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Jan. 2—INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts crashed from an emotional high Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Las Vegas Raiders gave the home team a taste of its own medicine.
Derek Carr made big plays in the fourth quarter and a resilient Raiders squad rallied for a 23-20 victory that — at least temporarily — staunched Indianapolis' playoff march.
Las Vegas (9-7) earned a head-to-head tiebreaker in a tight AFC wild-card race and kept alive its own postseason hopes heading into a showdown next week against the Los Angeles Chargers.
A win would have clinched a playoff spot for the Colts (9-7), but it looked like the Raiders just wanted it more.
"We played some other teams with their backs against the wall," Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich said. "I mean, we knew they'd come out with a lot of energy, and they did, and they executed well. They were coached well, and they played well. And we just didn't quite coach well enough or play well enough in all three phases."
The Colts shook off an exceedingly slow start with a pair of touchdown drives on either side of the halftime break.
Carson Wentz — who didn't practice all week while isolating in the NFL's COVID-19 protocols — was 7-of-9 on a 60-yard march just before halftime that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Taylor. That came on a gutsy third-down call with four seconds left in the half and Indianapolis out of timeouts.
The second touchdown was a stroke of fortune.
On first down at Las Vegas' 45-yard line, Wentz scrambled away from pressure and heaved the ball downfield into double coverage. Wide receiver Ashton Dulin got between the two defenders and broke up a likely interception.
Then the ball simply landed in wide receiver T.Y. Hilton's hands, standing behind the fracas in the end zone. The 45-yard touchdown gave the Colts a 17-13 lead with 11:28 remaining in the third quarter.
"I seen (Wentz) throw the ball, and I was about to go up, and then I seen all them go after it," Hilton said. "I'm like, 'I'm just gonna wait.' And the ball came right to me."
There was no such luck on the other potential big connection between Wentz and Hilton.
On third-and-7 from his own 23-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Hilton broke free wide open in front of the visiting sideline. But Wentz badly overthrew the ball, and the receiver's furious attempt to catch up was unsuccessful.
Indianapolis had to punt the ball away and never held the lead again.
Carr was 4-for-4 on the ensuing drive, including a 42-yard completion to Zay Jones — who had eight catches for 120 yards — to get the ball into the red zone and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow on fourth-and-2.
It looked as though linebacker Darius Leonard had a chance for a sack on the fourth-down pass, but he leapt to bat down the attempt and Carr bought time to hit the open receiver in the end zone with 11:18 remaining in the game.
It was just one of many occasions when Carr was able to extend a play that looked hopeless.
"Some of those opportunities I felt like we got some good pressure, and he escaped a couple times and made those good throws," rookie defensive end Kwity Paye said. "I feel like a lot of those opportunities we had in the game I wasn't where I was supposed to be today."
The Colts did capitalize on some chances against Carr. The quarterback finished 24-of-31 for 255 yards with a touchdown but was sacked twice and intercepted twice.
The first pick came from cornerback Isaiah Rodgers in the first quarter at Indianapolis' 26-yard line, and the offense couldn't convert it into any points.
Leonard made the second interception with the Colts leading 17-13 early in the third quarter. That gave Indianapolis the ball at its own 49-yard line, but the drive stalled when Wentz was sacked for an 8-yard loss on third down at the Raiders' 34.
It was one of several missed scoring opportunities for an offense that never quite found its rhythm.
"I'd have to go back and check the film," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said of the cause for the offensive inconsistency, "but, I mean, we just didn't show up the way that we needed to, and we lost."
Wentz was just 16-of-27 for 148 yards with the fluky touchdown to Hilton, and the offense produced just 262 total yards and was 3-for-11 on third down.
Taylor rushed for 108 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries and surpassed Edgerrin James' single-season franchise record of 1,709 rushing yards. Taylor finished the game with 1,734 yards for the season.
Pittman also surpassed a milestone. With six catches for 47 yards, he's amassed 1,018 receiving yards for his first 1,000-yard season.
Both accomplishments felt empty without an accompanying victory.
Badgley tied the game with a 41-yard field goal to cap a drive that lasted 9:22 and left just 1:56 on the clock.
But Carr found Renfrow for a 24-yard gain on third-and-10 from Indianapolis' 48-yard line with 48 seconds remaining. The play was first ruled a touchdown, but a replay showed the receiver — who finished with seven catches for 76 yards — was down by contact.
The overturned call allowed Las Vegas to drain the clock before Daniel Carlson's 33-yard field goal won it.
Indianapolis still controls its own destiny with another win-and-in scenario at Jacksonville — where the Colts haven't won since 2014 — next week.
"We don't play good down there," Hilton said. "So we better find a way, or we're gonna be out."