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Raiders fall to Colts

Isaac Brekken / Associated Press

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) runs in for a touchdown against Las Vegas Raiders outside linebacker Cory Littleton (42) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Sunday’s meeting between Las Vegas and Indianapolis was built up as a quasi-playoff game, but only the Colts showed up, as they pounded the Raiders into submission, 44-27, at Allegiant Stadium.

The loss dropped the Raiders to 7-6 on the season and keeps them on the outside looking in when it comes to the AFC playoff picture.

A quick analysis of what went wrong for Las Vegas in one of the biggest games of the season so far:

Defensive collapse

The Raiders do not have a playoff-caliber defense or anything close to it, that much has been clear all season, so Sunday’s all-out collapse on that side of the ball should not have come as a surprise.

Philip Rivers and the Colts offense had their way with Las Vegas, as Indy rolled up 7.7 yards per play and 456 yards of total offense. Rivers used his 17 years of experience to complete 19-of-28 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns, while rookie running back Jonathan Taylor gashed the silver and black for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard scoring run in the third quarter. From the Raiders’ perspective, it was a mess from beginning to end.

It would be unfair to single out any one player for blame on that side of the ball, but it was hard not to notice Johnathan Abram in the middle of some of the Colts’ biggest plays. Abram started his very bad day by committing an unsportsmanlike roughing penalty after the play to give Indianapolis a new set of downs inside the 10-yard line in the first quarter; Rivers cashed in with a third-down touchdown pass to TY Hilton.

Rivers went after Abram again in the second quarter, as Hilton ran past him in coverage for an uncontested 41-yard touchdown. It was either a coaching snafu or a flawed play design that left Abram on an island with the speedy Hilton, but the second-year safety couldn’t even stay close enough to keep Rivers honest on the throw.

Las Vegas kicked a field goal early in the third quarter to pull within 20-17, and Colts running back Jonathan Taylor promptly burst past Abram — who took an overly aggressive angle in run support — and raced 62 yards to the end zone.

Abram is essentially a rookie this year after losing almost all of the 2019 campaign to injury, but that excuse can’t fly anymore. The Raiders are fighting for their playoff lives, so developing a young, mistake-prone player can’t be the top priority; he has to perform now. That goes for the rest of the defense as well, and on Sunday they were not nearly up to the task of winning a big game.

Carr comes up short in red zone

Because of the dreadful defense and a flagging running game, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr usually has to pass his way to 30-plus points in order to give Las Vegas a chance to win, and he didn’t do that against Indianapolis.

Carr played a mediocre game — 31-of-45 for 316 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions — but the biggest issues came in the red zone, where he and the offense came up short on multiple occasions.

Late in the second quarter on a 3rd-and-8 from the Indy 13-yard line, Carr spotted Darren Waller running open toward the back corner of the end zone and lofted a pass for the big tight end; unfortunately, Carr was a beat too late on the throw and that slight hesitation allowed Colts cornerback Kenny Moore to recover and make a leaping one-handed interception. Instead of a go-ahead touchdown or a tying field goal, the Raiders got zero points out of the drive; working with three minutes on the clock, Rivers marched the other way for a field goal at the buzzer to give the Colts a 20-14 halftime lead.

The Raiders had two other second-half drives stall out inside the 10-yard line when the game was still in question, settling for field goals in a shootout that called for touchdowns. In the red zone Carr went 4-of-9 for 17 yards, with no touchdowns and the costly interception. (He did run for a short touchdown with 55 seconds to play.)

Bottom line: Carr was merely decent when the Raiders defense needed him to be perfect.

What’s next

The Raiders are not out of the running for the playoffs just yet, and they should thank division rival Kansas City for doing them a favor on Sunday; the Chiefs beat Miami, dropping the Dolphins to 8-5 and keeping them just one game ahead of Las Vegas for the seventh and final playoff slot.

The Colts improved to 9-4 and obviously picked up the head-to-head win over Vegas, so it will be hard for the Raiders to overtake them. Right now, it looks like Las Vegas’ path to the playoffs will have to include a win over Miami when the two teams meet at Allegiant Stadium in Week 16.

Before that, the Raiders will have to handle their business next week against the Los Angeles Chargers. The first meeting between the teams was a memorable one, which Las Vegas won when reserve cornerback Isaiah Johnson knocked down a pair of passes in the end zone as time expired four weeks ago. The Chargers have spiraled further since then, and head coach Anthony Lynn is on a very hot seat. It goes without saying that it’s going to be an absolute must-win for Las Vegas.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun