ALAMEDA – Derek Carr hasn’t thrown an interception in nearly a month. The Raiders quarterback hasn’t lost a fumble in that same span, since the ball slipped from his grasp and through the end zone that fateful day in Green Bay.
That’s a run of three-plus games heading into Sunday’s showdown with the winless Cincinnati Bengals when the Raiders hope to continue their rise up the AFC standings.
That ascent has coincided with some efficient, steady, clutch quarterback play. Carr has completed 64 percent of his passes for 795 yards, six touchdowns, no picks and a whopping 8.6 yards per pass attempt over that span.
This run includes a close loss to the Texans that wasn’t Carr’s fault, and victories over the Lions and the Chargers where he orchestrated late game-winning touchdown drives.
He is escaping pressure with his feet, avoiding negative plays and throwing accurate short and intermediate passes that have turned into chunk yards.
“I think it’s comfort within the system and I know we’ve said that,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “It still is only his second year in the system and I think coach [Jon] Gruden would agree he’s gotten better, and if you can just kind of focus on the improvement within the system, not worrying necessarily about the results and certainly we know we’re judged on wins and losses, but in his mind just continue to grow from within the system and be the best Derek Carr that you can be and that will be good enough for us.”
Comfort within an offensive system, experience working with a play-caller, hasn’t happened much in Carr’s career.
He has had a second season with an offensive play-caller only twice in his six seasons. It happened in 2016 with Bill Musgrave, and it’s happening right now with Jon Gruden.
Doubt you need a reminder of how 2016 went but here’s a refresher: The Raiders went 12-4 and Carr received six MVP votes despite breaking his fibula in Week 16.
That season is starting to look an awful lot like this one.
If it’s numbers you’re into here you go:
2016: 357-for-560 (63.8 percent), 3,937 yards, 28 TDs, 6 INTs (1.1percentage), 7.0 ypa, 96.7 passer rating
2019 (projected over 16 games): 353-for-499 (70.7 percent), 3,914, 24 TDs, 7 INTs (1.4 percentage) 7.8 ypa, 104.4 passer rating
That’s pretty darn comparable. Carr isn’t getting the same positive press as 2016 because the Raiders aren’t winning nearly as often – the 2016 Raiders were 7-2 through nine games – and Josh Jacobs has become the team’s offensive star.
Carr is carrying this team well, being smart with the football and again proving competent in clutch moments big and small. He has three game-winning drives in the fourth quarter thus far. He has the NFL’s highest passer rating on third down, the most passing touchdowns on third down and the NFL’s highest red zone completion percentage.
Carr’s play has helped this Raiders offense find a solid rhythm. The offensive line is the unit’s driving force, performing well in the run game and in pass protection. Jacobs has been excellent. Darren Waller’s a breakout star and the receivers have steadily improved after an in-season position group remodel.
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That has established a level of confidence currently growing as the team stacks wins. The unit believes it will execute well late, even if it doesn’t early, giving the Raiders poise to establish leads early and steal them down the stretch.
“They all believe in one another from position group to position group, and certainly, they believe in Derek Carr,” Olson said. “That makes it easier.”