Raiders knock off Houston
OAKLAND, Calif. ” In a season with very little to celebrate, Johnnie Lee Higgins gave Oakland Raiders fans plenty to cheer about in the home finale.
Higgins caught a 29-yard touchdown pass and then returned a punt 80 yards for another score in the third quarter, leading the Raiders to a 27-16 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
It’s the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl season the Raiders won their final home game. The rest of the year has been much of the same losing for Oakland (4-11), which became the first team in NFL history to drop at least 11 games for six straight seasons.
The Texans (7-8) had won four straight for the first time in team history and were hoping for their first winning season. But Houston could generate little against the lowly Raiders.
But by beating the Texans for the first time in four tries, the Raiders are assured of not tying Tampa Bay for the most losses in any six-year period. Oakland is 23-72 since the beginning of the 2003 season.
This was one of the Raiders’ best performances of the year. They scored touchdowns on the opening possessions of each half for the first time in more than seven years, got two touchdown passes from JaMarcus Russell, recovered an onside kick and scored on Higgins’ punt return.
Russell finished 18-for-25 for 236 yards and no interceptions in one of the best performances of his young career. He capped the opening drive with a 20-yard pass to Chaz Schilens, just the second TD on an opening drive for Oakland in the past 56 games.
Russell then connected with Higgins on a 29-yard score on Oakland’s first drive of the third quarter to make it 20-13, the first time they had opened each half with TDs since Oct. 7, 2001, against Dallas.
Higgins celebrated that touchdown with one of his end-zone dances and got a chance to do another after Oakland stopped Houston on the succeeding drive. Higgins fielded a punt at the 20 and ran right through the Texans for his third punt return TD this season, one shy of the NFL record.
The Texans got a field goal from Kris Brown early in the fourth quarter and had a chance to get even closer following a fumble by Russell at the 14. But with Houston needing 1 yard for a first down, Matt Schaub threw incompletions on third and fourth down to end the comeback bid.
Steve Slaton ran for 66 yards to give him 1,190 for the season, breaking Domanick Williams’ team record of 1,188 set in 2004.
Schaub was 19-for-36 for 255 yards and an interception, but connected only twice with NFL leading receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson came into the game with 103 receptions, but didn’t catch his first pass until early in the fourth quarter. He finished with two catches for 19 yards.
Houston answered Oakland’s opening-drive score with its only touchdown, a 1-yard run by Vonta Leach. Brown added two more field goals in the first half, sending the game to the break tied at 13.