone.

Coming into the game, Fitzgerald was averaging just three catches and 41 yards per game and no touchdowns.