OAKLAND – Even when quarterback Derek Carr could do no wrong a few weeks back, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said mistakes were on the way.
Making them is part of the growth process for quality NFL quarterbacks. Trouble is, mistakes from that position can cost a team dearly.
Carr made a few that had a direct impact on Sunday’s 30-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at O.co Coliseum. He threw two interceptions that resulted in 10 Vikings points, including a late pick in the end zone that essentially erased the home team’s comeback hopes.
“He’s not always going to be perfect, but he’s a good player for us,” Del Rio said. “You have to give them credit, they did make some plays.”
Vikings cornerback Terence Newman made two. He jumped Amari Cooper’s hook route in the first quarter and nabbed an easy one. The Vikings worked a field goal out of the ensuing drive.
The second one came late, when Carr lofted one Andre Holmes’ way in the right corner of the end zone. Holmes got a hand on it but couldn’t hall it in. Newman tipped it straight up, secured it and kneeled for a touchback.
Carr saw opportunity in that spot from the look he was given.
“It was the one time finally on that drive we kind of got a one-on-one,” Carr said. “I just gave Andre a chance and again (Terence Newman) made a great play. He did.”
The big play was amplified when Adrian Peterson ran 80 yards for a touchdown on the next play to put the game out of reach.
Holmes looked back on that play with regret, feeling like he should come down with the deficit-slicing touchdown with two minutes left.
“I just have to come down with it. That’s the bottom line right there,” Holmes said. “Derek expects me to make those plays. Those are plays I have to make. … I didn’t go as aggressive as I thought I would. Really, I’m not even sure what happened. Just didn’t come down with it.”
Del Rio and Carr said the Vikings played soft in pass defense, playing soft to prevent an explosive Raiders offense from make game-changing plays. Outside a long bomb to Amari Cooper and a 34-yard touchdown pass to Holmes, the Raiders only had one other play beyond 20 yards.
The goal was to make the Raiders earn points the hard way, with long drives using runs and short passes. The Raiders did so once, on a nine-play, 68-yrd touchdown drive punctuated by Clive Walford’s 10-yard touchdown catch. That was it.
One of the NFL’s best pass defenses keep Carr’s Raiders at bay and scoreless in the second half. They baited Carr into a few mistakes. It isn’t the end of the world. Carr still ended up with 302 yards and two touchdowns, but might like a few throws back.
Carr was on fire heading into this game with 19 touchdowns to just three interceptions, with a 104 passer rating ranked among the NFL's best. He wasn't as sharp on Sunday, but Del Rio didn't take issue with his quarterback's play. The miscues will help a young quarterback grow into a better one.
“He makes a heck of a lot of good decisions,” Del Rio said. “The things where we don’t do it as well as we can will be learning opportunities and we’ll do that and move on.”