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HENDERSON, Nev. – The slow, relieved smile crawls across his face when he called timeout with two seconds left of overtime Sunday night in front of a breathtaking Allegiant Stadium crowd that was partly noisy Raider Nation, partly cool Vegas lounge act and all parts heartbeat, said it all.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was due to play in the eighth season in his eighth NFL season and after his 127th career game. Finally.
It did not matter whether Daniel Carlson made the 47-yard field goal attempt to beat the Los Angeles Chargers (the Raiders would be the AFC’s No. 5 seed and travel to No. 4 seed the Cincinnati Bengals if he did) or missed. it (Raiders would be No. 7 seeds and travel to No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs in that case). Carr and the Raiders were there.
That Carlson teased it for the Raiders’ record sixth walk-off victory of the season, Carr’s 30th career-winning games in the fourth quarter or OT, not only forced Las Vegas’ way into the off-season for the second time since 2002, it enabled the Raiders to prevent rival Chargers whose defensive end Joey Bosa essentially challenged Carr’s manhood back in week 4, from advancing to the tournament.
Maybe the relieved smile was more of a “Take that, haters” smile.
Could you blame him if it was the latter? Carr, the most polarizing figure in franchise history – fans either adore him or detest him, and there is little in between – reached personal and team goals with the 35-32 victory to improve the Raiders’ record in this extended, often hellish 17-game season to 10-7.
“Like my favorite player Kobe [Bryant] said, ‘Job is not done,’ “Carr said after the fight.
In fact, it may be about to start for a quarterback and a team that looked to lose and undergo a total rebuild – the third in less than a decade – after being embarrassed 48-9 in Kansas City on the 12th December to fall to 6-7. Even more so after Carr’s head-scratching deep-ball interception late in regulation with the Cleveland Browns a week and a day later.
But the Raiders rallied to win that game, the first of four wins in a row, and now Carr can add the playoff QB to a resume that already includes pretty much every passing record in Raider’s history, even though he has lost 13 more games than he has won in his career (57-70). His playoff debut comes Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium against the Bengals (16:30 ET, NBC).
“Yeah, that’s nice, but do not forget, we’ve already done it – it’s the second time; I’m just going to play this time,” said Carr, who missed the Raiders’ playoff appearance in 2016 after getting a break. right fibula in the penultimate match of the season.
“For me, it’s an exciting time. It’s obviously something I’ve been dreaming about since I was drafted. All I want to do is get to the playoffs and try to win a championship. And the fact that we’re in tournament, it’s really cool. Again, like I said afterwards, I’m super grateful. I’ve worked my tail off. I’ve asked if I could experience it one day, and I’ll get to it. Cool.
“But at the same time, my goal was not just to get to the playoffs; it was part of it. But you always have bigger goals and bigger dreams, and you always try to achieve more. So for me it’s exciting, but still trying to keep laser focus on the current job. “
It’s been a long road, but I would not trade any of it. I think a lot about these pictures. Keep grinding, keep that chip on your shoulder, and never let anyone tell you what you can not. We came back #RaiderNation now let’s have fun! pic.twitter.com/FYfTXMCKR0
– Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) January 10, 2022
Only two players remain on the Raiders list from the 2016 team that finished 12-4 and was beaten by the Houston Texans in a wild-card game – Carr and running back Jalen Richard.
Talk about revenue.
“As a quarterback from [five] years ago to now, he’s far better than he was then, even when he had the MVP conversation, “said Richard, who added that Carr is both smarter and stronger while laughing.” He loves to bend his arms.
“I hurt on his behalf back in 2016 where he was not able to finish the season the way he wanted to finish it because he had such a great season again. Now he’s coming in. [and] he is glowing. Man, I was so happy for him. “
Carr passed for a career-high 4,804 yards this season, fifth in the league, setting a Raiders record by darkening the 4,689 yards Rich Gannon threw for in his 2002 MVP 16-game season.
But Carr’s 3.7% TD percentage was the third lowest in his career (he had 23 TD passes at a career high of 626 attempts). His 14 interceptions and 13 fumbles were career highs, while the 40 sacks he took were the second most of his career.
and only Ryan Fitzpatrick (147) and Archie Manning (139) had played more games in the regular season than Carr without a playoff appearance … until Carr takes the field in Cincinnati (Jim Zorn is next on 106 and Jeff Blake is on 100).
But to use the maximum, Carr stated most down the stretch – no one cares.
Not even with the distractions and adversity the team and QB faced this season, from coach Jon Gruden’s sudden resignation in the wake of his email scandal to Henry Ruggs III’s high-speed car accident that cost a 23-year-old woman her life and her dog to Damon Arnette became cut after video of him flashing weapons and making death threats went viral to Gruden, who sued the NFL for Nate Hobbs’ DUI arrest.
Not if the franchise motto is “Just wind, honey,” right?
“He’s been the same person all along, just coping with adversity year after year, week after week,” tight-end Darren Waller said of Carr. “The results may not always have looked the way people wanted them to, but Dereks remained the same person and improved as a leader, improved as a player. And now the results are in our favor. But Dereks has been the same general, the same leader. , as he has been all his career.
“His hair is definitely longer, but it’s still the same guy.”
Oh yes, the hair. Carr said he has not had it cut since training camp, the result of a constant bet with Pro Bowl player AJ Cole.
“It’s honestly because he said I would give up,” Carr said. “I think it’s a perfect segue … we did not give up this season. Just because he told me I wanted to quit is the only reason my hair has not been cut since training camp. If it tells you a little bit about me and how I feel – we did not resign.
“Lord knows there have been many times I have gone home after talking to all of you and your human feelings are like ‘Why am I doing this at all?’ And you immediately remind yourself of the reasons why you do it … I’ve been waiting eight years to get to the playoffs. “