Derek Carr had a pretty good week, all things considered. The Raiders quarterback was named to his third straight Pro Bowl, this time as an alternate replacing Tom Brady.
He was on the initial ballot a year ago, following a 12-4 campaign where he was a legitimate MVP candidate. It ended too early, with a broken fibula ruining the Raiders’ Super Bowl hopes. It obviously took him out of the NFL’s annual all-star game, an afterthought for many of the league’s players and die-hard fans.
Carr would've rather been alive and fighting for a Super Bowl LII title, but accepted this year’s invitation without a second thought.
Let's get one thing clear: it provided zero consolation for a dismal 6-10 campaign where he and the Raiders didn’t realize great expectations, and ultimately got a coaching staff fired. Carr wasn’t going to sulk.
Carr was named to the Pro Bowl Monday– New England’s Super Bowl berth sealed the deal, though Brady likely would’ve skipped anyway with a hand injury – and left for Orlando the next morning. He brought the family, which went to Florida amusement parks most every day while Carr practiced.
Carr won the precision passing contest during the Pro Bowl Skills Challenge, knocking passes through distant or moving targets.
The 26-year old also entered the Guiness Book of World Records, believe it or not, by breaking five piñatas faster than anyone else.
Then on Sunday afternoon, with the AFC down for the count, Carr orchestrated a fourth-quarter comeback. Raiders fans know that sequence well. Carr won seven games late in 2016, and just one during last year’s disappointment.
His touchdown pass to Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker with 92 seconds left (and the ensuing extra point) secured a 24-23 victory and a $64,000 payout for everyone on the AFC roster. The losing team got half that.
"That's as real as it gets in football. You always want to win, especially with money on the line," Carr said after the game, via the Associated Press.
The touchdown pass was well crafted, as was a 12-yard pass to Miami receiver Jarvis Landry – soon to be an unrestricted free agent – on 4th-and-7 to extend the game winning drive.
Carr completed 11-of 15 passes for 115 yards in sum, with an interception and the game-winning touchdown during a rain-soaked affair in Central Florida.
"You've got guys on the sidelines saying, `I need that money,'" Carr said.
He led the AFC on two touchdown drives scores it help eliminate a 17-point halftime deficit, and now enters a long gap between competitive football games on somewhat of a high note.
The Pro Bowl victory doesn’t erase last season’s ills, nor was that expected or even possible. It doesn’t change the fact Carr had a pretty fun week.
He wasn’t the only one. Left guard Kelechi Osemele was in the AFC’s starting lineup, and center Rodney Hudson was a reserve.
Khalil Mack was also voted into the starting lineup, but bowed out with an undisclosed injury. Donald Penn skipped the Pro Bowl recovering from surgery.