s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone

OAKLAND - Derek Carr let it rip, I’ll say that for him.

With the Raiders’ season hanging by a thread Sunday, Carr took sight of the goal line flag in the southwest corner of the Oakland Coliseum and launched himself at it in a full, gravity-defying dive. Problem: He lost the football before he got to the flag. Bigger problem: The ball trickled out of the end zone before anyone touched it, triggering a strange NFL rule that handed possession to the Dallas Cowboys.

That was that. It ended the Raiders’ night with a 20-17 loss. It did not, scientifically speaking, end their 2017 season. There is an infinitesimal chance Oakland will make the AFC playoffs as a wild card, though it involves four or five specific teams, including the Raiders, finishing in a tie for the No. 6 seed at 8-8, plus a particular alignment of Jupiter and Venus.

But this was another shovelful of dirt on the Raiders’ season, and it was a weird one. It involved, for example, a critical first-down measurement that referee Gene Steratore made with the aid of a folded piece of paper. What did Steratore use? A page from the NFL rulebook? A Christmas list that Mrs. Steratore sent to the Bay Area with him? A promissory note from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones?

And the game was ultimately decided by Carr’s unfortunate dive to the corner of the end zone.

You can see why the quarterback did what he did. Earlier in the game he had taken off for a 32-yard run, the Raiders’ longest play from scrimmage (excluding penalties) on Sunday. And the guy is trained to be a hero. When he scrambled out of the pocket and took off on that third-down run with about 35 seconds left, every ounce of his fiber was telling him to score.

“I’m super competitive,” Carr said after the game. “You guys, my teammates, my brothers — ask my kids, my wife. I try not to lose at anything. I had an opportunity to try and win the football game. … In that moment, I was just trying to win for my teammates.”

But if you can freeze time and examine the circumstances, Carr made the wrong play.

The fumble-out-of-the-end-zone rule doesn’t make a ton of sense, but it has been invoked on numerous occasions. Every NFL quarterback should know it. Anyway, discretion would have been the better part of valor in this case.

If Carr had simply run out of bounds, the Raiders would have had a first down at the Dallas 2, with 31 seconds left to score that winning touchdown. And if they weren’t successful in that, they could have settled for a short field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio to send the game to overtime.

Carr behaved recklessly. Strangely, that’s what everybody seemed to want him to do.

For much of this season, the Raiders quarterback has played tentatively. He has gotten rid of the ball quickly — often, more quickly than he needed to — giving the impression that he didn’t have full confidence in his offensive line. He has completed few deep passes, relying instead on the dinks and dunks that become infuriating when the team is losing.

And the Raiders offense has followed in his mincing footsteps. There have been flashes of the excitement that defined 2016, when Oakland finished 12-4, but they have been all too rare.

Head coach Jack Del Rio recognized this last week, after the Raiders had been drubbed at Kansas City in a huge divisional showdown. At a press conference the day after that game, Del Rio said, “I’d love to see us just let it rip, OK? And go play. Talked about hair on fire, talked about that kind of effort and energy, playing fast, that’s what I believe in, and I’d love to see it more often.”

Carr picked up the challenge when he spoke to reporters last Thursday.

“Just go out there and what he’s saying, let it rip, cut it loose, we’ve all heard different ones,” Carr said. “But just go out there, man, and cut it loose and play. … We’re only promised three more (games) and I can assure you I’m going to go out there and let it rip, man, because that’s what the head coach wants.”

What a strange way to frame it. Carr would let loose not because he felt a twinge of desperation or because it was the best way to maximize his skills. But because that’s what the head coach wanted. It was almost as if Carr was saying, OK, I’ll go nuts, but Del Rio has to live with the results. And then, sure enough, Carr let it rip with 30 seconds left against the Cowbosy and it was the Raiders’ playoffs chances that tore apart. The website fivethirtyeight.com tabulates their chances of reaching the postseason at less than 1 percent.

No, I’m not saying Carr fumbled that ball on purpose. Of course not. It was just an odd chain of events, 15 weeks into an odd campaign.

But here’s what I am saying: Letting it rip was never the key to the Raiders’ season.

When teams are winning, they tend to chalk up the results to attitude and character. They note the work they put in, they remember the predicaments they overcame and the feelings of camaraderie that followed, and they believe it was some form of collective passion that made the difference.

Attitude does play a role. But it’s never the determining factor. NFL teams win when they have talented rosters, when their coaches put together solid game plans and their players execute as they were taught. Sunday, the Raiders played with passion and determination. They lost anyway, because of those other factors.

The Raiders do have talent, but perhaps not as much as we had talked ourselves into. Carr is a worthy NFL starter. But even last year he had pedestrian numbers when it came to yards per attempt and yards per completion. The defense’s shortcomings were painted over with offensive output in 2016; this year they are more damaging. And if the offensive line’s backslide this year caught everyone by surprise, we probably should have reminded ourselves that left tackle Donald Penn, who left Sunday’s game with a foot injury, is 34.

The Raiders’ game plans have failed to impress. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing remains in the crosshairs after his team failed to crack 300 yards against Dallas. Oakland went three-and-out four times.

I can’t completely fault the execution of the Raiders players Sunday. This was one of their better games. But throughout the season we’ve seen dropped passes galore, sporadic misfires from Carr and a lack of ball skills in the secondary. Sunday, Oakland was penalized 14 times for 105 yards.

So there’s a reason the Raiders are 6-8 and on the verge of elimination, and it’s not because they haven’t played with the right spirit. It’s because they’re a 6-8 team at their core. They’re not terrible. But they don’t deserve to compete in the playoffs.

That’s the Raiders’ 2017 season. Let it R.I.P.

You can reach staff writer Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

Show Comment