ALAMEDA -- Raiders quarterback Derek Carr felt pressure up the middle and broke to his left. He found room to run and bolted, with little resistance between him and the first-down marker. It was third down in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints and, as he neared the marker, a defender came crashing down.
His first thought was to bowl him over, then remembered last year’s incident where he hurt a hand trying to stiff arm the opposition. Sliding wasn’t an option. Fourth down would come from that. Carr chose instead to take flight. His feet got tagged and somersaulted forward, landing on the Saints sideline just beyond the marker.
He bounded up and levied his hand toward the end zone. First down, Raiders.
Head coach Jack Del Rio was both proud and pissed.
“We eliminated the straight-arm (last year),” Del Rio said with a smile Monday, after his Raiders beat the Saints 35-34. “So, now we have say, ‘OK, let’s avoid the frontal flip unless it’s to win a Super Bowl like John Elway did.’ The guy is an unbelievable competitor. He played a whale of a game.”
Carr certainly did, walking a fine line between head versus heart. That’s hard for a young quarterback to master, especially one with blazing competitive fire and rare physical traits. Sometimes his brain is Carr’s greatest asset, knowing when to push and when to pull back.
That might be Carr’s greatest improvement heading into his third season. The game slows down through experience. Carr’s pulse has calmed some, too, resulting in a level head under pressure. That was the case against New Orleans, when Carr orchestrated three touchdown drives and one big 2-point conversion in the Raiders comeback win.
It was his sixth fourth-quarter comeback, something he has a flare for. Assuming, of course, he can stay out of trouble. That hasn’t always been the case, considering six of his 13 interceptions last year came in the fourth quarter with the score separated by seven points or less. That was pressing the issue. He didn’t do that Sunday on the bayou.
“I definitely have worked on it,” Carr said Wednesday. “There are times where I get emotionally hijacked, then I’ll try and force something and do something. I just tried the whole game to be my same competitiveness self just with the same mentality good or bad. I felt that being able to stay that way kept my mind in a good spot throughout the whole game.”
Carr does that by trying to emulate an someone who plays basketball. Carr is a huge Kobe Bryant fan, and is amazed by his ability to remain unafraid of the moment and execute in the clutch without losing focus.
“That’s really just my mindset,” Carr said. “I’m a big Kobe fan so, that ‘Mamba’ mentality. You have to go out there and you have to do it. I’ve studied him, I’ve watched him forever and that’s always been my mindset when I get in those situations. Now, they always don’t work out, but that’s just where my mind’s at.”
It doesn’t do the Raiders good if the rest of the team doesn’t follow suit. It certainly did Sunday, with confidence to do so again if required.
“The coolest thing for me all game, was that there was no one flipping out on the sidelines,” Carr said. “There was no one pointing fingers. There were no subtle jabs at people. There was none of that, there was just, ‘Hey this is what you need to do, this is what you need to do. Now go do it.’ That’s it. If we can just stay calm like that and don’t get up, don’t get down, we can score points and do it at a high level.”