Colts 23-20 Raiders (Dec 31, 2023) Game Recap

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INDIANAPOLIS — — Jonathan Taylor and Gardner Minshew spent all week talking about the need to take advantage of this week’s big opportunity.

On Sunday, they showed everyone how it’s done.

Taylor ran for a season-high 96 yards and one score, Minshew fooled the Las Vegas defense with a 58-yard TD pass on third-and-1, and the Indianapolis Colts used two late defensive penalties to put away the Raiders 23-20 — and on the precipice of their first playoff berth since 2020.

“Everybody knew what was at stake,” Taylor said. “I think having that mindset that no matter how the game was turning out, every single time we stepped on that field — offense, defense or special teams — you guys have to do your job at a high level, higher than you’ve ever done it before, because we’ve been in that situation before and we know what we have to do. We have to win.”

If they can replicate the formula once more, they might be the postseason’s most surprising entrant.

Indy (9-7) enters next week’s AFC South showdown against Houston with three straight home wins and tied atop the division with the Texans and Jacksonville.

A win, coupled with a Jaguars loss at Tennessee, would hand the Colts their first division crown since 2014.

And while Sunday’s game was short on style points, Taylor and Minshew certainly were effective and efficient.

Taylor had 21 carries and scored for the second straight week, looking more like the shifty, tough 2021 NFL rushing champ rather than the injury-limited runner of the past two seasons. Minshew finished 15 of 23 with 224 yards, no turnovers and two completions of 50 or more yards including the long scoring play to a wide-open Alec Pierce.

For the Raiders, their first loss in three weeks proved costly. They’re now eliminated from the AFC’s tight playoff chase after also fighting their way back into contention following a sluggish start.

“Guys are disappointed. Why wouldn’t you be? We had a great opportunity,” interim coach Antonio Pierce said. “There was no guarantee we were going to get into the playoffs. A lot of things would still have to go our way. But these guys are proud about being Raiders. I’m proud to be coaching them.”

Aidan O’Connell was 30 of 47 with 299 yards and two TDs, both to Davante Adams who had 13 receptions for 126 yards.

Still, it wasn’t quite enough to pull the upset they did in 2021 when they won at Indy in Week 17 and wound up making the playoffs while the Colts were eliminated the following week with another loss.

Pierce wasn’t around back then, but Taylor was and remembered it all too well. So on the sixth play of the game, Taylor delivered with a 5-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead.

Las Vegas answered with a 40-yard field goal and then Minshew connected Pierce, who broke free while running from the left side to the right to make it 14-3.

The Raiders closed to 14-10 after the Colts ran into punter A.J. Cole, extending a drive that eventually ended with O’Connell’s 4-yard TD pass to Adams midway through the third quarter.

But Indy added three second-half field goals from Matt Gay, the final one set up by two penalties against Jack Jones — a pass interference call on third down and an offside call that negated Gay’s kick that bounced off the right upright. Gay took advantage of his second chance to make it 23-13.

“I don’t know if they responded to what I said, but they responded,” Minshew said. “I thought the practices this week were there, how we stepped up out there with the energy and a lot of effort, man. And I think everyone’s fired up for what we have in front of us.”

BY THE NUMBERS

Raiders: Adams topped the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth consecutive season. He needs two receptions for the fifth 100-catch, 1,000-yard season of his career. … Zamir White had 20 carries for 71 yards. … Pierce became the third interim coach involved in this series since 2021.

Colts: Michael Pittman Jr. had five catches for 46 yards, giving him a career-high 104 receptions this season. … LB Zaire Franklin’s 10 tackles put him at 172, breaking the single-season franchise record (166) he set last season. … This road team had won the previous five games in this series.

INJURY REPORT

Raiders: Neither left tackle Thayer Munford Jr. (right knee) nor T Cole Fotheringham (hamstring) returned after getting hurt in the third quarter. Las Vegas played without RB Josh Jacobs (quad) or rookie TE Michael Mayer (toe).

Colts: RT Braden Smith (knee) and Pittman (concussion protocol) returned to action Sunday. But RB Zack Moss (right forearm) and CB Kenny Moore II (back) were inactive and two-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly returned to the game after hurting his ankle in the first half.

UP NEXT

Raiders: Host Denver in next weekend’s regular-season finale.

Colts: Play Houston next weekend in a game with playoff implications.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

First appeared on www.espn.com

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