The story of the Las Vegas Raiders season is the difference in the Silver and Black between the way they have played at home as opposed to on the road.
Old nemesis Philip Rivers came to Las Vegas with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday and helped deal the Raiders with what was all but a death blow to their playoff chances with a 44-27 blowout at Allegiant Stadium.
“I believed that we can be that good, but obviously this was a big day,” Colts Coach Frank Reich said. “It’s hard to put up those numbers in this league, but we did it today, and we have the personnel to do that.
“We have the personnel to be dominant in the run game and we have the personnel to be dominant in the pass game.”
The Raiders (7-6) are 5-2 on the road this season, but only 2-4 in their brand-new, multi-million-dollar stadium. Las Vegas must win its three remaining games and then hope for some help to make the playoffs, but that’s a real longshot.
And once again the Raiders' defense was run over. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has reportedly paid for it with his job, as news leaked of his firing Sunday night.
“You get to the point where you’re second-guessing everything you’re doing,” Coach Jon Gruden told reporters after the game, before Guenther's firing was reported. “It’s tough right now, but you have to stay confident that your [defensive] players are going to put it together.
“You have to trust your defense. To be a championship team, you have to be a good football team in all three phases. ... We were in a situation where we had to score a touchdown every time we had the ball, it seemed.”
Rivers, who was 18-10 against the Raiders in 14 seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, signed as a free agent with Indianapolis before this season and has the Colts (9-4) looking good in the AFC wild-card race.
“You hope you’re playing your best ball here in the fourth quarter (of the season), and that’s what we’re going to have to do to give ourselves a chance in the playoffs here,” Rivers said.
“We’re built to be efficient and dink-and-dunk it and grind out the 4-yard runs, but there’s no question what big plays do for you. It’s huge.”
The Raiders took their only lead of the game, 14-10, on Derek Carr’s 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor with 10:38 left in the first half, but the Raiders couldn’t find the end zone again until the final minute of the game.
Rivers put the Colts ahead to stay, 17-14, on a 41-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on the next series with 9:23 left in the half, and the Raiders never caught up.
Not that they didn’t have their chances.
Carr drove the Raiders down the field on the following series, but his pass intended for tight end Darren Waller in the end zone was intercepted on a sensational one-handed catch by safety Kenny Moore.
Trailing, 20-14, at halftime, the Raiders drove inside the Colts' 10-yard line on their first two possessions of the second half but had to settle for field goals of 25 and 23 yards by Daniel Carlson.
In between those kicks, Jonathon Taylor broke off a 62-yard touchdown run and the Colts had a 27-20 lead after three quarters.
Indianapolis broke it wide open with two more touchdowns and a field goal in the fourth quarter, one of the scores on a 50-yard interception return by safety Khari Willis after Carr’s pass bounced off the hands of running back Jalen Richard and right to Willis.
Carr scored a meaningless touchdown on a five-yard run with 55 seconds in the game, but after allowing 17 points in the final quarter, the Raiders have yielded 148 in the closing stanza this season, the most in the NFL.
Statistically, Carr had another good game by completing 31-of-45 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns with the two interceptions, with Agholor making five catches for 100 yards, and Waller adding seven for 75 yards.
Carr also connected with backup tight end Foster Moreau on a 47-yard touchdown pass.
Said Moreau: “The touchdown play was just a seam route, one-on-one. We looked first to (Waller) and basically wherever the post safety went Derek was gonna throw it the other way. He found me with a great ball, we had great protection.
“Made a good catch and from there I just made a move and finished in the end zone. After that, I actually feel like we kind of picked up the pace there. We got another (touchdown).”
None of it was of any consolation to Carr.
“When you need a win against a team you’re battling with for a playoff spot and you don’t get it, it really rips your heart out,” Carr said. “It breaks your heart to lose a game like that. It breaks your heart.
“It is what it is. You can’t get it back. But just like this game, typically, unless it’s the last week of the season and that’s it, you have to play another one. In our case, we have another one on Thursday. I need to get home and start preparing for that game. That’s my job, it’s what I have to do. We’ve got to get ready to play. We’ve got to be ready to bring it as they come to us.”
Josh Jacobs returned after missing the Jets game because of a right ankle injury and led the Raiders with 49 yards on 13 carries, but the 79 yards the Raiders gained on the ground didn’t mean much in the long run.
Rivers, who has beaten the Raiders more than any quarterback in NFL history, completed 19-or-28 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns to Hilton, who made five catches for 41 yards.
The Raiders didn’t put much pressure on Rivers and did not sack him even once, but it hurt that defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who had two strip-sacks last week, left early in the game because of a shoulder injury and did not return.
Rivers and his receiver had plenty of help from the running game.
After being gouged for 206 yards rushing by the winless New York Jets last week, the Raiders gave up 212 more yards on the ground to the Colts, as Taylor led the way with 150 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns, with Nyheim Hines adding 58 yards on seven rushes.
Kicker Rodrigo added field goals of 25, 25, and 30 yards for good measure.
The Raiders pulled off a miracle in the final seconds last week against the Jets, but there was no magic left in this one.
Even though their playoff hopes hang by a thread, the Silver and Black must get it together quickly this week with the Los Angeles Chargers coming to Allegiant Stadium for a game on Thursday Night Football.
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