HENDERSON (AP) — Josh Jacobs couldn’t have produced the best game of his three-year-old career at a better time.
With Las Vegas spiraling downward into what’s seemed like a traditional late-season collapse, Jacobs turned in a career-best tying 129 yards on 27 attempts to lead the Raiders to a 17-13 win over the Denver Broncos last Sunday to keep the playoff hunt alive.
It was the type of effort Las Vegas could certainly use this Sunday, when they visit the playoff-contending Indianapolis Colts.
“To block for someone like Josh Jacobs, you got to love it as an offensive lineman, because you know he’s going to give it his all every play,” Raiders center Andre James said. “We don’t want to block for anyone else.”
Sunday’s effort was Jacobs’ first 100-yard game of the season and the eighth of his career.
And while he’s touched 129 one other time, it was the determination and anger he ran with on the first drive of the second half that made this year’s 129 Jacobs’ finest performance since being taken 24th overall in the 2019 NFL draft.
The 23-year-old ran for 57 yards on seven attempts during a 75-yard, nine-play drive that ended with Peyton Barber’s 5-yard TD run that gave Las Vegas the lead for good.
“Whenever he’s got that mean look on his face, you can feel it in the huddle, you can feel it on the sideline,” Las Vegas receiver Hunter Renfrow said “He’s a special player. He hasn’t been able to show that as much this year, but he is deadly and we’re going to need him these last couple of games. I think we’re at our best when we can run the ball. He’s a baller and we’re going to need him if we’re going to win these next two and get in the playoffs.”
First stop Indianapolis.
Jacobs, who is averaging 3.9 yards per carry this season and 4.2 per attempt in his career, will be facing a Colts defense that is allowing a league seventh-highest 4.6 yards per rush.
A much-improved line that has been maligned a good part of the season, and an offensive front that hadn’t allowed Jacobs the freedom to run his style until Sunday, will also be needed against the Colts, who have held five of their last eight opponents to 93 yards rushing or less.
“I’ve been noticing a lot lately the last few games, the second or third series, you can see all the guys get in a rhythm,” Jacobs said of his offensive linemen. “Just to see that growth and development … just to see them come out and put it together and show the world what they’re capable, I think it’s huge.”
Though Indianapolis has allowed a league-tying, fourth-lowest nine rushing touchdowns, it’s the blue-collar week he displayed last week on sustained drives the Raiders will count on.
Whether it’s moving the chains, setting up the play-action for quarterback Derek Carr, blocking from the backfield, or softening up the defensive line with his bruising and powerful rushing style, Jacobs must produce for the Raider to succeed.
“We all like to play with anger,” Las Vegas interim coach Rich Bisaccia said. “We would like to play with an edge. Josh runs like that when he carries the football.”
Said Carr: “Aggressive – I think that would be the word I’d use from my point of view. A very aggressive running style.”
Jacobs said once he finds his rhythm the creativity comes to life. He’ll start making extra moves around the opposition, leaving defenders tripping over themselves, or if need be, will simply lay a shoulder into someone and run through them.
“Everything kind of slows down for me,” said Jacobs, whose 4.78 yards per carry on 27 attempts against Denver was his third-highest of the season. “I just get in that zone.”
NOTES: Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is questionable with a back injury after participating in limited practices each of the past three days. … Linebacker K.J. Wright and backup quarterback Marcus Mariota were activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and practiced Friday. … Bisaccia said cornerback Casey Hayward, defensive tackle Darius Philon, and linebackers Denzel Perryman and Cory Littleton are expected to be activated from COVID protocols Saturday and fly to Indianapolis.