MEXICO CITY (AP) — The party in the stands started early in the second NFL regular season game ever played in Mexico with loud cheers and chants from before kickoff until the final whistle. The Oakland offense took a little longer to get going, but once they did Derek Carr and the Raiders came out with yet another win.
Carr woke up a struggling offense by throwing two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter as the Raiders capped a successful trip to Mexico with a 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans on Monday night.
“We got punched in the mouth,” Carr said. “We weren’t doing things the way we usually want to do things executing wise. But there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that we’d come back and win the football game.”
Oakland had been held to 120 yards through three quarters with the running game going nowhere and Carr finding few open receivers downfield. But that suddenly changed in the fourth quarter to give the Raiders (8-2) their fourth straight win for the first time since 2002 .
With star receiver Amari Cooper lined up in the backfield, Carr found fullback Jamize Olawale open for a 75-yard catch and run that tied Houston (6-4) at 20.
“We felt like that was the momentum shifter,” Cooper said.
Then Oakland took advantage on two questionable spots by the officials to take over on downs at the 15 and drove 85 yards in five plays to take the lead on a 35-yard pass to Cooper to send the Texans to their fourth loss in five games outside of Houston.
“Very tough loss,” defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney said. “We should have won the game, we are trying to win every game. You don’t leave the game in the ref’s hands.”
That set off loud celebrations from the pro-Raiders crowd of 76,743 in the second regular season game ever played in Mexico. What was originally scheduled as an Oakland home game featured Raiders music during stoppages, Tommie Smith lighting the Al Davis torch in a memorable return to Mexico City nearly a half-century after his Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics and frequent “RAI-DERS!” chants.
While the atmosphere was electric, the field was a bit slippery leading to some falls and the high elevation 7,380 feet above sea level played a factor. The Raiders needed to use a timeout on defense at one point in the fourth to catch their breath and receiver Michael Crabtree was seen gasping for breath at one point.
“To be able to play here was amazing,” Carr said. “There’s so much history, so much rowdiness. I love soccer and it gave me a kind of soccer feel.”
CLOSE SPOTS: The Texans were upset on two spots on the fourth-quarter drive before Oakland went ahead. On third-and-2, Lamar Miller was stopped just short of the first down even though Houston believed he got it. Coach Bill O’Brien went for it on fourth down but Akeem Hunt was stopped about an inch short on fourth down and the play stood after a replay challenge.
LASER SHOW: Houston QB Brock Osweiler had to deal with an unusual distraction during the game as a fan with a green laser frequently shined it on the Houston quarterback as he dropped back to pass in an act more familiar in soccer games played here than in NFL games. That wasn’t the only soccer tradition imported for this game. Fans also used a homophobic chant on kickoffs. Mexico’s soccer federation has been punished by FIFA in the past for the chant during World Cup qualifiers. Fans threw paper airplanes on the field in the third quarter with Oakland’s Sean Smith taking a turn throwing one that reached the field during a break.
STREAK BROKEN: Carr had thrown 170 straight passes without an interception before getting picked by A.J. Bouye on a deep ball on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. It was Carr’s fourth interception of the season and the first since Kansas City’s Marcus Peters got one Oct. 16.
INTERNATIONAL SCORER: With his extra point in the second quarter, Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski scored a point in his third country, having previously done it in the United States and United Kingdom. Joe Nedney is the only other player to score in Mexico, the U.S. and the U.K. Five other players have scored in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.: running back Steven Jackson and kickers Robbie Gould, Matt Bryant, Dan Carpenter and Jay Feely.