One week after beating the Cardinals in Arizona, Carson Wentz was unable to deliver a second performance ..
Derek Carr made the big play instead, and an Indianapolis team that had fought its way back from a 1-4 start has now missed its first opportunity to clinch a playoff berth, leaving the ultimate outcome in doubt with a 23-20 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
Indianapolis still has an excellent chance to make the playoffs with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the season finale, and although Jacksonville is currently on its way to the No. 1 pick, Indianapolis hasn’t beaten the Jaguars in Jacksonville since 2014.
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1. Derek Carr comes up huge in the fourth quarter
The Indianapolis defense that has been constructed by Matt Eberflus has had its fair share of issues against Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense over the past four seasons.
And at first, it looked like Carr and running back Josh Jacobs would be a major problem as the Raiders ripped off 12 plays for 75 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive.
Isaiah Rodgers intercepted Carr’s deep pass on the next series. The Indianapolis defense settled in and forced another mistake from Carr. Darius Leonard made a great play in coverage in the second half and broke back over the middle to pick Leonard off.
Carr has never gone down easy against the Colts, though. After Wentz and the Indianapolis offense failed to put the game away, Carr came up huge, finding Zay Jones for 42 yards, then rolling right out of the pocket on a gutsy fourth-down call by Rich Bisaccia to find Hunter Renfrow breaking behind Kenny Moore for the go-ahead touchdown.
Indianapolis had a chance to put Las Vegas in jeopardy late, but Carson Wentz and Jonathan Taylor weren’t able to put the ball in the end zone, giving Carr back the ball with 1: 56 left and all of his timeouts.
Carr hasn’t always had those chances in the past, and he didn’t miss. After a string of precise completions brought the Raiders to the midfield, Carr was able to evade an Indianapolis rusher in his pocket and then lofted the ball to Renfrow above Kenny Moore’s head for a crucial completion that put the Raiders within field goal range. Replays reviewed that Moore touched Renfrow down, allowing Las Vegas to run the clock, and Daniel Carson knocked through a 33-yard field goal for the win.
2. Carson Wentz struggles, comes up short in return from COVID-19
The Colts’ starting quarterback looked off from the start.
Wentz only completed 1 of 7 passes in the opening game. He struggled to throw the ball accurately despite being given plenty of time in the pocket.
He found himself in time to get the Colts back in the game, completing 7 of 9 throws on a critical two-minute drill at the end of the first half to set up Taylor for a gutsy touchdown run on third down with seconds left that cut the Raiders’ lead to 13-10 heading into halftime.
Then he got a little lucky to give Indianapolis the lead coming out of the break.
Rolling right on a broken play, Wentz underthrew Ashton Dulin on a deep ball, only to have the ball bounce in the air perfectly to T.Y. Hilton for a 45-yard go-ahead touchdown.
But he couldn’t keep it going. Wentz struggled down to the end, missing a wide-open Hilton, who was playing possibly his last game at Lucas Oil Stadium. This pass should have been a touchdown. It led to a three and out that gave the Raiders the lead.
And, perhaps most importantly, Wentz was unable to make the big throw against Arizona that he had made in crunch-time. Indianapolis put together a potential go-ahead drive late in the game, including a couple of critical third-down conversions by Wentz, but he wasn’t able to put it in the end zone, leaving Michael Badgley to merely tie the game and giving Carr one more chance.
3. Jonathan Taylor breaks Colts’ single-season rushing record
Taylor has been brilliant all season, and after a pair of back-to-back explosive runs in the first half, it looked like he might be on his way to another dominant performance despite the struggles of Wentz.
But after Taylor got off to a seven-carry, 56-yard start, he picked up 52 yards on the next 13 carries, and he wasn’t able to break the long run Indianapolis needed to put the game away, the way he had against the New England Patriots.
Taylor did eclipse an enormous milestone in the process.
Hunting the Colts’ franchise record all season long, Taylor broke past the team’s single-season rushing mark with a carry in the second half, pushing past Edgerrin James’ mark of 1,709 yards in 2000. Taylor now has 1,734 yards on the season. The problem was that the Colts’ running game didn’t have enough to get them to the playoffs.