Going into Saturday’s Wild Card Matchup with the Oakland Raiders, the Houston Texans knew they would need a good performance from their defense against rookie QB Connor Cook to advance to the divisional round. Against a quarterback making his first career NFL start, the team’s strength showed up in a big way, dominating the game from start to finish. The win ensures the team a spot in next weekend’s divisional round against either the New England Patriots, or the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Texans’ defensive dominance showed in the stat sheet after the game. Constantly harassing a rookie QB, and playing against a banged up offensive line, the Texans pass rush flourished. Whitney Mercilus, the team’s best pass rusher, piled up 2 sacks, and helped force Connor Cook out of the pocket on several occasions, disrupting his rhythm. Defensive lineman D.J. Reader also recorded a sack for the team, and the pressure couldn’t have come at a better time in a do-or-die playoff game.
The team also forced the Raiders’ rookie gunslinger into 3 interceptions. The first interception was a thing of beauty, as pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney perfectly diagnosed a screen play, and was in position to bat the pass. He was then able to reel in the interception, the first of his career. The turnover helped set up the Texans’ first touchdown of the game to give the team a 10-0 lead.
Cook would throw two more interceptions, both in the 4th quarter, which killed any chance of a Raiders’ comeback. His third interception came on 4th down and 10 with under a minute left, as breakout CB A.J. Bouye undercut the pass and quickly went to the turf to end the play, and the game.
To sum it up, the team dominated the young Raiders squad. They limited Connor Cook to 18-45 passing for 161yds. While he did throw a touchdown pass later in the game, Cook’s 3 interceptions killed the Raiders, and gave the Texans’ raucous home crowd plenty of reason to cheer. The defensive backfield dominated the Raiders’ receivers, recording 13 pass breakups on the day in addition to the 3 interceptions.
Looking ahead, the team now can watch tomorrow’s Miami-Pittsburgh matchup which will determine who the team will face next week. If Miami wins, Houston will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs in a rematch of last year’s Wild Card playoff game. If Pittsburgh wins at home, the team will travel to New England, where Head Coach Bill O’Brien will go head-to-head against his former employers. Both matchups present their own set of challenges, but if the Texans defense plays like they played today, the team could be in prime position for a playoff run.
Jared Wingate is a Dallas resident who is passionate about everything football! He is also a Broadcast Journalism major, and lead writer for the Houston Texans on Pro Football Spot. Subscribe and follow him on Twitter @wingate_jared.