Oakland Raiders vs. Indianapolis Colts Full Report Card Grades for Oakland
This particular Oakland Raiders' win didn’t feel like a victory. Offensive lineman Donald Penn spoke to the local media after his team secured a 12-3 record, per the team's official website. He needed to restrain his outburst for giving up the one sack that knocked quarterback Derek Carr out of the game.
Penn took the injury personally, but he’s not to blame—no one deserves the blame for something that could happen on any random down. Injuries come along with a physical game filled with collisions.
With approximately 11 minutes left and up 33-14, the Raiders lined up at their own 48-yard line and tried to put the finishing touches on a complete game. Keep in mind, the Indianapolis Colts scored on the previous drive and looked primed to take one more swing at a comeback. An offensive holding call pushed the Raiders back to 2nd-and-18, which led to the pass play.
Obviously, the coaching staff didn’t think the next down would be Carr’s last for the season, but that’s what happened. Hindsight vision will always be perfect because we know the outcome.
However, the Raiders stayed true to the formula that made them a playoff team. They went with the aggressive route. Up until Carr’s unfortunate injury, it worked.
Do the Raiders look up and watch the sky fall? Or do they fully prepare quarterback Matt McGloin, continue to play solid defense and pound the ball with a three-man ground attack that ranks top five in the league? Head coach Jack Del Rio will ensure this roster chooses the latter.
The Raiders’ 33-25 win seems so insignificant to Carr’s broken fibula. Nonetheless, Oakland has already punched its playoff ticket. There’s no reason for the players to hang their heads at this juncture. It’s not an ideal situation, but resilient football teams find a way.
McGloin will walk in to the huddle with quality skill players behind him, in front and to the far sides. This is a football team capable of modifying its winning formula behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has taken the league by storm with a productive rushing offense and a talented offensive line to lean on. It’s not impossible to think a four-year veteran, who put together decent performances as a rookie with a 4-12 roster, could optimize the assets around him.
McGloin doesn’t have to become Carr. He needs to make timely throws, similar to his first-down pass to wideout Amari Cooper to ice Saturday’s game. If he can pick his spots downfield to the receivers, a productive ground attack and a hard-nosed defense could lead this team to playoff victories.
Carr took snaps under center, which subtly eased Raiders fans minds about his pinkie. On Saturday, the Raiders offense resembled its form prior to signal-caller's first injury.
At one point, Oakland scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives between the second and third quarters. Carr threw three touchdown passes, and the offense operated like a well-oiled machine. He also completed two-thirds of his passes.
It’s heart-wrenching to see Carr’s season end with an injury. However, it’s obvious the Raiders have found their quarterback for the long-term future. He took major steps in his third year. Expect the front office to offer a huge contract in the offseason.
Latavius Murray has been a touchdown vulture throughout the year. He has 12 touchdowns in 13 games. On Saturday, the rookie running backs took the spotlight. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington accounted for three total touchdowns.
Richard averaged 11 yards per carry and scored on a four-yard reception. Washington fell one yard shy of a 100-yard day on the ground. He scored consecutive 22-yard touchdowns in the third quarter.
As ball-carriers and receivers in the short passing attack, the Raiders’ running back trio must carry a heavier burden going forward.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Wideout Michael Crabtree started the game with a drop on an easy third-down conversion, but he made up for it with some crucial receptions to extend drives as the game progressed. He stood on the sideline late in the game after hobbling off the field after a catch. The coaching staff likely held him out for precautionary reasons.
Cooper turned in another relatively modest performance until his final catch near the two-minute mark to put the game away. It’ll be important for McGloin to find his second-year playmaker against stiff competition.
Tight end Clive Walford also chipped in with a touchdown reception.
Those who still feel the sting from Carr’s injury would probably give a failing grade to the offensive line. As previously mentioned, it could happen on any given play. Overall, the front five put on a blocking clinic before Carr’s injury.
The Raiders only allowed one sack, and the running lanes resembled empty tunnels. Oakland racked up 210 rushing yards on the ground and controlled the ball, which limited the Colts’ possessions.
The offensive line will be the engine that keeps the Raiders offense afloat in the postseason. A solid unit up front should keep the running backs viable and McGloin’s jersey clean.
It’s unfair to expect defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. to immediately become a monster on the front line. He took limited snaps, and his in-game shape remains the focus until the playoffs.
Pass-rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin put pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck but couldn’t take him down for a sack.
The Raiders took an early lead, which forced the Colts to put their effective ground attack on the backburner. With 33-year-old running back Frank Gore, Indianapolis averaged 4.3 yards per carry on the ground.
Malcolm Smith forced a turnover in Colts territory, which translated to a short touchdown drive. He also led the team with eight tackles. The linebacker corps could’ve done a better job going downhill against the Colts ground attack.
The defense failed to cover the middle of the field. The Colts tight ends accounted for nine receptions and 122 yards. The onus partially falls on the safeties as well, but Luck opted for several short passes that extended into longer gains.
The linebackers also allowed Colts running back Robert Turbin to run freely toward the end zone for a touchdown.
Safeties Nate Allen and Reggie Nelson intercepted Luck—the latter notched his takeaway in the end zone. The Raiders scored touchdowns off both turnovers.
Oakland held its own against the Colts’ sleek receivers until Carr’s absence cast a dark cloud over the team. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton finished as the only receiver to eclipse 50 yards against the pass defense. However, Oakland experienced a coverage breakdown when Donte Moncrief scored a touchdown without a defender within 10 yards.
Minus a few breakdowns, the Raiders pass defense didn’t allow a top-10 pass offense to march up and down the field with ease.
Last week, the NFL recognized kicker Sebastian Janikowski as Clutch Performer of the Week after his four-field-goal performance. On Saturday, he missed two extra-point attempts after back-to-back scoring drives. The Colts blocked one attempt.
Hopefully, it’s just a blip on Janikowski’s solid season. Nonetheless, every point will count for the Raiders offense going forward. Oakland can’t leave any points on the field in any shape or form, especially on point-after attempts.
Social media completely lit up the coaching staff for leaving Carr in the game with a 19-point lead. However, with 11 minutes left, the Colts still had a chance at a comeback if the Raiders took their feet off the pedal. On a 2nd-and-18, a pass play seems benign in a clean game for the offensive line. The coaching staff came in with the mentality to put the opponent away. Unfortunately, it backfired on this occasion.
Lost in all the anguish over Carr’s injury, the defense didn’t struggle as much as expected against the Colts receivers before the players became concerned about their quarterback. The offense once again looked dominant in preparation for the postseason. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave also dialed up the right play to finish the game with a first-down pass to Cooper.
Musgrave’s next project will focus on tailoring the offense to McGloin’s strengths. The Raiders should be able to put up some points with a culmination of quality talent at the skill positions.
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