Christmas eve marked the Saturday slate of NFL games in Week 16 of the NFL season. For many teams, including the Oakland Raiders, it meant playoff seeding and divisional titles on the line. Jack Del Rio and the Raiders returned to the Oakland Coliseum for a showdown against the Indianapolis Colts.
Paired with a Kansas City Chiefs loss, a win for the Raiders would clinch not only the AFC West title, but also a first-round bye. Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and the entire team knew the importance of the game ahead.
Carr and the offense came out heavy with the passing game, upon the Colts quickly punted on their first possession. After traveling down towards midfield, Michael Crabtree had a key drop on a would-be conversion on third and three.
Andrew Luck and the Colts traveled down to the Raiders’ territory on their second drive, but were stopped on a third down near the 30-yard line. With Adam Vinatieri lined up for a long field goal, the Colts decided to run a fake attempt. The Raiders were prepared for the run, tackling them well before the first down marker.
After not being able to convert on their next possession, the Colts were given the ball back on Marquette King’s second punt of the game. During the drive, Luck was pressured in the pocket and was hit while throwing down the field. Safety Nate Allen came running in and intercepted the pass.
Down at the goal line, Crabtree was held on an incomplete pass on third down. With a fresh set of downs, Carr was able to convert on a touchdown pass to Andre Holmes after a number of opportunities.
With a 7-0 lead, the defense came out and dealt with Luck and the rather impressive offense. While Luck was executing passes, Frank Gore was making an impact in the running game. Luck found Donte Moncrief on a 24-yard pass on a fake screen attempt to tie the game 7-7.
The offense of the Raiders seemed to be on point in their return back to the Oakland Coliseum, as they responded with another lengthy drive. They got it down to the red zone, where Carr connected with tight end Clive Walford for a five-yard touchdown. Walford shaked off the tackle attempt and gave the Raiders a 14-7 lead on the highlight.
The Raiders got the ball back before the half, thanks to another turnover caused by the pass rush. Khalil Mack made Luck scramble in the pocket, while Bruce Irvin delivered a hit as Luck threw it down the field.
Defensive back Reggie Nelson, who was voted to the Pro Bowl, intercepted the pass. On the following offensive possession, rookie running back Jalen Richard was effective from the backfield. Thanks to some nice blocking from the offensive line, Richard was able to get many creases in the running game.
With less than 30 seconds in the half, Carr connected with Richard on a screen pass from the red zone for a touchdown. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed his second extra point of the day, so the Raiders had a 19-7 lead going into halftime.
Carr was dealing in the first half, with three touchdown passes to three different receivers.
The Raiders came out in the second half with the ball, in an attempt to put some more separation between them and the Colts. Thanks once again to some outstanding offensive line play, the Raiders put together another lengthy drive.
Fellow rookie DeAndre Washington took a 22-yard carry to the house, giving the Raiders a 26-7 lead early in the third quarter.
The defense of the Raiders continued to put on their dominant performance, keeping the Colts’ offense in check. The Raiders forced a fumble on a Gore carry, which was recovered by defensive back T.J. Carrie.
The Raiders then converted on the opportunity, as Washington took another 22-yard rush for his second touchdown of the game. The Raiders now held a 26-point lead, as the running game produced two third quarter touchdowns.
Out with a comfortable lead, the black hole was cheering on their playoff bound team. The Raiders were closing in on their 12th win of the season, during a season that Del Rio is calling their return to greatness.
Luck was able to connect with T.Y. Hilton on a deep ball on the following drive, which was capped off by a Robert Turbin three-yard touchdown run. With that score, the lead shrunk to 33-14.
The game continued on into the fourth quarter, until Raider nation was given quite the scare. Upon a perfect game from the offensive line, their lone blunder hurt Carr in a big way.
Carr was sacked for just the 16th time on the season and couldn’t get up after the play. He seemed to be grabbing his hamstring, lobbying in pain. The Raiders had to use an injury timeout to check on the quarterback, who was helped off the field.
After being checked on the sideline, Carr was carted to the locker room for further evaluations. Back up quarterback Matt McGloin replaced Carr, taking over for the offense.
The Colts would inch back into the game, as Luck scored on a rushing touchdown. The Colts would go on to convert the two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 33-22 with less than eight minutes in the fourth quarter.
McGloin and the running backs took the drive after the touchdown to eat up some clock. Upon converting a few first downs, the Raiders were able to run the clock down to the four-minute mark.
The Colts hurried down the field for a Vinatieri field goal, which cut the lead to 33-25. However, the Raiders were able to pick up a key first down, which allowed them to kneel and run the clock out.
The Raiders secured the 33-25 victory, but left the field with the news regarding their quarterback on their minds. Washington (12 carries for 99 yards, two touchdowns) and Richard (six carries fro 66 yards) carried the running game for the Raiders.
Carr finished the game with 228 passing yards on 20/30 attempts, with three touchdowns. However, his leg injury remains the key concern with one game remaining in the regular season.