OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Coach Gary Kubiak admits he has never been part of a game quite like the one his Houston Texans played when they came to Oakland a year ago.
Despite failing to complete a pass in the second half and finishing with minus-5 yards passing, the Texans somehow managed to beat the Raiders 23-14 in a game that reached new lows in ugliness.
“It’s as strange as I’ve ever been around,” Kubiak said. “It was not very pretty. We struggled to throw the football, and they rush the passer extremely well, so it didn’t make a lot of sense for us to hurt ourselves any more.”
It’s unlikely the Texans (3-5) could win again when the teams meet Sunday with such a putrid passing attack considering that only four other teams have won games with negative yards passing since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Houston became the first team in 25 years to win with such a stat as David Carr went 7-for-14 for 32 yards and was sacked five times for 37 yards. It was that kind of performance that led to the decision to cut ties with the team’s first draft pick ever and acquire Matt Schaub from Atlanta in the offseason.
With Schaub at the helm, the Texans won their first two games. But they have dropped five of six since and Schaub will miss Sunday’s game against Oakland (2-5) after suffering a concussion from a helmet-to-helmet hit last week against San Diego.
Sage Rosenfels will make his third career start in Schaub’s place. Rosenfels has thrown five interceptions and six touchdowns in a relief role the past three weeks, but will focus on protecting the ball in his first start for Houston.
“Obviously, if you start a football game or you play the entire game, you’re going to try to be smarter with the ball and take the throws that the defense gives you,” he said.
While a game like last year’s between the teams led to quarterback changes in Houston, it also helped contribute to a coaching change in Oakland.
The Raiders lost despite outgaining Houston 302-124 in total yards. They committed five turnovers, missed three field goals and allowed five sacks in a performance indicative of the offensive struggles under coach Art Shell.
The Raiders started 2-2 under new coach Lane Kiffin, matching last year’s win total, but have dropped three straight since the bye. That has raised questions about how much Oakland really has improved despite being competitive in almost every game.
“Right now our record isn’t where we want it to be, but every week you have a different challenge and that’s the whole thing about this game that we play,” defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. “It’s a great, humbling game that we play, but also in seven days you get another challenge, so here we go.”
Oakland is switching quarterbacks again, too, going back to Josh McCown. Daunte Culpepper won twice after McCown broke a toe on his left foot, but is returning to the backup role.
What doomed the Raiders in the loss to Houston last year was the same thing that has hindered them during their three-game losing streak. The team has been mistake-prone with seven turnovers and 27 penalties during the skid.
The Raiders also were unable to stop the run even when everyone knew the Texans were done trying to pass. Ron Dayne, who had 183 yards rushing in Houston’s first 11 games last year, ran for 83 of his 95 yards in the second half. Dayne carried the ball on 15 of Houston’s last 29 plays in that game and could get more chances this week with Ahman Green slowed by a bruised left knee.
“We knew that we had to do something,” Dayne said. “I got in at the end of the third quarter and they just kept giving me the ball.”
Once again, the teams head into this meeting with the Raiders struggling to stop the run and the Texans unable to gain yards on the ground. Oakland is allowing a league-worst 5.3 yards per carry, while Houston is second-to-last on offense, gaining 3.2 yards per carry.
Oakland is beat up on the defensive front, with end Tommy Kelly out for the season with a knee injury and tackle Gerard Warren expected to miss his fourth straight game with an injured quadriceps.
“I guess they can fix what ails them and we can try to fix what ails us,” Sapp said. “So, two people fighting against their weaknesses of their ballclub right now. I’m sure they’d like to get their running game going, and we’d like to shut their running game down and keep it where it is.”
As ugly as the meeting was last year, it also was a highlight for a couple of defensive players, including Kirk Morrison, who scored his first career touchdown for Oakland.
Houston linebacker DeMeco Ryans had 14 solo tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception in a performance that helped him win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
“We’re not looking at last year,” Ryans said. “We’re just focusing on ourselves and cleaning up our ball because we haven’t been getting the turnovers this year, and it’s definitely a glaring statistic.”
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE — Houston Texans (3-5) at Oakland Raiders (2-5), 3:15 p.m. Sunday (CBS) — McAfee Coliseum