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Derek Carr: Raiders were 'punched in the mouth'

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This dream season for Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders, so often touched with a bit of magic, ran smack into some cold, hard reality on a frigid Thursday night in Kansas City.

"Perhaps we see this team again," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said after his team's 21-13 loss to the Chiefs.

He should hope not. In two games this season against Kansas City, both impacted by weather, Andy Reid's squad proved to be the tougher group. Carr's MVP campaign took a massive hit on a night when he missed open throws far too often. Oakland's wide receivers could not fight through the physical play of Kansas City's secondary, dropping passes and struggling to separate.

Perhaps Carr's injured pinkie finger was a factor, but he went out of his way to avoid making excuses after the game. His decision making was as big an issue as his accuracy on a night when he chose to throw to Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes on so many key snaps. Carr threw the ball short of the sticks on third down often and went for low percentage passes in shorter-yardage situations, including the final two offensive snaps.

"It's good. It definitely wasn't the finger's fault," Carr said.

This loss was on Carr and the passing game. It's not like his vaunted offensive line or even the maligned Raiders defense let him down. He was mostly protected well and the Raiders ran the ball for 135 yards on 31 carries. This is a team built to win through the air, and the passing game consistently let the team down. Carr finished with only 117 yards, completing 17 of 41 passes. His 2.9 yards per attempt was the lowest for a Raiders quarterback since JaMarcus Russell was roaming the Raiders sideline.

Consider what happened after each of the Chiefs turnovers. Oakland took over in field-goal range three times, including twice in a row to start the second half. The Raiders gained 14 yards combined on the three drives, scoring only six points (a bad snap ruined one field-goal attempt).

It's tough to call Carr the league MVP when Alex Smith has outplayed him in two head-to-head meetings. While Smith turned the ball over after halftime, it was his big plays early that put the Chiefs in front. Kansas City won for the first time in 44 years with a negative-three turnover differential because their playmakers -- from Tyreek Hill to Travis Kelce to cornerback Marcus Peters and pass rusher Justin Houston -- all came up big. Unheralded cornerbacks like Terrance Mitchell and Steven Nelson played huge roles.

Oakland's young leaders, on the other hand, came up short. Amari Cooper failed to track a long pass from Carr that could have resulted in a touchdown. Cooper told reporters that the ball moved on him at the last second. That wasn't the only odd look from Cooper on a night when he was targeted 10 times and only wound up with five catches for 29 yards. In a season that has included so much good fortune, it felt like everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Raiders.

"Everything about tonight was unusual, to be honest," Carr said. "To have our defense step up for us and make plays like that and for us to go out and not execute. You know, do things that we don't do."

This result is hardly a death sentence for Oakland's Super Bowl chances, but the 10-3 team relinquished control of the AFC West to the Chiefs, who hold the tiebreaker over Oakland after the season sweep. The Raiders and Chiefs both have three tricky games left, so this race has a long way to go. The defending Super Bowl champion Broncos are only one loss back and they face both teams in the coming weeks.

While the Broncos and Chiefs have plenty of playoff race experience, these are entirely new circumstances for this young Raiders squad. Carr admitted that the Raiders were "punched in the mouth" Thursday and now they have to respond.

For an organization that hasn't sniffed the playoffs since 2002, no one said that just winning, baby was going to be easy.

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