Running Back Latavius Murray
The Oakland Raiders Week 11 "home" game was far from that.
While the Silver and Black did enjoy the benefits of a decidedly pro-Raiders crowd during their Monday Night Football matchup against the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca, the fact remained that the game was played in Mexico City, and as such, there were a lot of extra logistical steps that had to be taken prior to the game.
However, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's team overcame the challenges of playing a game internationally, and beat the Houston Texans 27-20 to improve their record to an impressive 8-2.
Heading into the primetime clash against the Texans we posed five questions that we were hoping to have answered Monday night, so with the game now squarely in the rearview mirror, let's see if those questions were indeed answered.
1. How do the Raiders deal with all the outside fanfare surrounding the game?
Looking back on the game, you'd have to say that Head Coach Del Rio's group handled the, shall we say, unique, circumstances of playing a game outside the United States pretty well.
Yes, there were certain quirks of playing in a soccer-specific stadium – the long walk from the locker room to the field being a big one – but all in all, once the teams hit the field, it seemed to be business as usual for both squads.
Like we said earlier, the majority of the fans in attendance seemed to be cheering for the Silver and Black Monday night, and quarterback Derek Carr was definitely impressed with the passion for American football that the Mexican people showed at Estadio Azteca.
"The Mexican fans were amazing," said Carr. "That's what I said. I think, that's who I was talking about, they were amazing. I think that, I don't know if there was much football played down here, but they understand the game, they get it, they love it, they're passionate about it, and I love it."
The environment in Mexico City was awesome Monday night, but the Raiders were able to stay on task, get their job done, and fly back to the United States with a hard-earned win.
2. Will Sean Smith make his return to game action?
Yes, he will.
After missing the team's Week 9 win over the Denver Broncos recovering from a shoulder injury, the veteran cornerback was back in action Monday night, returning to his usual spot in the Raiders base defense.
In total, Smith played 72 defensive snaps in the win over the Texans, finishing his return to the gridiron with two total tackles.
"One thing about this organization, we're all focused, and we're all committed to the same thing," Smith said postgame. "We all have the same goal, and that's to go out there and win by any means necessary. I couldn't be more happy and proud of my guys right now, because that was a tough game for us, but that shows what type of team we've got right now."
While Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler did finish the game with 243 passing yards, and one touchdown, Smith and the Raiders defense put together stops when they absolutely had to have them, and that's a big reason why the Silver and Black are now 8-2.
3. Can the running backs take advantage of their opportunities?
Give the Texans defense credit; they came into the Monday night matchup against the Raiders looking to stop the Silver and Black's ground attack, and they did just that, limiting the Raiders to just 30 rushing yards.
So what was the reason the Raiders running game struggled to get rolling? Well, Head Coach Del Rio has an idea of one, key factor.
"[Jadeveon] Clowney caused that," Del Rio said Tuesday. "He's a big boy. [Vince] Wilfork, those guys. They did some good things up front. [Texans defensive coordinator] Romeo [Crennel] is a good defensive coordinator. They have some little adjustments. Part of that was having good people. They won up front on a couple of occasions. That doesn't happen very often to our guys."
While the Raiders running backs might have struggled to impact the game on the ground, they routinely proved to be matchup problems for the Texans linebackers, as both Jalen Richard and Jamize Olawale found themselves on the receiving end of Derek Carr touchdown passes.
The statistical output from the running game did appear to be a bit of an anomaly considering how well the unit had been playing as of late, but at the end of the day, it was just one game, and a game that the Raiders found a way to win.
That being said, the Raiders are at their best when they're balanced in their offensive attack, so over the final six games of the regular season, look for Latavius Murray and Co. to get back to their dominant ways.
4. Does Stacy McGee get back on the gridiron?
Heading into Monday night's matchup at Estadio Azteca, McGee had been forced to miss the previous three games dealing with an injury, but after a good week of practice, No. 92 returned to the field against the Texans.
The athletic defensive tackle played 25 snaps in total, finishing the day with a pair of tackles, as well as a tackle for loss in the 27-20 win.
"It felt good just to be back there on the field," said McGee. "I didn't feel quite like myself, but I have time to improve and get better, but it felt good just to be out there with the team, helping them win and make plays."
While McGee was somewhat critical of his play, one thing that he was pleased with, was that the team was flying back to the United States with a big win in hand.
"It feels good," McGee said. "I've been here for a while, and this is the first time we've won eight games, and to be first place in the AFC West, that's a blessing."
5. Will Khalil Mack once again make life difficult for Brock Osweiler?
We all remember what happened the last time Khalil Mack lined up and got after Brock Osweiler; No. 52 enjoyed a career day in Denver, taking down the then-Broncos quarterback five times, and making it abundantly clear that he was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
Well, Mack didn't deliver another five-sack performance Monday night, but he did take down Osweiler once, and filled up the stat sheet in Mexico City.
The All-Pro defensive end finished the game with three tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and two quarterback hits, and seemed to be in Osweiler's way all evening.
Mack wanted to impose his will against the Texans, so mission accomplished in that regard.