Michael Huff's last-play interception was the final nail in an another disappointing effort from the Texans. (ZUMAPRESS.com)
Every week, we’ll take a look at a player or team whose bad performance did the most to raise the stress level of their coach.
A mad scramble of a final drive had the Houston Texans on Oakland's 5, down 25-20, with seven seconds left.
Matt Schaub took the shotgun snap, stepped up away from pressure and had enough time to fire the ball out of the end zone to get his team one final play. Instead, the Houston QB shuffled to his left and flipped one dangerously back across his body. Waiting to pick it off was Oakland's Michael Huff, who stepped in front of Jacoby Jones for the game-clinching turnover.
Was this Houston loss entirely on Schaub's shoulders? Absolutely not.
If anything, the Texans' quarterback deserves a pat on the back for throwing for 400 yards, despite Andre Johnson's absence and an Oakland pass rush that punished him all day.
But Schaub also misfired on 27 -- twenty-seven -- passes, finishing 24 of 51 through the air. He had a ball tipped at the line and intercepted to set up an Oakland field goal in the first quarter, when Houston led 7-3. And he made the ultimate mistake at the end of the game, killing the Texans' last-gasp effort.
Schaub would have had a hard time running it in with safety Tyvon Branch closing on him, but, to some extent, he put himself in no man's land
This is set up to be, finally, the year Houston wins the AFC South and gets to the playoffs. Since the franchise's inception in 2002, the postseason has been an unattainable goal, with just one regular season (2009) resulting in a record above .500.
Peyton Manning's on the sideline, though, and Jacksonville's already playing for its future with rookie Blaine Gabbert at QB, leaving Houston and a flawed Tennessee team to duke it out for the division title.
The Texans are not going to have a better chance than they have this season. That reality makes Sunday's loss even tougher to swallow.
It's hard to pinpoint Schaub's place among the NFL quarterback ranks. Numbers-wise, he's near the top. Schaub has finished in the top 10 in passing yards each of the past three seasons, and he's approaching 100 career touchdown passes.
And yet, the jump to elite status has eluded him, mainly because his team has also failed to take that leap.
A win Sunday would have moved both Schaub and the Texans one step closer, and they had every opportunity to get it done. Houston's defense, even after star linebacker Mario Williams left with what's a potentially season-ending pectoral injury, limited the Raiders -- for the first quarter-and-a-half, the Raiders managed just two field goals and struggled to move the ball.
So, the Texans' offense could have put this one away. Instead, Houston settled for 14 points at the half, then mustered only six after the break.
The receiving corps failed to mask Johnson's absence -- no big surprise, given that Johnson is a top-five NFL wide receiver. Seventeen of Schaub's 24 completions went to running back Arian Foster and tight ends Joel Dreesen and Owen Daniels.
Still, there was Houston, in position to win the game late. The Texans needed one big play from their QB to establish themselves as the team to beat in the AFC South.