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Highlights from week 14: Colts vs Raiders

Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Overview

When studying both teams leading up to this game, it was clear that the Colts were the better team. But since Jon Gruden’s return to coaching, it’s felt like he’s always had the upper hand in his Raiders matchups against our Colts. Today any coaching inequity there may have been was vastly overshadowed by a much more talented Indianapolis squad.

Today has been a good day to be a Colts fan.


First Quarter

The first drive was major foreshadowing

Jonathan Taylor’s performance on the first drive was impressive. From making defenders miss, to picking up yards after first contact, Taylor was well on his way to a massive day for the good guys.

From the rookie to the “old” guys

In an odd turn of events T.Y. Hilton’s season has mirrored Jonathan Taylor’s in regard to effectiveness. Here Hilton made a tough catch in the end zone to put the Colts up 10-0 in the first quarter.

The defense started well but the Raiders got in a groove

Kenny Moore II had a very up and down game. He got beat in coverage for 47 yard touchdown on this play and even though he’s seven inches shorter and 60 pounds lighter than the tight end he was charged with covering, this play is still largely on him. Rookie Julian Blackmon should have taken a better angle and made this tackle, but the problems for the Colts DB’s started before the missed tackle.


Second Quarter

The Raiders offensive line deserves credit

Derek Carr had plenty of time to throw all day long and the Raiders offensive line deserves a ton of credit for his effectiveness today. On the other hand the Colts defense needs to figure out how to generate pressure over the last few weeks of the season, the lack of rush today could spell disaster in the playoffs.

I might have mentioned a play just like this leading up to the game

From this week’s piece on the Raiders offense:

This play is designed to beat cover two. I’ll start by talking about the running back, he runs a short curl route that both linebackers over the middle react to.

The two tight ends run to spots that are traditional weak points of the cover two; the intermediate sideline and the deep center of the field. The corner bit terribly on a half hearted play fake to the back which put him at an even greater disadvantage than he otherwise would have been. The safety on this play is an impossible situation, no matter what he chooses, unless he gets really lucky, someone’s touchdown reel at the end of the season is going to feature him, even though it’s not really his fault.

This could have been made better, however, by the linebackers. Had only one of the backers reacted to the running back’s route and the other been aware of the route over the top (or had they just been in Tampa two, where the middle backer runs a deep zone in the deep middle) then the safety would have been more able to cover near the sideline.

No matter what the Colts did or didn’t do on this snap, this play from the Raiders is too good against what the Colts do defensively to not see it in some form on Sunday.

This Raiders offense will look to challenge the area’s the field where the Colts are likely to be the weakest and they’ll do so often.

The play they ran today was slightly different as the Raiders put another receiver on that side of the field but the idea was the same. They challenged the weak points of two high safety coverage while using a running back with an underneath route to pull the linebackers forward.

Even though I called this (and Matt Eberflus no doubt knew it was coming too) stopping it is really hard to do. It was a well timed play call against what the Colts do best on defense. If the Colts get cute and try to do things they maybe aren’t so good at in order to eliminate plays like this one, they’re going to give up big plays in other ways.

Ultimately the other teams coaches get paid too and they did a good job dialing this play up at the perfect time.

Becoming an every down back

Maybe the biggest thing that limits young running backs playing time is their ability to pass protect. Today Jonathan Taylor proved what he could do with the ball in his hands and that will no doubt overshadow what he did while blocking, but Jonathan Taylor was excellent in all aspects of the running back position today.

I think it’s safe to say, he’s back

In the past few weeks T.Y. Hilton and Philip Rivers have finally gotten on the same page and it’s yielded fantastic results for the entire offense. Hilton finished the day with five catches, 86 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts took the lead on this play and never gave it back.

Unbelievable

Kenny Moore II, gained plenty of attention around the NFL today with this interception. It’s amazing how quickly we forgot about his earlier struggles after a play this amazing.

Lost a shoe

On 3rd and 10 Jonathan Taylor took the handoff for a 15 yard gain, losing a shoe in the process. With less than 30 seconds on the clock before halftime and on third and long, the Raiders obviously weren’t expecting run. With two timeouts the Colts were happy to challenge the defense on the ground and it paid off big on this one.

Almost scored, almost ran out of time

This play was way too close comfort for me. Luckily they got the timeout called with one second remaining. Rodrigo Blankenship came in to extend the lead before half.


Third Quarter

The Raiders were able to move the ball, but stalled when it mattered

This season we’ve seen the Colts limit the yards their opponents have gained. They’ve done a good job forcing punts but today, they played a different game. Today the Raiders moved the ball at will between the 20’s but when it mattered most the Colts forced the Raiders to kick field goals. Matt Eberflus and the defense eventually figured it out and continued their streak of good second half play.

Speed kills

I don’t want to be hyperbolic when discussing Jonathan Taylor, it’s still very early in his career and he’s only recently looked like he’s found his way as a pro. Having said that, Taylor looks like the most complete running back since they had a hall of famer in the backfield. I’m not saying Taylor is that good and Jonathan Taylor is nothing like Edgerrin James, stylistically. But his ability to run, catch and block hasn’t been seen all in the same Colts running back in a very long time.


Fourth Quarter

More success on the ground

This time it was Nyheim Hines cutting the ball outside and picking up 31 yards and putting the offense in a position to score more points.

On Stampede Radio Jim Campbell predicted this

Okay, so Jim didn’t predict that Nyheim Hines would line up at quarterback and hand the ball off to Jonathan Taylor. Had he predicted that I would be asking him for the Powerball numbers. But he did predict Taylor’s career day and his second rushing touchdown sealed Jim’s prediction.

Kenny Moore, again

Hunter Renfrow is a fine slot receiver but he’s going to be upset with himself after this one. Sometimes defenders do a great job ripping a ball out of a ball carriers arms, Kenny Moore kind of just made a good tackle and in the process knocked this one loose. Moore gets the credit all the same and the Colts got the ball in great position to extend their lead.

The Colts kicked a field goal then this happened

Khari Willis was in the right place at the right time to make snag this interception and take it to the house, bringing the Colts to 44 points scored.

Always my favorite play

There’s just nothing better. Jacoby Brissett comes in to take the snap and give the Colts their ninth win of the season.


Final Thoughts For The Week

The Colts did what good teams should always do. They went out and soundly beat a worse team. It took the 2020 Indianapolis Colts more than half the season to do it but it seems that they’re finally starting to come together as a team.

If they can finish out the season with two division wins and at a minimum give the Steelers a tough game late into the fourth quarter, this Colts team could make some noise in the playoffs.

At the end of the day these Colts were fun to watch and in a year where things that are “fun” have been few and far between, it was a very welcome sight.

Go Colts.