ALAMEDA – Derek Carr got sacked by linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. way back in a Week 4 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The Raiders quarterback hasn’t been sacked since.
Pass protectors have posted three straight clean sheets without much pressure around it, providing their signal-caller time to work. That’s obviously a huge help to Carr. Clean pockets are a safe space to work, a luxury not given to every quarterback.
Carr didn’t have that last year, when he was sacked 51 times and was under significant pressure in most games.
The benefits of extra time and space are obvious, though it isn’t always about throwing deep. As Carr will tell you, that’s about coverage first and having an extra beat. It does provide more time to find the right guy and make the best possible throw.
“You have to play quarterback a different way when there’s not as much time. You can’t go to the third and fourth progression,” Carr said Wednesday. “You can’t drop back against the Bears, try to look off a flat defender and throw a 20-yard sail route. You can’t do that kind of stuff. You have to get the ball out, you have to move faster.
“I was talking to Tony Romo when he did our game (versus Green Bay in Week 7), and that was something that we both laughed and joked about – you can be a completely different player when you have that kind of time, to be honest with you and you can throw different routes, have different schemes, have different game plans. You can do a lot of different stuff. We’re going to go as that offensive line goes, they are the best players on our football team by far. We’re going to go as they go.”
It's less about distance thrown, again, coverage choices influence that, and more about precision.
“He has been pinpoint with a lot of throws,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He threw some really good balls the other night that really weren’t caught either. He threw some great passes down the field. He’s like any other quarterback in this league, the better the protection the better the outcome, but he’s playing well for us that’s for sure.”
It's not just a sack drought. There’s also a decided lack of overall pressure. Carr has spent 55 of 177 snaps under pressure this season, per analytics site Pro Football Focus. He was pressured only four times last week against Houston, eight times against Green Bay the week prior and seven times against Chicago. There were even fewer against Indianapolis, but Carr got taken down in that instance.
The lack of heavy hits certainly is beneficial to Carr’s long-term health, an obvious benefit of better protection.
“This year I feel fresh as can be with all of the games that we have played already,” Carr said. “That’s a credit to our offensive line. We joke around all the time, I always go around and check on them all the time and they’re sore, all these kinds of things, (and they say) like, ‘how do you feel?’ ‘I feel great actually, thank you for asking.’ (laughter) That’s all that matters to them, so it’s good.”