ARLINGTON, Texas -- Raiders coach Tom Cable doesn't hide the fact that he drafted defensive end Lamarr Houston in the second round in April for a reason. That is, to play right away and provide a spark on defense.
Houston validated Cable's confidence in him by recording two sacks within a seven-play span on the Dallas Cowboys' opening drive Thursday night.
Houston's sacks owed as much to Oakland's solid pass coverage as to his ability to shed the blocks of right tackle Marc Colombo. Just the same, he showed that he isn't overmatched.
"When you get coverage from guys like Nnamdi (Asomugha), Michael Huff and Chris Johnson, it's easy to get back there when you get more than three seconds," Houston said. "Thanks to those guys (for me getting) all the glory for the sacks." Michael Bennett finished with a leg up on Rock Cartwright for the No. 3 running back spot. Bennett ran for a game-high 68 yards and caught one pass for 33 yards. Cartwright totaled 25 yards rushing and caught two passes for 28 yards. Houston, rookie middle linebacker Rolando McClain and third-year end Matt Shaughnessy remained in the game long after the other defensive starters called it a night. Shaughnessy made the most of his added time by posting two sacks of Cowboys backup quarterback Jon Kitna. McClain exited midway through the second quarter. Shaughnessy and Houston played the entire first half. McClain's first NFL game came and went without the Raiders first-round draft pick making much of an impact. He played four series without making his presence felt in a meaningful way. He recorded one tackle and one assist. On the bright side for the Raiders, McClain played within the scheme, executed his assignments and played as if he belonged. Rookie safety Stevie Brown has shown a knack for making big plays throughout training camp. Some of his teammates challenged him to carry it over into games. Brown intercepted a pass at the goal line on the final play to seal Oakland's 17-9 win. "It's easier to make plays in practice," Brown said. "It means a whole lot more to be able to do it in a game." Cable said Colt Brennan didn't see any playing time because he wanted Kyle Boller to be able to ride the momentum he built in relief of starting quarterback Jason Campbell. Sure enough, Boller guided the Raiders to back-to-back scoring drives in the fourth quarter in erasing a 9-0 deficit. Cartwright received the first shot at returning kickoffs for the Raiders. As it turned out, it wasn't much of a showcase. The Cowboys' David Buehler boomed his first two kickoffs well into the end zone, compelling Cartwright to take touchbacks. Johnnie Lee Higgins lined up as the returner on the first Cowboys punt. He did so only because of an injury to rookie Jacoby Ford (quadriceps). Higgins held the job last season, but Ford is expected to replace him by the end of camp. Yamon Figurs replaced Higgins and averaged 8 yards on his two returns. Raiders punter Shane Lechler made a determined effort to hit the scoreboard at new Cowboys Stadium last November. Numerous attempts during pregame warm-ups and a few during the game yielded nothing but frustration. Thursday, Lechler appeared to ignore the monstrosity that hangs from the roof and looms over the middle of the field.