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Knee-jerk reactions: Colts’ playoff hopes very much alive following impressive 23-20 win over Raiders

Indianapolis defeats the Las Vegas Raiders 23-20 in Week 17 of the 2023 NFL season.

Las Vegas Raiders v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts bounced back in a major way against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday with a 23-20 victory. First-year head coach Shane Steichen and the Colts will finish the season with a winning record, regardless of next Sunday’s outcome against the Houston Texans. Both the Colts and Texans will enter Week 18 with 9-7 records, with the winner most likely advancing to the playoffs in a wild card spot.

COLTS’ OFFENSE BOUNCES BACK WITH SOLID PERFORMANCES FROM QB GARDNER MINSHEW AND RB JONATHAN TAYLOR

After struggling heavily to really get anything going on offense against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16, the Colts’ offense came out swinging with a 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped off with running back Jonathan Taylor scoring on the ground. While the Colts did have a few drives that stalled out following Taylor’s touchdown, a 58-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gardner Minshew gave the Colts a 14-3 lead early on.

Taylor totaled a season-best 96 rushing yards on 21 rushing attempts, an average of 4.5 yards per attempt, and one rushing touchdown. In total, the Colts’ offense as a whole rushed for 134 yards, a far cry from their efforts the week prior against Atlanta. Gardner Minshew made plays where it was needed as well, completing 15-of-23 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown. Perhaps the veteran’s biggest play of the afternoon came early when he completed a 50-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Josh Downs, which set up Indianapolis in prime scoring position.

Sunday’s showing was one the Colts’ offense desperately needed, especially if they wanted to keep their playoff hopes alive. Indianapolis never really seemed to lose control of the game, despite what the final score may indicate. Overall, their offense managed to average 9.7 yards per attempt on an afternoon where they put up 349 yards, which is certainly a big reason why they were able to come away victorious.

COLTS’ DEFENSE DOES ENOUGH TO HELP TEAM SECURE VICTORY OVER LAS VEGAS

Just as the Colts’ offense needed a bounce back performance, so, too did Indy’s defense. Despite being outgained in total yardage 370 to 349, Indianapolis’ defense played well enough to help their team come away with a much-needed victory. Las Vegas’ rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell had a fairly nice afternoon with 289 passing yards on 30 completions to go along with two passing touchdowns. The rookie’s numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story, though, as many of O’Connell’s yards came when the Raiders were trailing. For a Colts’ secondary that was missing two key starters in Julian Blackmon (shoulder) and Kenny Moore II (back), their young defensive backs were tested at times, but they deserve credit for playing as well as they did at points throughout the game.

Additionally, Las Vegas also only managed to rush for 84 total yards on an average of 3.4 yards per attempt. Indy’s disciplined run defense certainly aided their young secondary in many ways Sunday. Indy’s performance from their run defense looked like what fans are used to seeing, with defensive tackles Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner playing a massive role in that department. The Raiders also only converted on 5 of their 15 third down attempts, which is another area where the Colts’ defense struggled the week prior against the Falcons. On a day where Indy’s pass rush recorded only two sacks, they, again, deserve a lot of credit for avoiding giving up big plays down the field.

Raiders’ wide receiver Davante Adams did have a really nice afternoon, hauling in 13 receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Adams’ experience as a veteran showed up in a lot of ways for Las Vegas, but much-like O’Connell’s passing yards, a lot of Adams’ receiving yards came when trailing. Outside of Adams, the Colts’ defense was able to keep the rest of the Raiders’ pass catchers in check. The status of a few key defenders, including Moore II and linebacker E.J. Speed, will be something to monitor in the week ahead. Speed left late in the fourth quarter and did not return.