The Las Vegas Raiders entered the final four-game stretch, kicking off their homestand against the Indianapolis Colts. After they pulled off a miraculous finish in the final seconds last week against the Jets, Las Vegas faced a deficient they couldn’t come back from in Week 14.
It was another rough outing for the Raiders inside Allegiant Stadium as they fell to Phillip Rivers and the Colts by a score of 44-27 on Sunday. The Raiders now move to a 7-6 record and ninth in the AFC playoff picture.
The Colts manufactured a potent running attack on offense and timely turnovers on defense, which in the end, was the difference maker in the outcome.
Defensively, the Raiders were slashed by the Colts group of running backs as Las Vegas surrendered 212 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines both averaged over seven yards per carry and handled the ball 27 times collectively.
“It wasn’t good enough today,” Gruden said. “Defensively, we had no answer. You can’t give up that many yards rushing and not get to the quarterback, and then lose the turnover margin and expect to win in this league.”
Through the air, the Raiders allowed Rivers to complete 19-of-28 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. With only one quarterback hit delivered on Rivers by defensive end Arden Key, the Raiders’ defense were torn to pieces by the 17-year veteran under center.
While the Raiders got back their enforcer on defense — Jonathan Abram — he had a rough day in coverage and was flagged on costly penalties. Abram recorded a team-high 12 tackles before leaving the game as a result of injury.
“Abram has some flashes,” Gruden said. “He also has some plays he has to clean up, obviously.”
Colts’ safety Kenny Moore II secured a one-handed interception in the endzone just before halftime and later forced a fumble from Raiders’ receiver Hunter Renfrow in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
“We turned the ball over in a couple red zone plays,” Gruden said. “They made a great play down there. No. 23, I can’t tell you how impressive that was.”
“That’s one of the best defensive plays I’ve ever seen in person,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I just want to tip my cap. He knows how I feel about him, but that play he made was spectacular to say the least.”
Offensively, the Raiders had most of their success when throwing the football. Carr went 31-of-45 with 316 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. One of Carr’s interceptions was returned for a touchdown by safety Khari Willis after the pass tipped off running back Jalen Richard’s hands.
The Raiders also received a big boost to their offensive line with right tackle Trent Brown returning to action. Brown hasn’t played since the Raiders road trip to Kansas City in Week 5, and penciling him back into the starting role was a superior upgrade in protection. Carr was hit just two times — a considerable difference over the six quarterback hits in which he suffered in weeks 12 and 13.
“I thought Trent (Brown) was a difference maker,” Gruden said. “He played great. I thought the pocket was clean.”
Ultimately, Las Vegas couldn’t put it all together, and the defense, which has been the Raiders’ Achilles heel nearly all season long was at blame once again. In fact, their defense has been thrown to the wolves over the last four weeks. The Raiders are allowing 37.5 points per game in their last four contests. Even if Carr and the offense are clicking — having the defensive woes that the Raiders are currently dealing with, means their ceiling can only be so high.
“I really like what we did offensively,” Gruden said. “I thought we moved the ball. They’re a great defense. You can ask Deforest Buckner, (Denico) Autry, (Darius) Leonard and the players they have. We were in a situation where we had to score a touchdown every time we had the ball it seemed.”
The Raiders still sit in playoff contention, but their road got considerably harder. If the Cleveland Browns beat the Baltimore Ravens tomorrow on Monday Night Football, the Raiders would control their own destiny but would need three consecutive wins over the Chargers, Dolphins and Broncos to finish out the year 10-6 and get a playoff nod.