OAKLAND — Suddenly, things became serious. Sure, football games are serious in their way. Who wins? Who loses? Those kinds of things.
But this wasn’t merely football serious. It was life serious. It was Raiders quarterback Derek Carr getting sacked in the fourth quarter by Indianapolis Colts linebacker Trent Cole, Carr starting to fall, Cole twisting Carr’s right leg, Carr going down hard, Carr grimacing. Carr howling — an open-mouthed howl — his face gray with pain. It was coach Jack Del Rio running out to Carr and Carr saying to him, “I think it’s broken.”
He meant the front of his shin, officially his fibula. And it was broken. And with it, the Raiders season is almost certainly broken, too.
Everything on the field stopped at the moment of Carr’s fall. It all had an unnatural feeling. Carr, so brave and resilient, had played through a dislocated pinkie on his throwing hand. He is a tough guy, a throwback to when athletes really were tough and didn’t protect themselves for fear of blowing a huge contract. That kind of tough. For Carr not to get up was a big deal. He would fight through death to play.
As he rolled on the ground crying out, a crowd formed around him. Lots of Raiders went to one knee nearby and took off their helmets. Something profound about taking off their helmets — becoming mere men once again. Michael Crabtree stood over Carr. Looking at him. Crabtree protective. Andre Holmes paced back and forth. Nervous.
The Colts stood at a respectful distance staring at Carr. They showed no joy in his downfall. Football players share a common enterprise, understand the risks, generally like each other. The Colts saw Carr as one of them, and he was through.
Two attendants helped Carr up. The Raiders huddled around him on the field. He could put no weight on his right leg. He hung his arms around the two attendants and limped off the field dangling his right leg. His leg looked dead.
Later, Del Rio came to the interview room. Looked sober. Said Carr will have surgery Monday (it could be Sunday). Said Carr will be out indefinitely. I asked if Carr can be ready for the playoffs. Del Rio had no idea. To me, broken sounds bad. Sounds like a long time. Sounds like the Raiders are without him until next season.
Del Rio said the usual stuff coaches say when an irreplaceable player gets injured badly. Next man up. The team must pull together. You know the drill.
Del Rio may have meant it. What else could he say? He may have felt optimistic. But come on, Derek Carr is the one indispensible player on offense. As Bill Walsh always said, “The quarterback defines the limit of my offense.”
The Raiders offense just became more limited. Maybe it became very limited.
After Del Rio finished talking, the media walked into the locker room. Carr’s locker already was empty. Not a thing in it. No clothes. Nothing. Carr, who usually talks, who loves to talk, had gone home with his broken leg and his sad thoughts. Such a blow to him and his team.
And now Matt McGloin is the Raiders quarterback. Probably for the entire playoffs — as long as the Raiders stay alive.
So much pressure on McGloin. The Raiders may have to win their final game next week in Denver to stay ahead of Kansas City in the standings. If the Raiders tie with Kansas City in the standings, the Chiefs win the tiebreaker. And the Raiders become a wild-card team, have to play an extra game, and that game will be on the road. And the quarterback would be McGloin.