CARSON -- The Raiders were down 17 points midway through the third quarter, desperately needing a productive drive to get back in the game.
That happened. They marched 74 yards to the L.A. Chargers’ 1-yard line.
First-and-goal screams for Marshawn Lynch, a rough-and-tumble, never-say-die runner who's excellent in short-yardage situations.
The handoff to him, however, was fake. The Raiders ran a play-action pass, instead hoping tight end Lee Smith would come free for an easy touchdown. But the blocking tight end was covered well.
Quarterback Derek Carr went to his second option. Tight end Derek Carrier was running laterally across the middle, and Carr threw a fastball his direction. One problem: Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram got in the way.
Ingram easily intercepted the pass and ruined the Raiders’ best chance to get back in the game.
“I wasn’t trying to force it or anything like that,” Carr said. “I saw our guy win down the back line and I tried to get it to him. I was trying to make a play. That’s the one I wish I could have back.”
Raiders coach Jon Gruden wishes Carr would have thrown that one away, but he defended the play call itself.
“We haven’t thrown the ball in a goal-to-go situation all year. The decision there was to throw it,” Gruden said. “If it isn’t open, you throw it away. It didn’t work out. … Obviously that will be second-guessed, and rightfully so.
"We should have made that throw down there, and I’ll live to hand the ball off on the next play, possibly.”
Most expected Lynch to get the ball there. Instead, Gruden looked for the element of surprise.
“First-and-goal at the 1, faking to Lynch has been a great call for a lot of years," Gruden said. "I think (Carr) just presses at moments, and he knows we have to do a lot with the ball when we have it. I think that’s what happened today.”
Carr knows he must will this Raiders team to victory, especially when the Chargers were taking yards in chunks and regularly scoring. He also admits that pressing, trying too hard, is a fault in his wiring.
“You have to tell me to calm down before you have to get me going,” Carr said. “That’s always been a problem … well, it’s not a problem, but it’s a weakness. I’ve often tried to do too much.
"It’s not out of a bad heart. I just want to win so bad. Sometimes it gets me caught up, like it did today on a bad play. … It’s not a lack of effort. It’s just me trying to force something or win the game right there, and I don’t have to do that.”
Carr is still working to execute Gruden's system well, and learns how to do so better with each passing game. This week's lesson will be about not trying to press and make unsafe decisions.
"He doesn’t want me to press or try and do too much when we are losing," Carr said. "Those are the kinds of things where with my aggressiveness and his aggressiveness, we are learning and he does a great job communicating with me after stuff like that. He doesn’t want me to stop being aggressive, but at the same time not forcing them, not pressing and sometimes to not make too many plays. When you are down like that, I think those are times where I’m learning it’s ok to throw it away."