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Costly errors add up as Raiders eliminated from playoff contention with loss to Colts

Las Vegas interim head coach Antonio Pierce is pictured on the sidelines inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

Despite a spirited stretch that saw the Las Vegas Raiders win back-to-back must-win games, the team’s luck ran out as it was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention after a Week 17 loss.

In the team’s final road game of the year, Las Vegas lost to Indianapolis, 23-20, from Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday, Dec. 31. Prior to the game, the Raiders still had a mathematical chance to win the AFC West before dropping to 2-6 on the road this season.

Additionally, the team is now 4-4 under interim head coach Antonio Pierce and 7-9 overall.

With one more game remaining on the schedule, Las Vegas will return home for a rivalry matchup against Denver from Allegiant Stadium Sunday, Jan. 7. A kickoff time has not been set yet.

“Our guys are disappointed,” Pierce said. “Why wouldn’t they be? We want to win every game and we had an opportunity there, we were right there at the very end.

“Moving forward, we get paid to play 17 games. I’m being paid to instruct and coach for 17 games and we got one at home that we’re excited about.”

After trailing all game, the Raiders had to rely on the rare chance of recovering an onside kick with less than one minute left in regulation. That’s something the franchise hasn’t done since December 2017.

While that final special teams play was the final gasp for the team, it was penalties on the final defensive drive that could have helped decide the final outcome.

Raiders defensive back Jack Jones glances up at the big board during the team's three-point loss to the Colts. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

Defensive back Jack Jones was one of the defensive standouts each of the last two weeks but quickly had two game-shifting plays late in the fourth quarter this week. Jones was whistled for an offsides penalty on a 50-yard field goal attempt from the Colts that was pushed wide right.

They’d make the re-try.

“I didn’t see it – they called it so it went against us,” Pierce said. “Obviously something happened for them to call it, too close.”

Earlier in the drive, Jones was called for a defensive pass interference on a 3rd and 8 with the pass falling incomplete.

As a team, Las Vegas was penalized seven times for 54 total yards.

“Very difficult when the Raiders play the Raiders,” Pierce said. “We’ve been pretty good as far as being focused pre-snap, that didn’t happen today on both sides of the ball. That kind of costs you in a game like this where it comes down to three points.”

The defense tightened as the game went on but was burned early by two big pass plays that led to points.

Indianapolis quarterback Gardner Minshew completed a 50-yard pass facing a 3rd and 5 on the team’s first drive of the game. Running back Jonathan Taylor capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run.

Minshew’s second 50-yard completion, this time 58 yards, went for six points. Those two 50-yard completions nearly matched the Colts’ total team output coming into Week 17 which was three.

Las Vegas defensive end Maxx Crosby tracks down Indianapolis quarterback Gardner Minshew. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

All-pro defensive end Maxx Crosby wrecked the game about as much as he could with six tackles and a tackle-for-loss. That tackle-for-loss came on the defense’s final drive just before Jones’ offsides penalty on the field goal attempt and after the defensive pass interference.

Las Vegas’ offense could only muster three points through the first half which was scored on the team’s first drive of the game.

Both teams went through a dry-spell during that first half which produced five straight punts for both sides.

“You can’t rely on momentum from last week,” rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell said. “Every series, every play has enough of its own that you’ve got to lock in on. I think we could’ve done a better job of that today.”

In order to get things back on track, O’Connell would look to all-pro receiver Davante Adams 21 times for a season-high set in targets. He’d respond with 13 receptions for 126 yards which solidified a fourth straight 1,000-yard season for the Fresno State product. He has five 1,000 yard seasons in his 10-year career.

Additionally, Adams picked up two scoring grabs on the day for his first two-touchdown game since Week 3. His second touchdown-producing haul came on a 4th and goal on the team’s final offensive drive of the game ahead of that onside kick try.

Raiders receiver Davante Adams goes up to grab his second touchdown catch of the day. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

“Kind of the way it happened,” Pierce said. “I’d still love to run the ball 30-plus times but 21 [targets] with 13 receptions, that’s your star player out there.”

O’Connell posted 299 yards on 30-for-47 passing with two touchdowns.

For the third straight game, last year’s leading rusher Josh Jacobs missed action due to a quad injury. Once again, backup running back Zamir White stepped up to the plate, even crossing over into 100 all-purpose yards late in the third quarter.


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