Here is the problem for the Raiders and that idea about if opportunity doesn’t knock, one should build a door.
On Sunday, they would have either been flagged for not meeting proper specifications or simply dropped the darn thing on their collective heads.
This was one of those look-back games. When December arrives and playoff berths are secured, the Raiders could well rue every bit of a 27-24 loss to the Texans at NRG Stadium.
It’s over, finally, five consecutive games away from Oakland, concluding before an announced gathering of 71,893 in a manner the Raiders would just as soon forget.
The team that returns home to host three straight games and four of the next six — beginning with Detroit next Sunday — had every chance to end their long journey with a victory and grab a head-to-head edge for a possible playoff tiebreaker.
It was there for the taking.
“A really, really big game,” Raiders rookie defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. “Missed opportunity, for sure. This one hurts really, really bad.”
If you couldn’t tell, he and his teammates were really, really disappointed.
It was a combination of their own doing and again the skills of a great quarterback, because like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers before him this season, Deshaun Watson dominated the Raiders over a long enough stretch to secure a victory.
He would lead Houston to 17 second-half points and throw the game-winning touchdown after slipping out of a would-be sack, nearly falling to the ground and then being kicked in the eye, adding insult to injury for a Raiders defense that was on the field for more than 20 minutes in the second half.
That the Raiders had all sorts of issues getting a player of Watson’s caliber off the field has become more weekly occurrence than surprise. And if you combine such porous play with 11 penalties for 100 yards and key drops late, any chance at winning becomes even more remote than the likelihood of head coach Jon Gruden treating whoever makes the NFL schedule to a dinner.
It hasn’t been a major problem for the Raiders until now, all those yellow flags thrown in their direction. But sloppy showed up early and often Sunday, and Oakland suddenly ranks 11th in the league with an average of nearly 78 yards in penalties.
It wasn’t just that. They might have been limited in second-half chances, but the Raiders didn’t attack a Houston secondary riddled with injury enough all afternoon, a defense that lost All-Pro end J.J. Watt (torn pectoral) for the season in the first half.
And when they were aggressive, the Raiders ended up kicking themselves in the head and Watson in the eye.
Rooting for Houston
Take their final drive, trailing 27-24 with 6:26 remaining, trying to at least reach field-goal range to possibly tie things up and reach overtime.
Over the final four plays, Tyrell Williams would drop two deep passes from Derek Carr and guard Richie Incognito would be called for holding that took the Raiders out of kicker Daniel Carlson’s range.
Instead, they punted and never saw the ball again.
“I mean, we only had three (second-half possessions),” Carr said. “You know, this one hurt, One thousand percent. (But) no one is hanging their head. Everything is still in front of us.”
The Raiders face a remaining schedule of nine games against teams that, before Sunday, were a combined 18-35-1. So if you accept they can remain in contention for a playoff spot, losing to a side in Houston that also appears to be of a wild-card variety could cost big-time down the stretch.
It means the Raiders are now fans of the Texans to win the AFC South, given Gruden’s team beat Indianapolis, which leads that division.
This is all undoubtedly several steps ahead for a team that can’t consistently get stops and on Sunday lost the heart and soul of its offensive line when center Rodney Hudson left with an injured ankle.
There is also this truth: Great teams can afford to miss such an opportunity.
The Raiders aren’t great, and this has all the makings of a look-back game.
“Later in the season, there is going to be a game just like this,” rookie wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said. “Maybe it’s Week 12, 13, 14 … we’re going to have a chance to go take advantage of the opportunity.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
But on Sunday, they lost a really, really big one.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.