Short Derek Carr, the Raiders are exactly who we thought they were.
But they didn’t get let off the hook.
The Raiders were decimated by the Houston Texans defense, who recorded three sacks, three interceptions and held Oakland’s third string quarterback Connor Cook to a putrid 30.0 quarterback rating on 18-for-45 with one touchdown and 161 yards.
Oakland dropped their first Wild Card appearance in 14 seasons 27-14, a cruel way to end the second longest active playoff drought in the NFL.
Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler was 14-for-25 with 168 passing yards and two total touchdowns.
The season’s anticlimax began with Cook opening the day with a trio of 3-and-outs, finalized by what looked like a Michael Crabtree catch — ruled incomplete and challenged by head coach Jack Del Rio with no success — before Oakland turned to the ground game.
What a difference that made for a short time.
The Raiders’ fourth drive began with a team record 37-yard punt return, taken by Jalen Richard from Oakland’s 25 yard line to Houston’s 38, and kicking off what became the most explosive possession of the day.
Running back Latavius Murray took a first down run outside of the left guard and through the heart of the Texans’ defense for 18 yards. Then Murray took it from the 20-yard-line to the 14.
Tight end Clive Walford caught a short pass in the right flat, for another gain, this time the Raiders moved forward seven yards. Two more runs from Murray made it a one score game, notching his first career playoff touchdown
The Raiders still trailed by three points, but the momentum shifted in favor of the Silver and Black, a big time factor early in the team’s first playoff game in over a decade.
Oakland stalled, though, and failed to score again during the first half. And the drive’s 30 rushing yards were nearly half of the 64 ground yards the Raiders tallied for the entire game. Houston rushed for 164 yards, in what was ultimately the most important disparity on Saturday afternoon.
But the 15 minutes before halftime were the most unpleasant for Oakland’s offense.
Stymied by some excellent plays made by cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph and A.J. Bouye, and some tackles around the line of scrimmage from tackle D.J. Reader and linebacker Whitney Mercilus, the Raiders failed to mount a drive netting better than 15 yards in four possessions during the second quarter.
Cook completed only four passes in the first half, and one of his 14 attempts was an interception caught by Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.
Things got worse when Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson left the game with an ankle injury, making it a third Pro Bowler absent, with left tackle Donald Penn and quarterback Derek Carr ruled out prior to kickoff.
This was a game where every unit needed to perform well if the Raiders were to make up the difference.
Alternately, Oakland did not, the defense gave up first down runs despite stacking the box, and the secondary allowed chunk yardage despite facing a quarterback who was benched for a guy drafted in 2014, but was set to make his first career start in 16.
Oakland opened the playbook some more midway through the third quarter, running a reverse sweep with receiver Amari Cooper, but that didn’t get things going.
They did get a first down on the legs of DeAndre Washington with two minutes left in the third frame, but on the very next play, Washington dropped a short pass with nothing but green turf in front of him.
Then an offensive pass interference penalty. And another flag, this time a pre-snap false start. Receiver Seth Roberts couldn’t corral a low third down pass, and the Raiders punted, again.
All hope was sucked from the Oakland sideline during the ensuing Houston possession, which was capped by Osweiler running into the end zone on a bootleg quarterback run to the right side.
The Raiders climbed back into a possible win, however improbably, with a six-point connection between Cook and receiver Andre Holmes, but a deep pass to Cooper sailed high and was picked by defensive back Corey Moore.
Oakland will begin their exit interviews with players and coaches in the coming week or two, and plan their execution for the offseason.
Only a week later than the prior 14 seasons.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.