Derek Carr had not been himself since the Las Vegas Raiders emerged from their bye.
A three-game losing streak, with calls from fans for him to be replaced with Marcus Mariota at quarterback growing louder by the loss, had him feeling off.
So on a short week, and with a prime-time game at the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, Carr remembered a piece of advice his former coach Jon Gruden gave him.
Don’t ever take your arm out of a game.
So Carr channeled Gruden, who resigned Oct. 11 after the publication of offensive emails, in the course of the Raiders’ 36-33 overtime victory and passed for 373 yards, his most since Week 3, when the Raiders were 3-0.
Carr also acknowledged starting faster on offense was key. So finding wide receiver DeSean Jackson on the Raiders’ third play from scrimmage for a 56-yard touchdown was the chef’s kiss. Even if it was early.
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“We get that touchdown, I look at the scoreboard, OK, 7-0,” Carr said. “I’m excited. I’m an emotional, passionate person, but my mindset literally goes, ‘OK, 7-0.’ We’ve got to keep going.
“But I can’t exhale during the game, especially with this one, how close it was. We hit that play, it’s exciting … but I can’t exhale. Win or lose, whether it’s going good or bad, I have to stay in the moment.”
Carr also got his run game going, rushing for a 22-yard pickup.
He celebrated by flashing a “shaka” hand sign at Mariota, a Hawaiian native.
“I always call myself ‘Carriota’ and he gets a kick out of that one,” Carr stated of Mariota. “Anytime I scramble in practice or in a game, I’ll come up to him and be like, ‘Carriota, bro,’ and he’ll laugh at me. Probably just to appease me. It felt good to be able to pick up that. They actually got tripped up, and I felt it. Honestly it was just experience at that point. I knew they were in the man coverage look on the back end, and when that gain happened and they didn’t have contain, I just took off.”
Said interim coach Rich Bisaccia: “Derek is his biggest critic. … He’s been off sync a little bit; we’ve all been off sync.
“Today he looked like Derek Carr. It’s fun to watch him play.”
The Raiders, who play host to Washington in 10 days, have endured the Gruden resignation as well as the trauma and tragedy of former receiver Henry Ruggs III’s high-speed car crash that killed a 23-year-old woman and her dog.
After Ruggs was released, the Raiders’ vertical threat was gone. So they signed Jackson, who turns 35 on Wednesday but is rounding into form for Las Vegas. “One thing I’ve tried to do this year, especially when [Ruggs] was here, I was going to be so aggressive,” Carr said.
“It leads sometimes to not completing as many balls on a percentage chart, but to me, Gruden used to tell me, ‘Don’t ever take your arm out of a game.’ So when we call these things, let’s rip ’em.”
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