by Tom LaMarre
When the Oakland Raiders were trounced by the Kansas City Chiefs early this season and set out to play their next five games in six weeks away from the Oakland Coliseum, nobody gave them much of a chance to come home with a .500 record.
And they won’t, although they came close.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson threw two of his three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and the Houston Texans rallied to defeat the Raiders, 27-24, on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The Raiders (3-4) never trailed until Watson escaped what appeared to be a certain sack by Arden Key and Maxx Crosby to throw the game-winning nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darren Fells with 6:34 left in the game.
Watson, who completed 27 of 39 passes for 279 yards and ran for 46 yards in 10 carries, led the Texans 75 yards in nine plays for the deciding touchdown, the eighth game-winning score of his career in the fourth quarter and the second in a row.
“(Watson) is spectacular,” Raiders Coach Jon Gruden raved. “He wills it out of his team. He makes something out of nothing. … It’s like going against Michael Jordan. You’ve got to tip your hat to the guy. “We had him three times, and then he makes an unbelievable throw and the kid makes a great catch.
“If you’ve watched Watson play, we’re not the first team he’s gotten.
Derek Carr, who completed 18 of 30 passes for 285 yards and three touchdown passes of his own, tried to take the Raiders on his 18th career game-winning drive, but wide receiver Tyrell Williams couldn’t hold on to two big passes.
“I know there’s two there that he wants back,” Carr said of Williams, who was playing after missing two games because of a foot injury. “There’s probably two or three I could have thrown a better ball or we could have back.”
Carr wanted Gruden to throw the challenge flag for what the Raiders thought was pass interference on cornerback Gareon Conley, traded by Oakland to Houston last week, but instead the Raiders punted with 4:30 left and never got the ball back.
“We should have won that game … 1000 percent,” said Carr, who played high school football in Houston and watched his brother, David, play quarterback for the Texans. “It hurts my heart so much. … We only had three possessions second half ... and got points on two of them. The third one, I felt like we should still be on the field.”
“It hurts, first time coming back to Houston. Had a lot of friends here. Wanted to play good in front of them and beat their team. ... Everything is still in front of us. We don’t have a lot of control over a lot of things, but we can control how we prepare and try to win these games.”
The Raiders took a 7-0 lead when Carr hit rookie wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who broke two arm tackles on the short pass and went 65 yards for his first professional touchdown with 3:31 left in the first quarter.
Carr added an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darren Waller in the second quarter and a 46-yarder to Williams to give the Raiders a 21-13 lead with 8:02 left in the third quarter.
But Watson took over after that.
Rookie running back Josh Jacobs had another strong game for the Raiders with 66 yards in 15 carries, although his playing time was limited by a shoulder injury, and it didn’t help that Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson left early in the game because of an ankle injury.
The Raiders also hurt themselves for the second straight week with penalties, this time 11 for 100 yards.
“It’s hard to win when you have 100 yards in penalties and give up 30 first downs,” Gruden said.
So they will return to the Oakland Coliseum next Sunday at under .500 to play the Detroit Lions in the first of three straight games at home and five of the next seven.
The Silver and Black wasn’t all that bad on that long and winding road, but it could have been better.