Brock Osweiler returns to lead Houston Texans to 27-14 wild card win over Oakland Raiders
Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins contribute touchdowns to set up meeting with either the Kansas City Chiefs or New England Patriots in the divisional round next weekend
Brock Osweiler finally looked like the player Houston spent US$72 million on after throwing for a touchdown and running for another to lead the Texans to a 27-14 wild card play-off win over the Oakland Raiders on Saturday.
Osweiler, who was benched last month, got his job back this week with Tom Savage out with a concussion, and played his best game of the season to give the Texans their first play-off victory since the 2012 season.
Houston and their top-ranked defence, led by Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, bounced back after an embarrassing 30-0 wild card loss to Kansas City last season to advance to face either the Chiefs or the New England Patriots in the divisional round next weekend.
“We’ve been doing it all season as a defence,” Clowney said. “We’ll just continue to play as a unit.”
Watch: Oakland Raiders v Houston Texans highlights
The Raiders’ first trip to the play-offs since the 2002 season, when they went to the Super Bowl, ended with a thud behind the struggles of third-string rookie Connor Cook as he threw for 161 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
“It was his first start, on the road, in a play-off game, against the number one ranked defence. It was a tough draw for him,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “We had hopes that we would be able to do enough around him so he wouldn’t have to do as much.”
He became the first quarterback in NFL history to make his first start in a play-off game after MVP contender Derek Carr broke his leg two weeks ago, and Matt McGloin injured his shoulder last week.
His performance wasn’t helped by star left tackle Donald Penn missing the game with a knee injury, which ended a streak of 160 straight starts.
“We missed Donald, he had a great year for us, ” Del Rio said. “Losing a Pro Bowl tackle was a blow.”
Houston (10-7) led by 13 at half-time and made it 27-7 on a one-yard run by Osweiler early in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders (12-5) cut the lead when Andre Holmes grabbed an eight-yard touchdown reception on their next possession.
Oakland got a stop after that, but Corey Moore intercepted Cook on the next possession.
“I’ve got all the faith in Connor or Matt – any backups we’ve got,” said Oakland cornerback David Amerson. “But they know, at full strength, ain’t nobody in the league touching us, man. We’re going to take this loss on the chin, and we’re going to come back, for sure.”
DeAndre Hopkins had a touchdown reception for the Texans and Lamar Miller gave Houston a 10-0 lead in the first quarter on a touchdown run one play after Clowney’s first career interception.
“Get to the quarterback,” Clowney said of his team’s mission on Saturday. “I know he’s going to hold it, don’t know where to go with it. That’s what we’re hoping, trying to make plays on it.”
It was the first career play-off game for Osweiler, who was benched for Peyton Manning before the postseason last season with Denver, and coach Bill O’Brien said he’ll start again next week after finishing with 168 yards passing.
Houston took a 3-0 lead with a 50-yard field goal by Nick Novak with about eight minutes left in the first quarter.
Clowney batted a pass by Cook with one hand, then tipped it with his other one before pulling it down for the interception later in the quarter.
The top overall pick in the 2014 draft probably would have scored on the play, but in the time it took him to grab the ball, Raiders running back Latavius Murray had latched on to one of his ankles and was pulling him down.
Miller scampered untouched on the next play for a four-yard touchdown to make it 10-7.
The Raiders got a two-yard touchdown run by Murray late in the first quarter before Houston added a field goal in the second quarter and made it 20-7 on a two-yard reception by Hopkins.
That score was set up when Osweiler delivered a 38-yard pass to Hopkins just before the receiver stepped out of bounds two plays earlier.