HOUSTON — In many ways, Saturday brought redemption for the Texans and quarterback Brock Osweiler, who started the first 14 games before being benched for poor play.
Osweiler, who regained the starting job this week because Tom Savage suffered a concussion, moved the offense enough to help the Texans defeat the Raiders, 27-14, in an AFC wild-card game before a crowd of 71,790 at NRG Stadium.
Oakland rookie Connor Cook became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era whose first NFL start came in a playoff game. Cook was 18-for-45 for 161 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. Osweiler was 14-for-25 for 168 yards with a passing TD and rushing TD.
“He led us to victory,” said Lamar Miller, who rushed for 73 yards and a score on 31 carries. “He got us in the right plays once we were in the red zone. He kept his composure.”
Osweiler, who will start in the divisional round, was given the starting nod with Savage inactive. The Texans seemed to embrace Osweiler, who took advantage of the opportunity. He benefited from the Texans’ defense, especially Whitney Mercilus, who had two sacks, and Jadeveon Clowney, whose first-quarter interception led to Miller’s 4-yard touchdown run.
Osweiler has been plagued by inconsistency in his first year in Houston after leaving Denver and signing a $72-million contract. He wasn’t spectacular Saturday but was efficient enough to avenge a 27-20 regular-season loss to Oakland in November in Mexico City.
“It means a lot,” Osweiler said. “More importantly, it means a lot to this team. I’m very confident in my abilities.”
Added Texans coach Bill O’Brien: “He took care of the ball, executed the game plan. Basically, he spread the ball around.”
In addition to throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins and scoring on a 1-yard run, Osweiler ran 12 yards for a first down on a third-and-6 in the first half, pumping up the AFC South champion Texans.
“You can see him giving his body up. It fed fuel to the offense and the defense,” Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said. “You could see it in his eyes. The minute he saw the first down, he wanted it.”
Just a year ago, the Texans were embarrassed, 30-0, in a home loss to the Chiefs in the wild-card round.
This was the first playoff win for Houston since 2012 and Oakland’s first playoff game since the 2002 season.
Both teams ran 69 plays, but the Texans, who led 20-7 at halftime, had a 291-203 advantage in yards over the Raiders, who did not convert a third down until the fourth quarter.
“The best effort we’ve put out all year,” Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown said.
Without star quarterback Derek Carr, who suffered a broken leg in Week 16, the Raiders couldn’t say the same thing. Cook, who was victimized by several dropped balls, threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Andre Holmes to get the Raiders to within 27-14 with 8:10 left.
“I [got] pressured a little and it got to me sometimes,” Cook said. “But it falls on me. There were one or two [plays] where I held on to the ball too long.”
Early in the game, Osweiler targeted tight ends Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz before Hopkins got involved in the offense. In the second quarter, Hopkins caught a 2-yard touchdown pass two plays after a 38-yard reception from Osweiler to the 3.
The Texans came into the game with the league’s top-ranked defense, and Clowney’s first-quarter pick gave the team momentum that it maintained.