Derek Carr, Jon Gruden explain Chargers' tide-turning INT vs. Raiders

Derek Carr, Jon Gruden explain Chargers' tide-turning INT vs. Raiders

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." 

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

The Raiders set out to get faster on defense. That mission was accomplished in every sense.

That’s true by traditional measures, as the Raiders hope their raw speed can keep up with the track stars Kansas City trots out on offense Sunday afternoons.

It’s also true in terms of reading and diagnosing plays. The Raiders installed a faster multi-core processor this offseason, plugging Vontaze Burfict into a defensive network that now runs at warp speed.

Burfict has mastered Paul Guenther’s scheme and knows exactly how to adjust and re-align to best defend a particular offensive play. Burfict is confident in his reads, efficient and clear when dispensing pre-snap information. Being in the right spot, able to anticipate what’s coming, allowing the defense to play faster.

Burfict as Guenther’s field general has been a storyline since the veteran joined the Raiders in March, and his scheme knowledge assisted returners and newcomers alike during the preseason.

That was clear when operating at game speed. Burfict orchestrated the defense well in a Monday night victory over Denver, making individuals better while helping the defense play as a cohesive unit.

“It was awesome,” defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said. “He knows the system inside and out, so he’s able to make checks pretty quickly. He always seems to know what’s coming and gets us aligned fast, so we can just play ball.”

The Raiders must play mentally and physically fast against Kansas City, armed with speed and an offense that will attack using both latitude and longitude.

“They make you defend every inch of grass,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “Laterally with the jet sweeps, you got to defend them sideline to sideline. They can outrun you, outflank you and vertically they can run right by you over the top.”

There’s a buzz word that describes the key to defending this high-powered attack.

“Eye discipline,” linebacker Nicholas Morrow said. “[Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid] will try to mess with a defense, to shift people around the formation and put you in a bad spot. They will do all types of things to play with your eyes and make you think you’re seeing one thing when it’s something else. You have to trust your preparation and make the right checks.”

That’s where Burfict comes in, and why he’s so key to the Raiders’ defensive effort on Sunday.

“He obviously knows the system, but Vontaze is very intelligent,” Morrow said. “He processes information quickly and is confident in what he’s doing. That’s what you want from somebody in his position.”

Burfict is the defense’s cerebral cortex, but he isn’t just directing troops while watching them work.

He plays with trademark intensity and didn’t step over the line in his Raiders debut. That’s key moving forward, because the Raiders need him on the field to succeed against Kansas City, a team that doesn’t need freebies to score.

“He’s really fun to play with,” Hurst said. “He’s an aggressive player. He’s going to come downhill and hit everything that moves. It’s awesome playing with someone like that.”

[RELATED: Raiders vs. Chiefs live stream: How to watch NFL Week 2 game online]

Burfict fought through some knicks in the opener but didn’t miss a practice snap all week. It’s important for him to stay upright and available, because they need his presence and football smarts on all three downs.

“Those of us returning for a second year with Paul [Guenther] feel pretty fluent in the system,” cornerback Daryl Worley said. “But having a leader like Vontaze in complete command is definitely helpful.”

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

An undefeated record is on the line.

It may only be Week 2 but after the Raiders and Chiefs earned victories to open the season, both will look to keep the momentum rolling in Oakland on Sunday afternoon.

The Chiefs are favored by a touchdown and likely would get a few additional points if the game were being played at Arrowhead Stadium.

[RELATED: NFL rumors: Raiders' Johnathan Abram fined for hit causing shoulder injury]


Caesars: KC -7 (-110)
Consensus: KC -7 (-110)
Westgate: KC -7 (-110)
Wynn: KC -7 (-110)

Here’s how NFL writers around the country see the matchup shaking out:

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN: Chiefs 38, Raiders 30
Adam Teicher, ESPN: Chiefs 37, Raiders 31
Gregg Rosenthal, Chiefs 30, Raiders 26
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 30, Raiders 17
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 35, Raiders 21
Tadd Haislop, SportingNews: Chiefs 34, Raiders 20
Greg Patuto, Chiefs 37, Raiders 21