Quarterback Derek Carr had a defining game on Sunday when he put the Oakland Raiders on his back for an improbable 37-33 victory over the perennial AFC powerhouse Baltimore Ravens. The Raiders were listed as 6.5-point underdogs after a lackluster performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener.
Claiming the biggest win of his young career, the 24-year-old Carr racked up a personal-best of 351 passing yards and threw three touchdowns, including the 12-yard game-winner to receiver Seth Roberts with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
It was the second 300-plus yard game of Carr’s career and the third time he has tossed three or more touchdowns. But more importantly, the 2014 second-round pick gave the Raiders some momentum in the early part of the season before Oakland hits the road for the first time in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns.
Calling the win “emotional,” Carr credited his teammates and admitted just how much the game meant to him.
“Oh my goodness, yes,” he said. “Emotional, I think that’s to say the least. We knew it was going to be a fight. Obviously Baltimore, they’ve been to playoffs how many times the last seven eight years, Super Bowl MVP quarterback [Joe Flacco], great defense, very physical defense, we knew it was going to be a challenge today but it just makes me so happy to see my teammates fight the way we did."
Carr’s effort came on the heels of a hand injury he suffered against Cincinnati last week, with some questioning whether or not he would 100 percent by kickoff versus Baltimore. But Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio praised his quarterback’s effort and preparation.
“He came in the morning after and said he was fine,” Del Rio told reporters. “Threw the ball well all week and prepared hard all week.
“It’s a testament to his will, his desire and his willingness to do the extra things to get his body to recover, which is part of that to be able to bounce back from an injury like that. Really, really pleased with him.”
From the Raiders' opening drive, Carr seemed particuarly determined to lead Oakland out of their current doldrums. Carr started off with a 68-yard touchdown bomb to rookie receiver Amari Cooper, then capitalized on a Ravens fumble to set up a field goal for a 10-0 lead with 11:44 left in the first quarter.
Oakland’s defense allowed Baltimore back into the game, but Carr took the lead back with a five-play, 80-yard drive capped by running back Latavius Murray’s one-yard touchdown run. On that drive, Carr fired off a 37-yard strike to Michael Crabtree and put Murray in position to score by hitting Andre Holmes for another 21-yard completion.
But Carr’s best moment came after he tossed his lone interception in the fourth quarter. Rather than second-guessing his play, he responded with a nine-play, 80-yard and hit Roberts for the go-ahead touchdown.
According to Roberts, Carr deftly read the Ravens coverage and knew just where to put the ball for him.
“Before the snap, (Carr) gave them a cadence and it kind of showed their coverage, so I just slipped inside and caught the ball,” Roberts said.
The performance might be a turning point for not just Carr, but for the entire organization. After so many forgettable seasons, Carr looked like the leader the Raiders have been lacking since the days of Rich Gannon. Offensive guard Gabe Jackson and defensive back D.J. Hayden were also quick to heap praise on Carr.
"[Carr] has a winner and a warriors mentality,” Jackson said. “He always, no matter what, stays positive. He stays on the path, he tries to move forward and that’s what I love about him. He keeps his composure and stays calm.
“I see more confidence from him, not cockiness, but just confidence,” added Jackson. “It’s a good start to our future. This is just the start to build on.”
“That’s just what [Carr] does,” Hayden said when asked what he though of Carr's efforts. “I’m a fan on the sideline when Derek’s on the field. I’m just out there screaming and yelling, dancing, I’m doing it all.”
huge statement win for Derek Carr and The Raiders https://t.co/06vYH7RIxh
— trey wingo (@wingoz) September 20, 2015