OAKLAND — Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders were flying high the last time they faced the Indianapolis Colts.
Carr threw three touchdown passes to lead Oakland to its 12th win of the season on Christmas Eve in 2016, but got knocked out late in that game with a broken ankle.
That has sent the Raiders into a downward spiral they still haven’t been able to escape.
The Raiders (1-5) are reeling as they head into Sunday’s game against the Colts (2-5), having traded away No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper to Dallas earlier in the week after previously dealing away star pass rusher Khalil Mack before the season.
The trio of Carr, Cooper and Mack were the foundation pieces in Oakland, but now only Carr remains and the team is once again rebuilding.
“For me, being in my fifth year, it’s hard if I’m being honest,” Carr said. “Just going out there, I feel like we’ve had to do this a couple of times in my early five years. That part is hard. At the same time, it doesn’t change my mindset.”
The Raiders have gone just 7-17 since that victory over the Colts and changed coaches, with Jon Gruden coming in this season to replace the fired Jack Del Rio.
Carr’s level of play has also dropped, with him throwing 29 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in his 21 games since then, compared to 38 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in the previous 21 games.
“I definitely feel like a better player,” Carr said. “I’m smarter. I know more. Talent-wise, I think after last year just recovering from injury, I’m back to my strength and my speed how I want it to be. Absolutely I believe that I have nothing but the best out in front of me. I really do believe that.”
Colts coach Frank Reich, who was an assistant in the AFC West with the San Diego Chargers for Carr’s first two seasons in the NFL, had plenty of praise for Carr even if his production has dropped of late.
“He has really good arm talent,” Reich said. “He sees the field really well. He can make all the throws. He can drive the ball all over the field. He can throw the touch pass. I just think he shows good instincts. I think he has good feel in the pocket. This is a guy who I think can put a lot of points on the board leading an offense.”