In their first game of the post-Amari Cooper era, the passing game was far from the problem for the Raiders.
Derek Carr enjoyed his best performance under head coach Jon Gruden, throwing for 244 yards and three scores while adding the first rushing touchdown of his career to send Oakland (1-6) into the fourth quarter up 28-21. But the inability of the Raider defense to stop, or even slow, the Indianapolis offense and a costly late fumble by Doug Martin helped the Colts (3-5) swipe a 42-28 victory behind a 21-0 final period.
Down 7-0 out of the gates after seeing Andrew Luck march his offense down the field with ease on their first possession, the Oakland offense looked like the same incapable unit that had cracked the 20-point threshold just once in its first six games.
Completing one pass on three attempts, Carr’s offense was chased to the sideline following a three-and-out to watch another Indy drive result in a field goal and a quick 10-0 deficit.
But Carr hit tight end tight end Jared Cook for nine big yards on third and eight less than a minute later, and proceeded to complete 19 straight pass attempts as Oakland scored 21 of the game’s next 23 points.
Even with no Cooper on the outside, and no Marshawn Lynch (IR, groin) in the backfield, Carr looked to be at his highest level of comfort in the pocket all season. Able to stand tall rather than needing to constantly evade pressure — he went un-sacked for the first time this season — Carr was able to look deep and work through progressions, something he has not had the ability to do all season.
He finished with a season-best 136.6 passer rating.
Sans Lynch, it was Martin got the lion’s share of the carries, toting the rock 13 times for 72 yards. Meanwhile, Jalen Richard was used primarily on passing downs, getting just two handoffs but catching eight passes for 50 yards.
Until the 5:17 mark of the fourth quarter, the Raiders’ decision to ride Martin appeared to be the correct one. But getting the run to start Oakland’s second possession of the fourth quarter, trailing 35-28, Martin had the ball jarred from his left arm by rookie linebacker Darius Leonard forcing the game’s first and only turnover at the worst possible time for the Raiders.
And, as had been the case in the first quarter and previously in the fourth, the Oakland defense was no match for the Colts offense defending a short field.
Luck, who had completed six of seven passes for 95 yards and a score in the fourth quarter didn’t need to attempt his eighth throw in the period with five-straight handoffs to running back Marlon Mack resulting in 27 yards and the put-away touchdown.
Mack finished the afternoon traipsing for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, while Luck threw for 239 yards and three scores on 71-percent (22-of-31) passing.
Carr became the first Raider not named Lynch to find pay dirt on the ground this season with a leaping fourth-down quarterback sneak from the 1 yard line early in the third.
For a team that came into the season as an outside challenger for the Super Bowl, the moral victory of a productive passing game is not enough for the Raiders. Oakland, the only one-win team in the conference, remains in the AFC cellar after this loss fresh out of a bye week.
The Raiders and San Francisco 49ers (1-7) meet Thursday in Santa Clara for the latest, and possibly final, meeting of Bay Area rivals. Like Oakland, the 49ers have under-performed this season, due in part to the loss of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (torn ACL). Oakland holds an all-time 7-6 advantage in the 13 previous regular season meetings between the two teams, according to The Football Database.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri became the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with a 25-yard field goal late in the first half, passing Morten Anderson (2,544 points). … Defensive backs Rashaan Melvin and Reggie Nelson, and Emmanuel Lamur were all healthy scratches for the Raiders Sunday. Nelson had started each of the previous 22 games of his Raiders career.