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Raiders' Playoff Hopes Die in Indy, 23-20

The Las Vegas Raiders (7-9) watched their playoff aspirations die today against the Indianapolis Colts (9-7) with a performance littered with self-inflicted wounds.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.--The Las Vegas Raiders will be playing for pride and the future of Interim Coach Antonio Pierce in the final game of the season.

Quarterback Gardner Minshew completed two long passes in the first half that made the difference as the Indianapolis Colts ended the Raiders’ impressive two-game winning streak, 23-20, on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The Colts evened the all-time series at 11-11 after Indianapolis beat the Raiders last season, 25-20, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

The Raiders (7-9) were eliminated from the AFC West playoff picture, while the Colts (9-7) are tied for the AFC South lead with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans.

Las Vegas slipped to 4-4 under Pierce, who took over when Coach Josh McDaniels was fired earlier this season, after beating their AFC West rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champions, in the last two weeks.

Raiders players, members of Raider Nation, and people around the team have been urging owner Mark Davis to remove the interim tag from Pierce’s title. Still, after this defeat and next Sunday’s finale against the AFC West rival Denver Broncos at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, what will happen in the New Year remains to be seen.

Minshew, who completed 15-of-23 passes for 224 yards, hit rookie wide receiver Josh Downs on the first game series with a 50-yard bomb set for a five-yard touchdown Jonathan Taylor. Then Minshew threw a 58-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Alec Pierce in the second quarter to give the Colts a 14-3 lead. Both plays came third downs.

The Raiders never caught up.

Aidaan O'Connell vs Colts

Rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell tried to rally the Raiders by completing 30 of 47 passes for 299 yards, including touchdown passes of four and one yards to Davante Adams, the second with 43 seconds left in the game.

However, the Colts recovered the onside kick attempt by Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson and ran out the lock on a kneel-down by Minshew.

The Colts had put the game out of reach on kicker Matt Gay’s third field golf of the game from 45 yards with 3:11 remaining to make it 23-13 when Minshew drove them 48 yards after Carlson’s 33-yard field, his second of the game, cut the margin 20-13 with 4:35 left.

However, Gay missed a 50-yarder that hit the right upright moments before, but Raiders cornerback Jack Jones was ruled offside to give Gay another chance, and he didn’t miss the second time.

Jones, who starred for the Raiders by returning pass interceptions for touchdowns in each of the last two games, also was called for a 26-yard pass interference penalty on third down earlier in the series to give the Colts the ball on the Las Vegas 36-yard line.

Running back Jonathan Taylor, who rushed 147 yards and a 66-yard touchdown against the Raiders last season, was effective again with 96 yards on 21 carries and the first touchdown.

Wide receiver Mike Pittman Jr. led Indianapolis with six receptions for 46 yards, while Downs had two catches for 53 yards, and wide receiver Pierce caught only one pass, but it went for the 58-yard touchdown.

Running back Zamir White, who rushed for 145 yards in place of injured Raiders All-Pro Josh Jacobs (quad) last week in Kansas City, had 20 carries for 71 yards this time and caught five passes for 35 yards.

Adams led the Raiders with 13 receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Jakobi Meyers had six catches for 56 yards before being injured late in the game.

The Raiders’ defense, after brilliant games against Los Angeles and Kansas City, was mediocre at best this time by allowing the Colts 349 yards -- including 108 on the two big passes -- and committed seven penalties for 54 yards and had only one sack after making 12 in their last three games.

In addition, the Silver and Black didn’t force a turnover against the Colts after having seven in the last two games, four of which turned into defensive touchdowns.

Cornerback Nate Hobbs led the Raiders with eight tackles, defensive tackle John Jenkins added seven, while defensive end Maxx Crosby and linebacker Robert Spillane each made six stops. Defensive tackle Adam Butler had the Raiders’ only sack.

Linebacker E.J. Speed of the Colts led all tacklers with 12, while linebacker Zaire Franklin added 10, and safety Nick Cross had nine stops.

The Silver and Black finish the 2023 NFL Regular season next weekend at home by hosting their AFC West rival, the Denver Broncos.

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