Oakland Raiders: Thoughts on the Week 2 upset win

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September 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after the game against the Baltimore Ravens at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Ravens 37-33. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr

It is hard to talk about the Oakland Raider offense without first focusing on the young quarterback. Derek Carr had arguably the best game of his young career. He threw for 351 yards, and three touchdowns; even adding 23 yards on the ground. There was an interception late in the game that nearly cost the Raiders I’ll talk about more later, but since he came back to win the game we will clearly be focusing on the positives for much of this column.

The advancement of Derek Carr from Year 2 to Year 2 was a very hot topic in the offseason for anyone in the Raider Nation, and even started to get picked up on the national radar as well. Getting knocked out early of the season opener just as his nerves were beginning to settle made an overexcited fan base and a story hungry national media rightfully disappointed, and fearing the worst by the brief week one showing of Carr (remember, he only took 12 pass attempts before he got injured.)

Derek Carr took the field on the Raiders opening possession with a fearlessness, confidence and aggressive mindset that showed itself a handful of times during his rookie season. No longer handcuffed by whatever was holding him back last year, be it a conservative playbook, rookie growing pains, or lack of dynamic playmakers, Carr came out swinging against the Raiders and it paid off big time.

On the second offensive possession, after the fumble recovery by Lofton, the Raiders didn’t score a touchdown but I think we got to see just how much Carr has matured. On two attempts in the red zone, he threw passes high and over the middle. They weren’t really catchable passes, but that’s the key. He threw the ball where it was either going to be a touchdown if his receiver was able to get to it, or it was going to sail out of bounds safely to be an incomplete pass.

By not forcing the pass into dangerous situations, he was able to ensure that his team would at least get 3 points out of the possession. Granted, any time a team is the red zone the best result is a touchdown, but sometimes you have to take what the defense gives you. In this instance, early on in the game Derek was taking what was giving to him, not forcing the issue and ensuring his team would be able to put points on the board.

I see this possession early in the first quarter as one of the most important in the game. Had Carr forced a low percentage pass and thrown an interception, that could have changed the course of this entire game. Instead of being tied at halftime, they could have been down by 3 or more, surrendering the advantage they held through a majority of the game early and being forced to play catch up.

I’m not going to sit here and say that Derek played a perfect game for four quarters, he did have a missed opportunity here and there, but he never got down. After an obvious miscommunication with his receiver over the middle, Carr could be seen on the field laughing and motioning that he was “this close.” Being loose like that, and being able to shake off a bad play to move onto the next is what will help him in the development of his entire career.

There were a few throws that seemed very, not like Derek. One in particular was a play where Michael Crabtree had his man obviously beat down the sideline, and instead of leading Crab to daylight and a touchdown, Carr threw the ball so Crabtree had to stop to catch it. The play still resulted in a completed pass with a big gain, but it also put Crab in a very dangerous situation.

Much like a returner sitting to catch a punt without calling fair catch, Crab was left vulnerable on the sideline and had to just wait for the hit from the oncoming Ravens defender. Crabtree was seen after the play limping off the field. Now, without watching the play a few more times it’s hard to tell if Crabtree was just running a deep comeback route or if Carr just underthrew the ball, but on the live replays it looked as if Carr just didn’t put enough on the pass.

Now, about that little interception late in the 4th quarter. What a blessing!!!!! I say that in all seriousness. I was watching the game, looking at the time left on the clock and thinking to myself that if the Raiders get into a rhythm on this drive they will simply score too fast, giving Flacco and company way too much time to respond. The Silver linings to the Black cloud of the interception are:

It made the defense show up. The Raiders defense was getting beaten in every direction, for a majority of the game. They started building momentum in the second half, but they were still getting picked apart by Flacco and Steve Smith Sr. In the 4th quarter, when the game was on the line they stepped up and held the Ravens to a field goal.

Secondly, it left Derek Carr and the offense with the perfect amount of time to march down the field on the game winning drive. Of course, the Ravens could have scored a touchdown and sealed the game or Carr could have failed in mounting the comeback, but the nature of the victory added to the significance of the win even if it came from a crucial error late in the game from Carr in airing out a throw that was well covered by Baltimore.

This interception may very well be the most telling sign of the growth of this team from last year to this year. I was reminded of the San Diego game last year, when Carr got in a shootout with Phillip Rivers. The game was exciting to watch, seeing two quarterbacks go back and forth lighting up the scoreboard, but when it came down to the wire and the game was on the line; the Raiders folded. This time, in a very similar situation the entire team stepped up and delivered.  The defense needed to prevent a touchdown, they did it. The offense needed to march down the field and score, and they did it.

I won’t claim to be a statistics or math expert, but by my calculations Derek Carr had a passer rating of 100.9 when it was all said and done. Averaging 7.6 yards per attempt, and 11.7 yards per completion. The big doubters of Derek Carr always talked about his low rating, and low yards per attempt, and if this game is any indication of the future then Derek will be able to put those doubters to rest this season with play like that.

Next: Week 2 Thoughts: The Offense