Raiders

'Go make a play' -- Inside the Raiders game-winning two-minute drill

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USATI

'Go make a play' -- Inside the Raiders game-winning two-minute drill

OAKLAND – The Raiders had a chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs and blew it. The offense took possession with roughly six minutes remaining and went three-and-out.

The Raiders defense gave their teammates another chance. A Kansas City three-and-out insured that, though they were down six points and had just 2:25 to work with. The starting XI huddled on their 15-yard line, and quarterback Derek Carr surveyed his surroundings.

Familiar faces were set at every angle around him, guys he knew had come through in the clutch. This, he could tell, was a composed bunch. There was no fear or anxiety, no mental fatigue from four straight losses.

“Those moments can be emotional, but they aren’t for us,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “There’s an expectation, a belief that we’ll get the job done. We won’t be denied.”

Success breeds confidence. The Raiders finished seven fourth-quarter, game winning drives last year. They were ready to do it again.

“We’ve done this a couple of times together,” Carr said. “So when we took the field that last time, I looked at (center Rodney Hudson) and said, ‘Alright, let’s go.’ I looked at my wideouts and I didn’t have to say anything. They said, ‘We got you, just throw it up.’

“That makes the quarterback’s heart beat a little bit slower when you know you have guys that have your back.”

Derek Carr worked the ball downfield and completed a 31-30 victory with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. That’s the CliffsNotes. The unabridged version was downright dramatic, with some improv at the end.

Carr has completed some improbable comebacks, but Thursday earned the gold.

“Not even close,” Carr said. “Absolutely. I can’t even say it better. Yes. It sure was.”

Nothing came easy, even at the start. Carr started the drive with a 15-yard pass to Amari Cooper, whose 39-yard reception a bit later bailed his team out of a 2nd-and-20 jam.

Jared Cook took over from there. His 13-yard catch converted a 4th-and-11. He later hauled in a 29-yard bomb that was originally called a touchdown but overturned on review. The catch was good, but Cook was officially down at the 1-yard line with 18 seconds left.

“I thought I got it in,” Cook said. “Even after the replay I saw I thought I got it in. At least that’s what it looked like on the jumbotron. He didn’t touch me. It was a great ball by Derek. It was a play that boosted us and helped us get the win.”

A 10-second runoff – Cook was technically tackled in bounds – left eight ticks remaining. Down that close with so little time, Carr had simple instructions.

“At that moment, you just have to find a one-on-one with the coverages that they’re playing and give somebody a chance,” Carr said. “There’s nothing technical about it. At that point, I’m telling the guys in the huddle, ‘Look I’ve got to give somebody a chance now. Go make a play.’ They did a couple of times.”

They did it a couple times without a formal play call. Carr just called out routes on the fly, like he was quarterbacking a street football game. 

"He was dicing it up right there," left tackle Donald Penn said. "The call didn't get in a couple times, so he had to just tell the receivers what to do. It was pretty nice. At times I didn't even know what he was calling. I figured I would just protect and let D.C. do his thing."

The first went from Carr to Crabtree for a 1-yard touchown negated by offensive pass interference. Back it up.

The next pass fell incomplete, but Cook drew a defensive holding call as time expired. That set up an untimed down for the whole shebang.

Or so we thought.

Carr threw incomplete to Cordarrelle Patterson, who was also held.

The second untimed down went according to plan. Carr to Crabtree from two yards out. No flags. One game-deciding touchdown.

Crabtree was the primary target, though Carr still has reads to make.

“There’s a progression to it,” Carr said. “‘Crab’ is first and I was calling for that play. If there’s one thing about ‘Crab,’ it doesn’t matter what happens throughout the rest of the game, he always shows up.”

The entire offense typically does in the clutch, especially last year. Carr has led a baker’s dozen now, and is a lot more comfortable in those spots. This last one, however, made him think of his first.

Maybe because latest came on a Thursday night, against the Kansas City, exactly like his maiden comeback. The Raiders were 0-10 back in 2014, and Carr willed his first professional victory with a short strike to James Jones, his only reliable receiver. He recalled it fondly, but shuttered at the stress and anxiety that used to accompany late-game drives.

“I remember the first two-minute drive we ever had or fourth quarter comeback was Thursday Night against the Chiefs, and there’s not a lot of familiar faces from that huddle,” Carr said. “Now moving forward the last couple of years, we’ve grown our culture and the guys that are here, our core guys. We can get the job done.”

Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more

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USATSI

Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more

Paul Guenther hasn’t been Raiders defensive coordinator long. He has been in Alameda about a week now, interviewing potential position coaches and pouring over last year’s game tape.

He has some initial impressions on the group that struggled at the start and improved throughout the year. Generally speaking, however, Guenther sees talent on the roster.

“I believe there’s a lot of good players here, a lot of good, young players,” Guenther said Wednesday in a conference call. “You’ve got to get them out and develop them and get them to understand your system. But I think there are a lot of good pieces here for a foundation, for sure.”

Guenther’s system, where it came from and why he brought it to Oakland is a story for another day. Thursday morning, to be precise, so stay tuned for that.

Guenther’s early evaluation of key Raiders, however, supports his statement about a strong foundation. He is most excited, as you’d expect, about working with edge rusher Khalil Mack and several others in silver and black.

Here’s what Guenther said about…

-- DE KHALIL MACK: “Having a talent like that and ability of a guy like that, certainly you want to make it the centerpiece of the defense. We have to continue to develop our younger players to bring those guys up to speed and add people as we go through the draft and free agency. He’s a guy that you can really build a foundation through and around. He’s an exciting guy to be able to coach for sure.”

-- CB GAREON CONLEY: “He was my favorite corner coming out. His ability, he’s smooth in the pedal, he’s a good press corner, which we love to have. I’m excited to work with him.”

-- S OBI MELIFONWU: “Obi is a big guy that when you turn on the tape, you’re like, ‘Man, who is this son of a gun?’ He’s playing half the field, he’s down in the box playing the run.”

-- LB NAVORRO BOWMAN: (an impending free agent): “NaVorro is a prototype middle linebacker, really. The thing that impressed me most with NaVorro is that they got him here midseason and by the end of the year, it appeared to me that he was kind of the leader of the unit, making a lot of calls. You can see that on tape. It looks like he is a smart guy that understands the game. I love smart guys that love playing football. Hopefully we can get him back in the fold and keep him a Raider.”

Raiders OC believes Raiders will 'grow as Derek Carr grows'

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USATSI

Raiders OC believes Raiders will 'grow as Derek Carr grows'

Quarterback Derek Carr’s stage is set for a giant step forward.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson thinks it happened the moment Jon Gruden became Raiders head coach, though not solely due to the mentor and his proven offensive system. It’s also the 10-year contract formally bringing him back. There’s no telling whether Gruden mans his post a full decade, but an extended stretch is guaranteed.

That in itself, Olson, says, is invaluable to a passer entering his fifth season with a fourth head coach and third offensive scheme.

“Probably more so than anything,” Olson said, “this guy has to get some continuity.”

Gruden will provide that, with Olson a link to Carr’s past. Olson was Raiders offensive coordinator from 2013-14, and guided Carr’s rookie campaign. Quarterback and coordinator worked well together a 3-13 season where the Fresno State alum started every game.

They’ll reunite under Gruden and stick together this time. Olson, after all, signed a four-year deal that’s double the industry standard.

“Derek is going to be in a system now,” Olson said Wednesday in a conference call with local media. “He’s going to be coached by a head coach that’s going to be the play caller. That’s the first time Derek will have an offensive head coach that has a quarterback background and will be hands on with him on a day-to-day basis. I just see that growth curve skyrocketing because of that.”

Carr’s trajectory went straight up from his rookie season with Olson through the next two years – he was a legit MVP candidate in 2016 -- though it markedly dipped during a disappointing 6-10 campaign.

Gruden and Olson are generally charged with fixing an offense with talent but little production last year, though their primary objective remains more specific.

Get Carr back on track.

“Everything we do in this building is going to be about the development of Derek Carr,” Olson said. “The way we script practices, the way we are doing drills, everything that we do is all about the development of the quarterback. That will really speed the development of Derek. More so than anything is that there’s somebody here in place that’s going to make everything that we do and that everyone in the building understand that we grow as Derek Carr grows.”

Olson knows first-hand about Carr’s work ethic and acumen. He has seen athleticism, passing accuracy and a quick release turn football smarts into production. He told Gruden all that following the 2014 season, and believes Carr’s presence was an attraction to take the Raiders job.

“We drafted this guy to be that franchise quarterback," Olson said. "We feel like he has the potential to be that guy that can be here and play for 10 more years. It’s up to us to try and get that out of him. We’ll do everything in our power to make sure that that happens."