OAKLAND, Calif. – Arian Foster made up for lost time after an early game benching.
Foster scored on a 74-yard run and a 10-yard catch in the second half before Troy Nolan's second interception sealed the Houston Texans' 31-24 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Foster, a former practice squad player, has emerged as one of the biggest surprises of the NFL so far this season. Despite entering the game as the league's leading rusher, Foster was held out until midway through the second quarter in what the Texans (3-1) said was a "coach's decision."
Foster took the game over in the second half. On the second play from scrimmage, he burst through a big hole and raced to the 74-yard score, breaking a tackle by Michael Huff on the way to the end zone.
Then on the first play of the fourth quarter, Foster caught a short pass from Matt Schaub for the score that gave Houston a 31-14 lead. Nolan's second interception iced the game after the Raiders (1-3) had cut the lead to seven.
Schaub also threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Joel Dreessen and Derrick Ward scored on a 33-yard run for the Texans, who are off to their best start in franchise history despite playing this game without injured leading receiver Andre Johnson (sprained right ankle).
They still had too much for the Raiders to handle. Oakland lost for the second straight week but this time didn't have a missed field goal at the end from Sebastian Janikowski to blame.
Bruce Gradkowski turned the ball over three times, losing a fumble to thwart a drive in Houston territory late in the first half with the game tied, and throwing the two second-half interceptions. The first came one play after Neil Rackers gave the Texans a 24-14 lead with a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Five plays later, Foster beat rookie linebacker Rolando McClain in the flat for the score that put the Texans in control. Foster finished with 131 yards on 16 carries and added 56 yards receiving despite not getting into the game until midway through the second quarter.
Schaub completed 16 of 29 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, breaking David Carr's Houston franchise record with his 60th TD pass on the throw to Foster.
Gradkowski, who was sent to the locker room briefly in the second half after a hard hit by Bernard Pollard, tried to lead the Raiders back with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller early in the fourth.
Gradkowski drove the Raiders to a 39-yard field goal by Janikowski that made it 31-24 with 6:13 remaining. After the Raiders' defense came up with a second straight stop, Gradkowski got one last chance at his 25 with 3:04 to play.
But his fourth down pass went through Louis Murphy's hands and was intercepted by Nolan with 1:40 remaining. Gradkowski was 24 for 39 for 278 yards, throwing a 13-yard TD pass to Marcel Reece in the second quarter. Miller had 11 catches for 122 yards.
The game was tied at 14 at the half after both teams missed prime scoring chances in the closing minute of the second quarter. The Raiders had the ball at the Houston 29 before Mario Williams beat Langston Walker around the edge and sacked Gradkowski, forcing a fumble that the Texans recovered at their 40 with 32 seconds left.
Schaub moved Houston into scoring range with passes to Dreessen and Foster, but Rackers hit the upright on his 46-yard field goal on the final play of the half.