Into the Black Hole

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November 30, 2006
Into the Black Hole
by Bob Hulsey

The last time the Texans were in the Bay Area, jokes ran aplenty that neither side was trying to win. This time, no jokes but figuring out how to win is still an elusive subject.

As the Texans make their first trip inside the McAfee Coliseum, both Houston and the Oakland Raiders are looking for answers during a season spinning out of control.

This week, the Raiders (2-9) switched to a new offensive coordinator, John Shoop, who takes over for the reassigned Tom Walsh. The Raiders have Aaron Brooks at the helm again after several weeks of trying Andrew Walter, and Justin Fargas now takes over halfback duties from the injured Lamont Jordan. Regardless, Art Shell is still in control as head coach while Al Davis keeps a steely eye from above in the owner’s crypt.

The Texans (3-8), have started three different halfbacks this year and, in last week’s loss to the Jets, decided to abandon the run altogether. Rookie Wali Lundy is likely to start again, but head coach Gary Kubiak is really just praying that anyone besides David Carr can step up to lead the team in rushing this week.

Kubiak better tell David to slide because backup signal caller Sage Rosenfels is lost for the season and newly-acquired Bradlee Van Pelt is all Carr has behind him on the depth chart. That will be Van Pelt you’ll see on the sidelines holding a game program while he figures out who his teammates are.

The Texans have the upperhand in this series, 2-0, with a regular season win in 2004 and a preseason win in 2005. Both came at Reliant Stadium. Heading west though has not been easy on the franchise, as the Texans have never recorded a win in either the Mountain or Pacific time zones.

What to Expect When the Texans have the ball…
Kubiak has been matching up with the Raiders twice a year for two decades. Due to injuries on the front line, expect the Texans to first try to get the running game working while mixing in short passes to Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds. Rollouts and bootlegs will soon follow if the handoffs are successful. If they aren’t, look for Houston to try to test corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington with intermediate routes.

While a trick play or two may be in order, don’t expect Kubiak to take many chances that could endanger Carr and knock him out of the game. Holding off defensive lineman like Warren Sapp and Derrick Burgess will be critical to the Texans’ success, which means the Texans will need to get a big effort from their patchwork line.

When the Raiders have the ball…
Be prepared for anything. A new coordinator means they could try new things, but the keys to their offense will be Fargas and wide receiver Randy Moss. When motivated, Moss is one of the best receivers in pro football. When he’s not motivated, the Raiders have few weapons to fall back on. Any Al Davis team will be expected to challenge the secondary deep a few times so corners Demarcus Faggins and Dunta Robinson should be alert to it.

Brooks has been a wild card throughout his career, sometimes brilliant and sometimes brutal. Texan fans will be hoping for brutal this week. Oakland has been shut out twice this year, and they have failed to score a touchdown in two other games.

Match-Ups to Watch

DE Mario Williams vs. OT Robert Gallery
Gallery was the number two overall pick, yet he has been almost a bust in silver and black. Williams has the size to bull rush him and the speed to get around him. Getting Brooks rattled in the pocket will make life easier for the struggling Houston defense. Williams will be a key to putting pressure on the pocket. Look for the Texans to blitz.

OTs Ephraim Salaam and Eric Winston vs. DEs Tyler Brayton and Derrick Burgess
Likewise, Houston’s shaky offensive wall must protect Carr and open up running lanes for the Texans offense to work. They need to produce better than they did against the Jets for Houston to move the chains.

Texan Confidence vs. The "Black Hole"
Yeah, those goons are scary dressed up in their Halloween finest but most are just your typical insurance salesmen, accountants, funeral home directors and registered sex offenders the rest of the week. Don’t be intimidated. The Texans need to keep their confidence and composure to pull out a win. As far as we know, Fred, none are carrying tasers.

Three Keys to Victory 1. Score early
Getting the Raiders down and keeping their crowd quiet will be an important key to success. Neither team has been very good coming from behind this year. The Raiders have actually appeared to quit a few times when they were behind and some would say the Texans have too. Taking the upper hand will be critical for momentum.

2. Protect the ball
With a sputtering Oakland offense, their defense has had to carry part of the scoring load. They do so by pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers. David Carr will need to make good decisions and the Texan skill players will need to hold onto the pigskin.

3. Prevent the big play
Fargas, Brooks, and Moss can all gain huge chunks of yards if allowed to. They aren’t skilled at long time-consuming drives so the Texans will need to be sure tacklers and keep Moss and company from getting behind the secondary. The Raiders will need some big plays to put points on the board.

Views on the Game   Bob says: Kubiak knows what he’s doing in the Black Hole. Can he get his team to buy in? Texans 14, Raiders 13   Dave says: The Texans have a winning record vs seven teams…and Oakland’s one of ’em. Texans 17 Raiders 14   Jimmy says: prediction forthcoming.   Keith says: If Raider fans really wanted to look scary, they’d dress like Al Davis.
Texans 20, Raiders 13   Ric says: Welcome to really, really ugly… Raiders 17, Texans 13   Warren says: A team in disarray — just what the doctor ordered. Texans 19, Raiders 17 2006 Regular Season Records
Bob 6-5; Dave 5-5; Jimmy 5-6;
Keith 5-6; Ric 5-6; Warren 5-6
Game 12 Preview Oakland Raiders
2006 Record: (2-9)
12.03.06 | 3:05pm
Oakland, CA Texans Leaders David Carr
237/339, 2,219 yds, 10/7 Wali Lundy
106/415, 3.9 YPC, 3 TD Andre Johnson
84/982, 11.7 YPC, 5 TD Raiders Leaders Andrew Walter
106/219, 1,320 yds, 3/9 LaMont Jordan
114/434, 3.8 YPC, 2 TD

Randy Moss
36/481, 13.4 YPC, 3 TD

2006 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.12 Kansas City 24-14 08.19 at St. Louis 27-20 08.27 at Denver 14-17 08.31 Tampa Bay 16-13 Regular Season 09.10 Philadelphia 10-24 09.17 at Indianapolis 24-43 09.24 Washington 15-31 10.01 Miami 17-15 10.08 Bye   10.15 at Dallas 6-34 10.22 Jacksonville 27-7 10.29 at Tennessee 22-28 11.05 at NY Giants 10-14 11.12 at Jacksonville 13-10 11.19 Buffalo 21-24 11.26 at NY Jets 11-26 12.03 at Oakland 23-14 12.10 Tennessee 20-26 12.17 at New England 7-40 12.24 Indianapolis 27-24 12.31 Cleveland 14-6   Overall Record 6-10