There are many reasons why the Las Vegas Raiders have started the season 3-0 for the first time since 2002, the last time they went to the Super Bowl.
However, the primary reason the Raiders are where they are now is quarterback Derek Carr, and it’s not only that Carr leads the National Football League with 1,203 yards passing and selected American Football Conference Player of the Month for September.
When the Raiders beat the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, Carr threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zay Jones in overtime to give the Silver and Black a 33-27 victory at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, where fans watched a regular-season game for the first time.
The following week, Carr passed for 382 yards and touchdown passes to wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards in a 26-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
And last Sunday, Carr hit Edwards with a 32-yard pass that led to Daniel Carlson’s 22-yard field goal with no time left in overtime to give the Raiders a 31-28 victory over the Miami Dolphins Allegiant Stadium.
The Raiders have made the playoffs in 11 of the 12 seasons they started 3-0.
Carr has led the Raiders on 26 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime since he joined the Silver and Black in 2014, more than any NFL quarterback during that time.
“It’s something as a little kid, you know my brother would always joke with me, it’s my favorite moment,” Carr said. “I was a little kid on our hoop that my dad cemented in our house on a driveway like this; I would always count down 3…2…1 for hours. I wanted the last shot. I wanted the last throw. After I threw the routes, I would play receiver even. I’d be like, ‘Dad, last play, game is on the line, throw it, make me dive.’
“I just always loved that moment because I’d miss some, obviously, but I’d also hit some. And it’s such a cool moment. I really feel like those moments bring your team together because you look after Bryan Edwards catches that ball; I think it was the second drive in overtime, he catches that ball, and everybody is fired up for him. It just brings everybody together.
“I’m just happy I get to be in those situations. Obviously I would want to win them early, but I always just enjoy that. I’ve never been perfect, but you just got to love that moment. It starts in the mind I think.”
Carr has completed 88-of-136 passes for those 1,203 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions, one that bounced off the hands of wide receiver Willie Snead IV and the other when backup tight end Foster Moreau cut short his route and was not where Carr expected him to be.
In addition to those numbers, Carr became the fourth quarterback with at least 1,200 passing yards through his team’s first three games of a season in NFL history, joining Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018), Kurt Warner (2000), and Tom Brady (2011).
Carr also became only the fifth quarterback since the merger to win the first three games of a season while passing for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns in each contest, joining Josh Allen (2020), Patrick Mahomes (2019), Peyton Manning (2013) and Steve Young (1998).
Dating to Week 16 of the 2020 season, Carr has recorded at least 325 passing yards in five consecutive games, trailing only Rich Gannon of the Raiders (six games in 2002) for most consecutive games with at least 325 passing yards in NFL history.
In addition, Carr was the only quarterback in the NFL to pass for at least 300 yards in all three games during September this season.
Coach Jon Gruden claims all of this is nothing new for him.
“Not to overthink it or anything; Derek’s been in command since I’ve been here,” Gruden said this week. “We have a better team. We got better opportunities. Our defense is a big part of that. But repetition is the mother of learning. This guy has had a million reps, and the emergence of Edwards, the emergence of (Hunter) Renfrow and Ruggs is essential, but Carr’s command has always been off the charts.
“If you give this guy a lot of opportunities, he’s going to have I think a lot of chances to succeed. I think he’s a great quarterback. His command is very good and hopefully it continues. It’s going to have to because the (Los Angeles) Chargers, they were impressive on the tapes that I’ve seen.”
Gruden, and Carr, know what has happened in the first three games won’t mean a thing if they don’t keep it going on Monday night against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
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