By Dave Thomas
If you could ever define a bittersweet win for the Oakland Raiders, it came in the form of a Christmas Eve victory at home over the Indianapolis Colts.
Oakland’s 33-25 win over Andrew Luck and the Colts (7-8) eliminated the latter from the AFC playoff race. In the process, however, the Raiders may have seen what were pretty good chances to make noise in the playoffs and get to Houston and the Super Bowl go by the wayside.
Quarterback Derek Carr, one of the candidates for this season’s MVP honor, suffered a season-ending injury in the second half on a tackle by Trent Cole. After being examined, Carr was reportedly diagnosed with a broken right fibula. He will have surgery on Christmas Day. There is no timetable for his return.
With Carr’s injury, Oakland (12-3) was forced to turn to backup QB Matt McGloin (2-of-3, 29 yards). Fans of the Silver and Black will now put their support behind McGloin, as he looks to lead Oakland to its first playoff victory since the 2002 campaign.
Oakland wasn’t shy yet again this season about putting up points on the scoreboard. Before going out with his injury, Carr tossed for 228 yards and three TDs. Despite 11 catches between them, wide receivers Michael Crabtree (seven receptions) and Amari Cooper (four catches) were unable to reach the end zone. Carr connected with Andre Holmes, Clive Walford, and Jalen Richard for touchdown scores.The Raiders had a good effort on the ground from back DeAndre Washington, finishing with 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Leading rusher Latavius Murray rushed for a mere 40 yards on 15 carries.
Despite getting the win, Oakland’s defense watched Luck and the Colts come back in the fourth quarter to make the game closer than it appeared. Indianapolis outscored Oakland 11-0 in the final stanza, but getting behind 33-14 heading into the last 15 minutes of play was too much to overcome in the end. The Raiders were led defensively by Malcolm Smith (eight solo tackles), Nate Allen (seven total stops), and five each from Perry Riley Jr. and TJ Carrie, respectively.
Special Teams: (B-)
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski did not attempt a field goal, but did hit on 3-of-4 extra point attempts. Meantime, punter Marquette King kicked five times for an average of 47 yards. While Janikowski has been one of the most reliable kickers for well over a decade, his leg will be even more important come the post-season with Carr on the shelf.
Head coach Jack Del Rio was visibly shaken when talking about Carr’s injury in the post-game presser. Del Rio, who has done a remarkable job leading this team to 12 wins on the season, will now have to get as much as possible out of McGloin if the Raiders are to make some noise in the playoffs. Keep in mind that Del Rio and Co. will be rooting for Denver on Christmas Day to score an upset win in Kansas City. If the Chiefs win Sunday, they will go into week 17 with an opportunity to capture the AFC West should Oakland fall in Denver.
While the AFC West has not been clinched yet, the Raiders will not take next Sunday’s game in Denver lightly. With Carr out, it will be important to get McGloin as many live snaps as possible to gear him up for the playoffs. Expect wide receivers Crabtree and Cooper to step it up come the postseason, especially with McGloin now under center for the foreseeable future, Lastly, New England (13-2) continues to hold the top seed in the AFC heading into the final week of the regular season. The Patriots finish the regular season Jan. 1 in Miami.