INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Carson Wentz returned in time to start for the Indianapolis Colts. He just didn't show up until late in the first half.
Wentz was held to 148 yards passing after spending much of the week on Indianapolis' COVID-19 reserve list, and the Colts lost 23-20 to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday on Daniel Carlson’s 33-yard field goal as time expired.
“Definitely one of the weirdest weeks of my NFL career if not the weirdest,” Wentz said. “But we’re good, locked in the virtual meetings. Just different, wouldn’t say that’s the reason for the performance or the reason we lost today by any means. Just a strange, strange week.”
Indianapolis (9-7) had won three straight and eight of 10 to move one win away from securing a postseason berth. But it couldn’t hold a second-half lead against Las Vegas (9-7).
“Disappointing loss, really disappointed we didn’t do what we had to do in front of our home fans and clinch a spot in the playoffs,” coach Frank Reich said.
Wentz, who is unvaccinated, had a negative test Sunday and was cleared to play under new protocols adopted by the NFL and the players’ union. He went on the COVID-19 list Tuesday and was required to isolate for five days.
But it took him a while to find his form. He threw incomplete on his four passes in the first quarter. He passed for 59 of his 67 first-half yards on the team's final drive before the break, which Jonathan Taylor finished with a 1-yard TD run with 1 second left.
“It was a weird flow of the game,” Wentz said. “Definitely offensively not our best.”
Reich said he wasn't sure how much Wentz's time away from the Colts affected the team.
“Obviously, it’s always great to get every rep you can but at this time of the year, you lean on accumulated reps when you have to,” Reich said. "It’s not uncommon for players this time of the year to miss a lot of practice time. It happens all over the league at all positions. For all of us, those players, whoever they are, have to find a way to come in and still play well.”
Wentz got his touchdown pass on a fortunate bounce for Indianapolis on its first possession of the second half.
On first-and-10 at the Las Vegas 45, a scrambling Wentz threw the ball into a crowd at the goal line. Wide receiver Ashton Dulin and defensive backs Casey Hayward and Tre’von Moehrig all went up to make a play, and the ball popped up before landing in the arms of T.Y. Hilton for a 17-13 lead.
Hilton took a bow in the end zone after perhaps the easiest of his 53 career receiving touchdowns.
But the Colts didn't score again until Michael Badgley kicked a tying 41-yard field goal with 1:56 left.
“Very disappointing," Reich said. “The level of disappointment is very high. In myself and how we coached this game, how we played this game.”
Taylor finished with 20 carries for 108 yards. The NFL’s leading rusher broke Edgerrin James’ single-season franchise record of 1,709 yards rushing on a 9-yard carry midway through the third quarter. He has 1,734 yards to go with one game left in the league’s first 17-game season.
The crowd of 65,985 cheered when the record was shown on the videoboard, and the team then showed a video with James congratulating Taylor for the record.
“Yeah, that was really nice. I wasn’t expecting that to come over the jumbotron during the game so that was really nice,” Taylor said.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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