The Raiders beat the Chargers in a close game on Sunday, 31-26, with the contest coming down to the last play. It was the Raiders defense that stood tall on that final snap, but quarterback Derek Carr had plenty to do with the win, which put his team’s record at 5-3.
While he compiled just 165 yards through the air, Carr had two touchdowns and attempted big throws downfield, especially in the second half. He had a 45-yard scoring toss to Nelson Agholor on the Raiders’ first drive of the second stanza, and he also unfurled an outrageous 53-yard completion to WR Hunter Renfrow from outside the pocket, setting up a touchdown to TE Darren Waller.
As Carr’s third year running coach Jon Gruden’s offense continues, the QB looks increasingly comfortable in all phases of the game. He compared his completion to Renfrow to a play he made in 2016 when he led the Raiders to the playoffs, and he said the game is once again slowing down for him.
“It takes time learning the system. That was comfort in the system,” Carr told reporters about his play to Renfrow. “You know where guys are going to be. As you learn the system, you can play faster. You can get through progressions faster and extend plays.”
Making the drive even more impressive, Carr ran for a first down after his completion to Renfrow, leaping through the air to reach the marker on a 3rd-and-10 play.
DEREK CARR TAKEOFF
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 8, 2020
“Derek, he’s not thinking,” defensive end Maxx Croxby said after the game. “You know, he’s just being himself. He’s playing. Not worried about what everybody’s saying. You can see it. Every down. He’s not afraid to run the ball. He’s not afraid to put his head down. He’s not afraid to take his shot. And he’s been so impressive. I know he puts in the time so I’m glad he’s putting it together. It’s awesome to see.”
Carr’s play sharpened in the second half thanks in part to a poor play by Las Vegas earlier in the contest. After Carr was sacked and stripped of the ball just before halftime, the Chargers had a chance at a field goal to take the lead, which they capitalized on. Carr came out of the locker room a man possessed, playing even too aggressively at times, according to Carr.
“I was mad with the way it ended,” he said of the first-half blunder. “So we came back out … and I was ultra-aggressive today. I’m mad at myself now. I watched the film and I … I’m being too aggressive. I missed a couple of completions that could have been big for us. I’m just looking downfield. That’s that fine line … sometimes we hit ’em, sometimes we don’t.”
It appears that Carr is comfortable in Gruden’s notoriously complicated offense and can play more like the gunslinger-type QB he was in 2016, but with a more versatile attack, led by the head coach.
“We’re a very multiple offense. We’ll take some shots. We can win with — not being funny — the quarterback running, the running backs going crazy. We can win with passing the ball. We’re finding ways to win and we’re going to take what we want, kind of a thing.”
Now that’s the sound of a confident QB. Carr says the offense still has plenty of work to do, but in scoring 31 points without starting offensive tackles Trent Brown and Kolton Miller, they are a force to be reckoned with. And it won’t get any easier for opponents as Carr presumably gets his starting offensive line back in the fold for the stretch playoff run.
“I thought Derek showed great command,” Gruden said of his QB. “It’s not easy to go out there in this league with the amount of revolving doors that we’ve had up front. I’m really proud of him and excited for the future.”