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Indianapolis Colts 44-27 Las Vegas Raiders

By Sam Carroll

As Khari Willis strolled into the endzone after picking off Derek Carr in the closing minutes, he represented what was a huge missed opportunity for the Las Vegas Raiders. A win yesterday would have put them back into the playoff picture with three games left of the regular season, leapfrogging the Miami Dolphins who had lost to the Kansas City Chiefs hours earlier. However, it wasn’t to be, as a fourth quarter collapse gave the Indianapolis Colts the all-important victory at the newly built Allegiant Stadium, putting them in great position to secure a playoff spot for themselves.

It could be argued that the start of the Raiders downfall came just before halftime. The game was nicely poised with three minutes to go in the second quarter. TY Hilton had just scored his second touchdown of the day to give Indianapolis a 17-14 lead, but the Raiders offence had the ball on their opponent’s 13-yard line with a chance to go ahead once again. It was then that Colts cornerback Kenny Moore came up with one of the plays of the season, leaping in the air to intercept the ball with one hand before it could reach tight end, Darren Waller in the corner of the endzone. From there, Philip Rivers was able to drive down the field and set up rookie kicker, Rodrigo Blankenship for a chip shot 20-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

The third quarter put an even bigger gap between the two teams. Even though Las Vegas head coach, Jon Gruden was able to dial up some trickery, having wide receiver Zay Jones show off his arm by throwing to Nelson Agholor down the sideline, they were still only able to settle for field goals on their opening two drives of the second half. The Colts, on the other hand, were able to finish their opening two possessions with touchdowns through their rookie running back, Jonathan Taylor. The second-round pick scored his first touchdown of the day by outpacing the entire Raiders defence to break off a 62-yard scoring run. He then scored his second from three yards out after taking the handoff from Nyheim Hines in the wildcat formation.

It was the fourth quarter when the wheels completely fell off for the black and silver. Carr hit Hunter Renfrow on a screen pass on their first play of their response to the Colts making it a 14-point game. However, Moore was able to knock the ball out of the control of the usually reliable Renfrow and Taylor Stallworth landed on the loose ball to give the visitors possession on the 26-yard line. Blankenship converted this short field into another three points, meaning Frank Reich’s men now sat pretty, 17 points ahead with less than seven minutes to play. Minutes later they truly hammered the final nail into the Raiders’ coffin, as Willis took advantage of a tipped ball by Jalen Richard, coming up with an interception and then taking it 50 yards to the house.

It is a shame the game had to end the way it did. The first half had been an entertaining clash between two teams fighting to get into the postseason. The Colts took an early 10-0 lead, leaning on their talented running back duo of Taylor and Hines. The home side responded quickly though, as Foster Moreau beat Moore on a seam route, caught a dart from Carr, shrugged off Julian Blackmon and danced into the endzone for a 47-yard touchdown. Vegas’ following drive was all Agholor. He left Moore for dead up the right sideline, putting the Raiders in excellent position to score, and then finished it off minutes later by finding a hole up the middle of the field to score a 21-yard touchdown. However, it was only minutes later when Philip Rivers connected with a wide-open Hilton deep down the field to give the Colts a lead they wouldn’t lose.

The Colts now sit in second place in the NFC South, behind only the first placed Tennessee Titans on the division win percentage tie breaker. Two wins from their final three games shouldn’t be too much to ask, and it would be enough to secure their place in the playoffs. The only negatives to come out of this game for the Indiana outfit were unfortunate injuries to two of their best defensive players. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who has been excellent in his first season in Indianapolis, went down with a knee injury midway through the game, and captain, Darius Leonard left the game in the fourth quarter with a back injury. While Reich has said that neither player has been ruled out for his side’s matchup with the Houston Texans next Sunday, they will require monitoring as the week goes on.

On the other side, Carr running in for a meaningless touchdown with a minute to go wasn’t enough to lighten the mood for Las Vegas. A win would have put them in fantastic position to earn their first playoff berth since 2016, but this embarrassing loss means their postseason chances are out of their hands. They will have to rely on the Baltimore Ravens losing two of their final four games is they want to sneak into the wildcard round.

Subedited by George Overhill

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July 2024