INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts improved 9-4 on the year on Sunday with their 44-27 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in their 2020 Week 14 matchup at Allegiant Stadium.
Much like the previous week's game against the Houston Texans, the two teams traded blows throughout the first two quarters, and Indy went into halftime with a 20-14 lead. But the Colts took full control from there, as their offense continued to click and their defense had a couple particularly big-time plays its pocket to fly home with a dominating road win to further solidify its push for a playoff spot.
"Obviously, a big win — a huge win," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "A great team win in all three phases. Completely dominant. I'm really proud of the guys.
"We talked about all week just dialing in getting ready for this game and walking off the field the most physical team, and I think we accomplished that against and good and dangerous team."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's win over the Raiders:
» PLENTY OF PLAYMAKERS: The Colts utilized more of a "by-committee" approach at the running back and wide receiver positions the first nine or 10 weeks of the season; at both spots, there were multiple players that were going to step up and be "the guy" on any given particular week. But over the last three to four weeks, the Indy offense has really benefitted from two players in particular stepping up into the No. 1 roles at their respective positions in running back Jonathan Taylor and T.Y. Hilton, which could pay dividends down this stretch run and potentially into the postseason. Taylor on Sunday had a monster performance, with 20 carries for 150 yards (7.5 avg.) and two touchdowns, including a career-best 62-yard play midway through the third quarter; he also had two receptions for 15 yards. Over his last three games, Taylor has 55 carries for 331 yards (6.0 avg.) with two touchdowns, as well as nine receptions for 83 yards and another score. Hilton, meanwhile, continued to make huge plays in the passing game on Sunday, as he finished with five receptions for 86 yards and two touchdowns. Over his last three games, Hilton has 17 receptions for 277 yards (16.3 avg.) with four touchdowns. These two guys getting are certainly getting hot at the right time.
» WE WANT MOORE: If you were a Colts fan and you were sitting down while watching Sunday's game, you probably weren't alone when you jumped out of your chair at the 3:35 mark of the second quarter. That's when cornerback Kenny Moore II, locked into one-on-one coverage with Raiders tight end Darren Waller — who is having an All-Pro season in 2020 — was able to leap up in the end zone and pull in one of the more impressive one-handed interceptions that you will ever see. The Colts ended up getting a 20-yard Rodrigo Blankenship field goal out of that huge defensive stop, halting the Raiders' clear momentum to that point. But Moore II wasn't finished. The Colts had just taken a 34-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter when Moore II reached in and knocked the ball out of the hands of wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, which was recovered by defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth. Four plays later, Blankenship would knock in a 35-yard field goal to make it 37-20. Moore II continues to establish himself as one of the top nickel cornerbacks in the league — heck, one of the best defensive backs in the NFL, period — and now has 59 tackles (two for a loss) with one sack, two quarterback hits, a career-best four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 11 passes defensed and one forced fumble. Talk about stuffing the stat sheet.
» OFFENSIVE LINE SHUFFLING: The Colts headed into Sunday's game with some stability along their offensive line for the first time in a couple weeks, as veteran left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who had suffered a sprained MCL in Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans and then missed last Sunday's win against the Texans, was able to return to the starting lineup. But early on against the Raiders, Castonzo was seen heading to the locker room with team trainers, once again creating a bit of a shuffle up front. At first the Colts put reserve Chaz Green in at left tackle, but for the next drive they showed a look not yet seen; it was Quenton Nelson, the All-Pro guard, moving to left tackle for the first time in his career, and Joey Hunt, who has spent most of the season on Indy's practice squad, filling in for Nelson at left guard. Castonzo was eventually able to return to, and finish out, the game, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that the offensive line was able to get some in-game reps with a different lineup to be better prepared for the unknown moving forward. "Those MCLs are no fun, especially as a lineman, as much as you have to anchor down and change directions laterally," Colts quarterback Philip Rivers said about Castonzo. "I mean, that's what you hate about it. He's been working hard to get back. Again, like I said, sooner than maybe anticipated; sooner than most guys would. So, we certainly appreciate his toughness in gutting it out. We also appreciate Chaz and Joey getting in the mix a little bit; Quenton going out there. Guys are fighting."
» PLAYOFF POSITIONING: The Colts knew entering Sunday's game against the Raiders that it would be a crucial opportunity to improve their playoff stock if they were able to get a win over another AFC contender; a loss, and those odds would decrease dramatically. In fact, according to fivethirtyeight.com, the Colts entered the Raiders game at the AFC's No. 7 seed, with a 70-percent chance of making the playoffs. With a win over Las Vegas, those odds would increase to 89 percent; a loss, and those postseason hopes dwindle to 47 percent. Now that Indy took care of business against Las Vegas, and after factoring in all the Week 14 results heading into tonight's Monday Night Football Matchup between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens, the Colts have moved up into the No. 6 seed in the AFC and have a 91-percent shot of making the playoffs. If the Colts can beat the Texans this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, those odds jump to 97 percent (other teams' results notwithstanding). So far, the Colts are taking care of business in December, which could lead to opportunities in January — and maybe even beyond.
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— The Indianapolis offense converted 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) third downs, tallied 456 total net yards, 212 rushing yards, didn't allow a sack and didn't commit a turnover. They also punted only one time. The team's 72.7 percent third-down conversion rate was the team's best mark since Week 11 of 2010 (78.6 percent).
— Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship converted three field goals and five extra points for 14 total points. He passed Raul Allegre (112) for the most points by a rookie in franchise history.
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Sunday's win over the Raiders, courtesy of Colts Communications.
Colts fans can catch the re-air of Sunday's Week 14 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on WTTV4.2 this Wednesday at 8pm presented by POWERHOME SOLAR.