OAKLAND, Calif. -- Arian Foster got benched at the start of the game for his behavior off the field. There once again were no problems once he stepped between the lines.
Foster returned from his punishment to score 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.
"I didn't handle my business off the field, I got disciplined for it, and rightfully so," Foster said. "I take full responsibility and I apologized to my teammates for it, and it won't happen again. And we're all about moving on here. I slipped up, and I'm assuring it won't happen again."
Neither Foster nor coach Gary Kubiak would say what went into the decision to bench the NFL's leading rusher for the first 23 minutes against the Raiders (1-3).
But the Texans (3-1) were happy to have the NFL's leading rusher back in time to spark them to another victory.
"Bottom line, we all have responsibilities and over the course of the past few weeks he's neglected responsibilities, he's been unaccountable in a couple of situations," Kubiak said. "When that happens you've got to learn a lesson, pay a price. I'm disappointed in him, but proud of him coming back and playing well today."
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.
"Hopefully it shows my teammates and my coaches that they can count on me," Foster said. "I didn't take it lightly that I sat out the first quarter. I can get the job done, and they can count on me from here on out."
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, finishing with 441 yards of offense, including 249 on the ground. The Raiders' latest loss came in front of a crowd announced at 32,218 -- the smallest in a non-replacement player game for the franchise since 1967.
"It's demoralizing when a team can run the ball at will and we don't stop it," defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. "That's what it is. We didn't stop the run. There's no excuse for that, period."
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.
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 and setting up a 39-yard field goal by Sebastian 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. One more first down by Foster helped Houston run out the clock as the Texans' dominance of the line of scrimmage decided the game.
"You can't sugarcoat it," Oakland coach Tom Cable said. "When you get your rear end kicked like that it is what it is. You don't sugarcoat that, you don't talk around that. You have to deal with that."
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.
Oakland RB Darren McFadden did not return after injuring his right hamstring early in the fourth quarter. ... This is the fifth straight year these teams have played despite being in different divisions, with Houston winning for the fourth time. ... The attendance was the smallest in Oakland since a crowd of 30,738 for the season finale against Buffalo in 1967. It's the smallest in the NFL since Arizona drew 31,650 on Jan. 2, 2005, against Tampa Bay, according to STATS LLC.
"We've still got some ground to make up before he's back out there," said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. "But (he) took a step in right direction."
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