On Friday the United States witnessed the peaceful transition of power between Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump. Meanwhile the four reporters covering the AFC West for ESPN cast their lot on Derek Carr by voting him as the AFC’s Most Valuable Player of 2016. Being selected to that role by ESPN Raiders Reporter Paul Gutierrez is one thing but to get such a nod from the Chargers, Broncos and Chiefs reporters is another. The vote was unanimous. No Electoral College to worry about, no political strife, no regard for the hard rivalry between the teams.
Derek Carr is their vote for AFC MVP.
Derek Carr went 12-3 as a starter in 2016 and with seven fourth quarter comebacks, it’s difficult to pick out 3 great Derek Carr moments and 3 bad Derek Carr moments, but here’s my best attempt.
Derek only had two games in which he completed less than 60% of his passes and he only had five games in which he completed less than 63% of his passes. In those five games the Raiders were 4-1. Derek was nearly flawless but even he had a few rough patches and here are my top three.
- Marcus Peters makes Carr pay:
Oakland was 4-1 when the Chiefs (2-2) came to town. The rivalry between the Chiefs and Raiders has always been great, since its original days in the 1960s. But for the first time in a while; the matchup had the feel of one with true division implications. Kansas City was coming off a bye week and their last game was a 43-14 drubbing by Pittsburgh. The Raiders were fresh off a 34-31 win over San Diego and quarterback Derek Carr was leading an offense that ranked fifth in the league in scoring. Through five games, the Raiders third year quarterback had 11 touchdowns versus 2 interceptions and he had amassed nearly 1,400 yards passing.
But it was in that game where Derek Carr threw what was arguably his worst pass of the season.
Carr took the snap in the shotgun formation but heavy pressure by the Chiefs defense forced him to decide to take a sack or risk a throw. Derek made the wrong choice, heaving the ball off of his back foot to a wide open Michael Crabtree. Unfortunately for Carr, his poor passing position forced an errant, underthrown ball that was easily picked off by defensive back Marcus Peters on the Kansas City 43.
The turnover was arguably the turning point of the game and Kansas City took advantage of the Carr’s flub by marching 57 yards in 10 plays to a touchdown of their own. Carr never seemed to get the Raiders going offensively and their defense allowed Kansas City total control of the game clock.
- The Carr breaks down in the Kansas City freeze:
First place in the AFC and an inside track to the AFC West title were on the line as the 10-2 Raiders squared off against the 9-3 Chiefs. Two weeks earlier, Carr had fractured his pinkie finger against Carolina. To counter the problem the team utilized the shotgun formation during the remainder of that game and his next matchup when the Raiders destroyed the Buffalo Bills. Now would Carr’s pinkie, still wrapped tight, work at Arrowhead Stadium, in 21 degree weather and a light 7 mph wind?
It didn’t and Derek Carr posted the worst statistical outing of his three year pro career.
Derek Carr finished the game by completing just 17 of 41 pass attempts for just 117 yards and no touchdowns. His pass completion rate was a career low 41%. To be fair, Carr’s injury might have had something to do with that but if you examine his performances both before the December 8th game and after it, his pinkie didn’t seem to bug him statistically. Derek just had a bad day and he picked the wrong day to do it.
- The Colts dolt Derek Carr
Oakland was 11-3 and extremely confident in their team when the lackluster Colts came to Oakland. The Raiders already clinched their first postseason appearance since 2002. It was Christmas Eve and the Oakland Raiders were hoping to reap the rewards of a wonderful Christmas season. To keep pace with the Chiefs and the Patriots in the playoff hunt and home field advantage they had to beat Indianapolis.
At first it seemed easy, the Raiders raced to a 33-7 lead. In the fourth quarter Derek Carr left the game when he was sacked by Trent Cole. Carr immediately knew that his leg was broken and he was right. A fractured fibula ended what was an MVP season. How valuable is Derek Carr? The Raiders still had a chance to win the AFC West one week later against the Broncos. Backup quarterback Matt McGloin earned the start and the Raiders laid an egg against Denver, losing 24-6. The Raiders now had to settle for a Wild Card berth against Houston and one week later the Raiders ended their 2016 by losing badly to the Texans.
- Beating Carolina with one missing pinkie
It seemed simple, a simple snap from center. Football fans forget that a snap from a center to a quarterback is based so much on timing that if the timing is off it can result in a fumble or in a broken finger.
Raiders fans will never forget that again.
Things looked great when Oakland roared out to 24-7 lead. On their second play of the third quarter, Derek Carr broke his pinkie while receiving the snap and he was forced out of the game for a while. Meanwhile, the Panthers scored four unanswered touchdowns and fans in the Oakland Coliseum wondered if they were witnessing yet another defensive meltdown.
But Derek Carr had other ideas.
As he did so often in 2016, Derek Carr led his Raiders back from behind. The Raiders faced an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter with 13:26 remaining. Carr got things rolling with a nice 9-yard pass to Crabtree. Two runs netted a first down and a total of 12 yards to keep the drive alive. Carr mixed both the run and the pass to drive the Raiders to the Panthers endzone by completing four of his next five passes with the final completion finding Clive Wolford for a touchdown. Opting to go for the tie, the Raiders converted their two point try on a Carr completion to Seth Roberts. The score was 32-32.
A holding penalty on their next drive helped force the Panthers to punt and Derek Carr got the football back in his hands at the Oakland 13. Carr went 3 of 5 on the resulting drive which ended in a field goal but it was enough to lift Oakland to a 35-32 victory.
- Clinching a playoff berth with a marvelous comeback in San Diego:
On December 18, 2016, Derek Carr became the first Raider quarterback to clinch a playoff berth for the team since Rich Gannon in 2002. After 14 years of waiting the fans of the Silver and Black could say that the playoff drought was over.
The Raiders clinched that playoff berth in glorious style against the Chargers. San Diego was on its way to a 5-11 season that would end with the firing their head coach and moving the entire team to Los Angeles. Phillip Rivers always seems to have great games against the Raiders and this day was no different as he easily led San Diego to an early 10-3 lead. Derek Carr then led the Raiders on a 5 play, 75-yard drive just before halftime and he capped off the drive with a perfect touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. A field goal in the third quarter gave Oakland their first lead of the game until Rivers drove the Chargers downfield again for another San Diego touchdown. A missed extra point made the score 16-13.
The Raiders defense stopped the Chargers from scoring for the reminder of the game and Derek Carr took the Raiders on two field goal drives to lift Oakland to a 19-16 victory. The Raiders were back in the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.
- Breaking a franchise record that stood since the Lyndon Baines Johnson Administration
Raiders quarterback Cotton Davidson had the best game of his career as an Oakland Raider. On October, 25, 1964, Davidson passed for 427 yards in a 40-7 win over arch-rival Denver. No Raiders quarterback had ever surpassed that total in a game. The only quarterback who came close to matching it was Jeff Hostetler on October 31, 2020 when he passed for 424 yards in a loss against San Diego.
Then Derek Carr destroyed Davidson’s record in 2016.
It was week 8 and the Raiders hadn’t seen this good of a start to a season since George W. Bush started his presidency. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Derek Carr passed for 513 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-24 win.
Oakland trailed 24-17 with just 3:48 left in the game. Carr led the Raiders on a comeback drive for the ages, marching the team 75-yards in 9 plays for a game tying touchdown pass to Mychal Rivera. In overtime, things were far from perfect. The Raiders were unable to score on two possessions and found themselves with a fourth down on the Tampa 41 late in overtime. Oakland opted to go for it and beat Tampa Bay 30-24 on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Seth Roberts with 1:45 left in overtime. For the Raiders the game marked their fifth road win of the season and their best start to a season on the road since 1977.