In Mexico City on Monday night, the Raiders had a chance to gain separation from the rest of the AFC West. The Texans had a chance to take a two-game lead in the AFC South. The Raiders capitalized on the chance, handing the Texans a 27-20 loss and moving to 8-2 on the season while the Texans dropped to 6-4.
Without some help from the officials, though, the Raiders' win probably wouldn't have materialized.
The officiating woes begin in the first quarter. On the opening drive, Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 24-yard gain to the Raiders' 36-yard line. It should've been a touchdown.
As Hopkins sprinted down the sideline into open space -- there was nobody to stop him short of the end zone -- an official blew his whistle to stop the play, signaling that Hopkins had stepped out of bounds.
He probably didn't step out:
This is where they ruled Hopkins out at the 36. Hard to review plays blown dead but he likely would have scored. pic.twitter.com/wkqXNE9isr— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) November 22, 2016
"We got all these cameras and we can't get that right," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. He had a point.
A review couldn't fix the mistake, because the play wasn't reviewable. And that's the main takeaway from the first blunder: The officials should have let the play unfold so that an automatic review after a scoring play would determined whether Hopkins stepped out. As a result of the error, the Texans' opening drive resulted in three points, not seven.
And then there's what happened in the fourth quarter. With the score knotted at 20-20, the Texans drove down the field. On third-and-2 from the Raiders' 16-yard line, the Texans handed the ball to Lamar Miller, who was pushed out at the first-down marker. To everyone with a pair of eyeballs, Miller certainly appeared to pick up the necessary yardage to move the sticks. But after a measurement, the officials deemed Miller a few inches short.
O'Brien didn't challenge the spot. He also didn't send out his kicking team. He decided to go for it.
He appeared to get that first down with a handoff to Akeem Hunt up the gut. Again, the officials brought out the chains to measure the spot.
He was short.
This time, O'Brien challenged the spot, but the play was upheld.
How did the replay not change it? pic.twitter.com/gXWf3SNc02— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) November 22, 2016
The Raiders scored five plays later. It ended up being the winning touchdown.
Here are eight more takeaways from Monday's wild game in Mexico City:
1. Jack Del Rio outcoaches Bill O'Brien
Outside of the officiating, the game came down to two fourth-down decisions. Jack Del Rio's decision sealed the Raiders' win, while Bill O'Brien's gave Del Rio the chance to make that game-clinching call.
After the Raiders took a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Texans' ensuing drive stalled at their own 44-yard line when Brock Osweiler's pass to Keith Mumphery fell 5 yards short of the first down marker. Facing a fourth-and-5 with just over three minutes remaining and with only one timeout in his back pocket, O'Brien's choice seemed obvious: He needed to keep his offense on the field because if he punted away possession, his offense probably wouldn't get another crack at the end zone.
Perhaps he was emotionally scarred from that earlier failed fourth down -- when he was robbed of a first down -- because he made the wrong choice: He punted. And the Texans never got the ball back.
They didn't get the ball back because Del Rio decided to go for a fourth-and-1 in Houston territory with a minute remaining. Instead of pinning the Texans back near their own end zone and forcing Osweiler to journey his team 90-plus yards downfield without any timeouts for a tying touchdown, Del Rio asked his offense to pick up a few feet and end the game.
That's what they did. Latavius Murray ran for 6 yards and the game was over.
2. Raiders' offense comes alive late
Up until the 10:44 mark of the fourth quarter, the Texans' defense was the story of the game for turning the Raiders' offense into a unit that resembled, well, the Osweiler-helmed Texans offense. As a result, the Raiders trailed by a touchdown with just under 11 minutes remaining.
The Texans forgot to cover Olawale, who caught Carr's pass at midfield. Olawale beat Texans safety Andre Hal and jogged the remaining 50 yards to the end zone.
After Houston's controversial failed fourth down, the Raiders traveled down to the Texans' 35-yard line with roughly five minutes remaining. That's when Carr fired a quick pass to Amari Cooper, who gave the Raiders the lead with one heck of a run after the catch.
Most of the credit will be given to Carr, but that shouldn't be the case.
Despite receiving stellar protection all night, Carr struggled to connect with his receivers. Even on those two touchdowns, Carr found two wide-open targets and allowed his playmakers (am I allowed to call a fullback a playmaker?) to run after the catch. That's not a criticism of Carr, it's more of an indictment of the Texans' defense, which collapsed in the fourth quarter after playing sound football for three quarters.
The Raiders' ineffectiveness on offense up until the fourth quarter isn't entirely on Carr, either. His receivers and lack of a running game played big roles, too.
Twice, the Raiders kicked a field goal near the goal line instead of punching the ball into the end zone. One of the kicks came from the 1-yard line. The other occurred at the 2.
A running game would have helped in those goal-line situations, but the Texans completely shut down the Raiders' ground game. In all, the Raiders' running backs -- Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard -- combined for 35 yards on 16 carries.
Carr's receivers -- especially Michael Crabtree -- repeatedly dropped passes. One came on third down.
Later, with the 3:39 left in the third quarter, Carr threw an absolute dime deep down the field into the back of the end zone. Crabtree came down with two feet in bounds, but lost control as he hit the ground. It would've been a spectacular catch. It ended up being a wasted opportunity.
He also slipped on a fourth-down play, which allowed the Texans' defensive back to break up the pass.
Carr also deserves some of the blame. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Carr threw his fourth interception of the season. Calling it ugly would not do it justice. Carr came under immediate pressure and, instead of tossing the ball away, he threw up a free interception to A.J. Bouye. The Texans turned that pick into a touchdown.
The Raiders' offense entered the game as one of the top-scoring units in the league. For three quarters, they didn't look like that. Still, they did enough to get the win by scoring two huge touchdowns late in the game. That matters, too.
3. Brock Osweiler wasn't awful or good
The Raiders' defense entered the game ranked 28th in DVOA. They're not good.
Osweiler, an awful quarterback, didn't look terrible against the Raiders in the first half, going 11 of 18 for 108 yards, a touchdown and a pick.
His stat line should've been worse, though. In the first half, he threw the ball directly into the stomach of a defender and was lucky to survive with a mere incompletion. Right before he threw a first-half touchdown to Braxton Miller, Osweiler nearly doomed the Texans' goal-line series by catching his own deflected pass deep in the backfield.
What was he thinking?
He made up for that blunder with a touchdown by finding Miller in the end zone, tying the game at 10-10.
In all, Osweiler went 26-of-39 for 243 yards, one touchdown, one pick and an 81.5 passer rating. He had numerous dropped interceptions, including one on the Texans' final offensive series -- just before O'Brien's botched fourth-down decision.
So, no, he's still not any good, even against bad defenses.
4. Jadeveon Clowney is phenomenal
Jadeveon Clowney isn't getting sacks, but that doesn't mean he isn't the Texans' best defensive player. Clowney had a dominant showing against the Raiders, recording five solo tackles and two tackles for a loss.
Take a look at his run defense:
Jadeveon Clowney was a beast against the run. He was in for just 19 run plays and had 5 run stops. Huge reason Raiders lacked a run game— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) November 22, 2016
He played a huge role in making the Raiders' ground game ineffective. Clowney ended up as Pro Football Focus' top graded Texans player.
5. Mexico City loves the Raiders
Raider Nation showed up to their home game, even though it was being played in Mexico City.
6. Lasers and airplanes make an appearance
Late in the second quarter, a green laser was spotted on Osweiler.
Lasers in the face pic.twitter.com/TTXI20qYEF— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) November 22, 2016
I thought it was my TV glitching, but it actually turned out to be a laser. Weird.
This was also weird:
Don't know if it's tradition or what but fans in upper deck are throwing paper airplanes, none has made it to field, however #NFLMexico— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) November 22, 2016
7. Sebastian Janikowski makes history
Speaking of weird, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski tied a weird record.
.@Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski is the 7th NFL player to score in 3 different countries (United States, England, Mexico)— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 22, 2016
8. What's next?
The Raiders return home to host the Panthers, who are coming off a three-point win over the Saints. At 4-6, the Panthers are in desperation mode, trying to salvage their season after a 1-5 start. They're heating up, though, notching wins in three of their past four games. Furthermore, the Raiders have struggled to win in Oakland, going 2-2 at the Coliseum. This could be a trap game for Raiders, who are actually the top seed in the AFC.
Meanwhile, the Texans host the Chargers. That might be a tough matchup for the offensively inept Texans, seeing as the Chargers put up 29.2 points per game. The Texans still lead the AFC South, but their lead is down to a single game over the Colts.