Raiders' defense can't get a stop, lose golden AFC opportunity

HOUSTON -- For the Oakland Raiders to be considered playoff contenders, they need to fix their defense. Simply put, they could not get a stop against the Houston Texans when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. And as a result, a golden opportunity for the Silver and Black to win a key AFC game was lost.

With a win, the Raiders could have considered themselves legitimate playoff contenders, with tiebreakers over the Texans and the Indianapolis Colts, two teams they figure to be battling with for a wild-card spot.

Instead, Houston dominated the time of possession in the final quarter and the Raiders lost 27-24 to fall to 3-4 on the season after being flagged 11 times for 100 yards.

Describe the game in two words: Opportunity lost. The Raiders had the Texans right where they wanted them, leading by eight at 21-13 midway through the third quarter, and with an offense moving the ball at will, until the Texans' offense did whatever it wanted to the Oakland defense.

Promising trend: All Tyrell Williams does (when he plays, anyway) is score touchdowns. Because for the fifth time in the five games in which he has played, the receiver scored a TD. This one was a 46-yard crossing route on which he blew by former teammate Gareon Conley to catch the pass in stride from Derek Carr, who scrambled just long enough to allow the play to develop. Williams was playing for the first time since Week 4 as plantar fasciitis kept him sidelined from practice until this past week. He is the first player in franchise history to catch a TD pass in each of his first five games with the team.

Bold prediction for next week: The Raiders will do more than kick the tires on trading for reinforcements; they will actually make some deals. Because as admirably as Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow have played since Vontaze Burfict was suspended after Week 4, the Raiders have been dangerously thin at linebacker. And Oakland has also been dipping its toes into the running back pool to potentially give rookie sensation Josh Jacobs a breather. Williams' return might have cooled the Raiders' desire to add a receiver.

QB breakdown: Carr entered the game completing an NFL-best 74.1% of his passes ... then promptly threw incompletions on his first four attempts. No matter, Carr found his rhythm and had major success when he started hitting his receivers in stride, such as Hunter Renfrow on a slant for a 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown and Williams on that 46-yarder. Carr finished 18 of 30 for 285 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 125.0.

Silver lining: The Raiders went 2-3 on this monster road trip through Minnesota, Indianapolis, London (vs. Chicago), Green Bay and Houston. Now, the Raiders get three straight winnable games in Oakland, against the Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals. If the Raiders consider themselves contenders, rather than pretenders, the time is now to make a run.