Zay Jones

Derek Carr's performance in Raiders' loss to Chiefs bad in any weather

Derek Carr's performance in Raiders' loss to Chiefs bad in any weather

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Derek Carr heard all week about how bad he plays in cold weather, how Arrowhead Stadium is his personal house of horrors.

The Raiders quarterback had another terrible day in a 40-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that spoon-fed that narrative and proved detractors right, but he vehemently stated that the elements played no part in his lackluster performance.

“I think we handled it just fine,” Carr said. “It was not a factor, because I do not want to take anything away from the plays that they made. If it was 80 degrees or 30 degrees, it does not matter.”

Carr can’t escape the fact that he’s 0-6 at Arrowhead Stadium and 0-5 in games played at 40 degrees or less.

Sunday’s weather in Kansas City was frightful. It was 36 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 25 degrees, and snow flurries descended as the game wore on.

“I think everyone struggles to a degree in cold weather. That’s is why a lot of people move south,” Gruden said. “I have to do a better job of helping him. I think it starts with me and ends there. He is a good quarterback. I think he has a chance to be great. It just wasn’t his day and it wasn’t our day.”

Carr finished 20-of-30 passing for 222 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 71.8 passer rating. Those numbers were inflated by a garbage time touchdown drive that accounted for 70 yards and a score.

The Raiders passing game was awful most of the night, and severely hurt the Raiders’ ability to finish drives despite Josh Jacobs going strong in the first half.

Carr threw two interceptions in the first half that led to Chiefs touchdowns. Tyrann Mathieu broke off his responsibility to make the first pick, baiting Carr to make a throw. Safety Juan Thornhill jumped Tyrell Williams’ route on the second interception and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown.

Mathieu said those calculated risks came about after properly identifying when Carr would try to work the ball down the field.

“When he did take shots down the field, we were able to understand it pre-snap by the formation and it would put us in position to make a play,” Mathieu said. “Derek is going to try and take care of the football. Tight ends, running backs, check downs, that’s kind of his game. I was glad we were able to capitalize on him when he did try to throw the ball down the field.”

Easily read quarterback decisions might be a bigger issue than anything to do with the weather, and ultimately cost the Raiders dearly. The Mathieu interception was a tough break, but the Thornhill pick six was the game’s true turning point.

“[The interceptions are] very frustrating,” Carr said. “You can’t turn the ball over, and you’ve got to credit their defense. I pride myself on taking care of the football, but they made two great plays. We can’t have that happen. That’s my fault.”

This loss wasn’t all Carr’s fault, but the well-paid franchise quarterback will shoulder most of the blame after another nasty-looking loss. The Raiders were running well but the air attack was inept. Raiders receivers were a non-factor in this one, rarely creating separation against the Chiefs secondary. The Silver and Black played most of this game with just eight yards passing produced by a receiver, before more of them got involved on that meaningless touchdown drive. Williams was a non-factor, and Zay Jones didn’t play a significant role. The Raiders certainly missed the injured Hunter Renfrow, a point made clear by the Raiders converting just 3-of-13 third downs.

[RELATED: Self-inflicted wounds cost Raiders]

While Carr’s performance was bad in any condition, it continued a run of poor play in Kansas City. His 222 passing yards tied a career high in Kansas City. He has never had a passer rating above 77 in this place, where he has lost all six times he has played here.

“It’s easy to look as his interceptions, but it is a tough place to play,” Gruden said. “It’s a tough environment. It’s cold and windy. They played good defense, and we were behind most of the game. All those things, with bad field position and a long way to go are tough on a quarterback.”

Five Raiders to watch in Week 13: Derek Carr must step up vs. Chiefs

Five Raiders to watch in Week 13: Derek Carr must step up vs. Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There’s no sense sidestepping it. Sunday’s showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs is the biggest game of the Raiders' regular season.

It isn’t do-or-die. It isn’t an actual must-win. But, man, they’ve got to have it.

Want stakes? An upset win here in Kansas City would vault the Raiders into a tie atop the AFC West -- the Chiefs play New England next week -- while remaining a frontrunner for the AFC’s final wild-card spot. A loss would put the Raiders two games back in the division with four to play and on shaky ground in the wild-card race.

Veteran leaders tried to minimize the big-game feel surrounding the 119th clash between Raiders and Chiefs, especially when talking to rookies so vital to this season’s success.

“At the end of the day, every game is big in this league,” slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner said earlier this week. “Any given Sunday, any team can win. Outside forces can make some game bigger than what it is. You have to find the right mentality. If you make it bigger than what it is, you can psyche yourself out. You don’t want that to be the case.”

One plus from a Raiders perspective: Most of the young players playing major roles came from juggernaut college programs that play huge games before massive, often hostile crowds.

The Raiders need a complete team effort to beat the Chiefs, from the coaching staff down to bottom levels of the depth chart. Here five players in particular who must show up big to beat a rival when it matters most.

QB Derek Carr

Carr typically doesn’t land in this weekly series because franchise quarterbacks are always vital to an outcome. This one is different.

Even if the Raiders' run game functions well, there will be times that Carr will have to put the team on his back. It’s hard to imagine a Raiders blowout. The Chiefs are too good for that. A real shot at victory should come in a close contest, maybe with a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.

Carr needs to play smart and efficient football from start to finish and buck trends you’ve been hearing about all week: That he can’t win at Arrowhead Stadium and he doesn’t function well in the cold. It’s going to be chilly on Sunday afternoon, but 20-30 mph gusting winds could play a bigger role in the passing game. Even if that puts a premium on the ground game, Carr will have to beat the elements and make important throws that move the chains and score points. And, even in subpar conditions, he’ll have to be successful pushing the ball downfield.

Carr must be steady, smart and occasionally dynamic in what will be one of his season’s defining moments.

DE Clelin Ferrell

Fellow rookie edge rusher Maxx Crosby has been bringing quarterback pressure and getting home most every week during this season’s second half. This Raiders' pass rush is truly impactful, however, with pressure off of both edges. We’ve seen games where Crosby and Ferrell are collapsing the pocket. There are other times where Ferrell feels invisible in the pass rush.

The Clemson product is a steady run defender and that’s important, but this is a game against an opponent where game-changing plays are required. Ferrell has only had sacks in two games but needs to make it a third. He is also adept knocking passes down at the line of scrimmage, and that could be helpful as well.

This is going to be a game spent largely in the nickel package so Benson Mayowa will play a role on Ferrell’s side as well -- he, too, has to produce -- but the No. 4 overall pick will play a ton. Pairing him with dynamic new interior rusher Dion Jordan could help both players, as Ferrell plays well off of rushing interior linemen. They could make each other better in those instances and make life difficult on one side of a ho-hum Chiefs offensive line. Ferrell has shown up big in college games. It’s time to do so for this high-stakes game in the pros.

RB Josh Jacobs

The Alabama product is just 43 rushing yards away from 1,000. The Raiders would love it if he crosses the threshold in Sunday’s first half. That would mean the run game is going strong, and the Raiders would find an early rhythm never established in last week’s showdown with the Jets' No. 1-ranked run defense. The Chiefs are 30th in that area, giving up 143.1 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. The Raiders' rushing totals have dripped a smidge, but it’s not an overall cause for concern.

Jacobs has proven impactful in almost every game this season, earning hard yards inside while finding space required to gain ground in chunks. The No. 24 overall draft pick should see the ball a ton on Sunday. In fact, the more Jacobs sees the ball, the better the Raiders are doing.

He’s key to a strong start and a positive game script that will allow Gruden to remain committed to the run game. Tennessee and Indianapolis beat the Chiefs earlier this season by running a ton -- the Colts ran 45 times! -- even when they were down. Jacobs is more than capable of following that blueprint and felling this formidable foe with a heavy workload.

CB Lamarcus Joyner

The veteran slot cornerback had a hard time watching last week’s loss to the Jets. It was obviously frustrating to be sidelined a second time with a hamstring strain during a loss, but his misery was intensified by the Jets attacking areas of the field he would normally defend. Nevin Lawson had a tough day at the office, and it was clear then just how much they missed their defensive co-captain.

Joyner’s back and healthy now, just in time to face a formidable Chiefs attack that uses breakneck speed to go deep and work the middle of the field. The Raiders gave up a series of explosive plays to Kansas City in Week 2 that made it one-sided, and Joyner played a significant part in that. He’ll have to do better than he did then and be a rock inside using veteran savvy to mitigate Kansas City’s obvious speed advantage.

The Raiders secondary must work well together to slow the Chiefs, playing top-down coverage while making them earn every inch. Joyner will be vital in that effort and offers an instant upgrade after two games away.

[RELATED: Worley must give Raiders stability with secondary in flux]

WR Zay Jones

The third-year pro plays a ton these days, clearly comfortable with his responsibilities in the Raiders offense since being traded to the Silver and Black from Buffalo. That doesn’t mean he’s targeted much. Jones has just 11 catches for 88 yards on 14 targets in five games as a Raider, a paltry sum that’s a product of trying to build chemistry with Carr during the season while other targets have been working with him since the spring.

His opportunities should increase Sunday, when he’s expected to play more in the slot with Hunter Renfrow out injured. Jones has been playing outside as a Raider but has tons of experience inside in college. He wasn’t terribly efficient with targets in Buffalo but must be if called upon for third-down conversions as Renfrow was regularly.

Jones has all the talent required to be a productive NFL receiver but hasn’t shown it much. This is the time to do so and take coverage away from tight end Darren Waller in the middle of the field.

These Raiders need to step up after losing Hunter Renfrow to rib injury

These Raiders need to step up after losing Hunter Renfrow to rib injury

ALAMEDA -- Hunter Renfrow started his rookie season as an ancillary option in the Raiders passing game. The fifth-round draft quickly earned his spot at the team’s primary slot receiver, but it took some time to create the quick separation that was his signature at Clemson.

That gave him the opportunity to make one clutch collegiate play after another and, in recent weeks, Renfrow had started doing similar things in the pros.

He caught a long touchdown in Houston. He caught the game-winning score against Detroit. He had more catches and receiving yards than anyone else the past five weeks.

The term ‘Third-and-Renfrow” had become a thing on game day, with quarterback Derek Carr targeting him frequently to move the chains. He had 23 first downs on his 36 total catches for 369 yards, most of which had come over the last month or so.

That’s why losing him at this point is such a big deal. Renfrow suffered a rib injury and reportedly punctured his lung on Sunday against the New York Jets and is out a few weeks at least and it’s a possibility he’s done for the rest of this season.

“It’s a big, big loss for us,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “We’ve had a lot of turnover at that position this year, it’s really too bad. I’ll say this, Renfrow is going to be a great Raider. He’s really been playing good for us.”

Gruden listed off an few options to replace Renfrow in the slot. Keelan Doss was the first. He has experience and ability to play inside, but had a tough time earning an active roster spot on game day. Zay Jones played a ton in the slot in college but hasn’t done much of that here and hasn’t become a primary target after being acquired from Buffalo.

Tight ends Darren Waller and Derek Carrier can move around the formation. Waller already plays some in the slot, though coverage will follow him anywhere. Life might get even tougher on Waller without another trusted target, meaning coach must continue to scheme him open and find moments to get him involved.

The Raiders need more from Tyrell Williams on the outside as well. He has had less than 50 yards in three of the past four weeks and had a key drop against the Jets and in a few other games. He also hasn’t been steady enough in contested catch situations.

[RELATED: Raiders can overcome Jets debacle by learning from past]

“I think he’s had some foot problems,” Gruden said. “He’s missed a lot of time. He’s missed some games, and I don’t know if he’s 100 percent but he’s giving us everything he has and I admire him. I think he’s a good player. He’s fighting some tough times. He knows we need him.

“It has been a tough year at our receiving position. He’s had some tough moments. He’s also had some really good moments and hopefully we’ll see the best of him down the stretch.”