This was the day Derek Carr gave up.
He’d never admit it, not aloud or probably even to himself. When I got down to the field with about 1:30 left in the Raiders’ sour 20-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Carr was going down the Oakland sidelines, rallying the offense for one more stab at glory. But it was a hollow act. There was nothing meaningful to accomplish at that point. Because about 3 minutes earlier, Carr had surrendered.
I’m going to spend a lot of time discussing a single snap in that loss, which dropped Jon Gruden’s Raiders to 1-8, so let’s break down the play first.
The Raiders trailed 20-6 with 4:13 play. They faced fourth-and-5 at the Los Angeles 19-yard-line, coming out of a timeout. Obviously, they needed to convert the fourth down, score, then somehow get the ball back and do it again. That’s a lot of needs, but it all started with this play.
The Raiders had three receivers to the right of the formation, one to the left, and halfback Jalen Richard in the backfield. Afterward, everyone corroborated that Richard was the intended target. But as soon as the ball was snapped, Carr’s pocket began to collapse. Blitzing cornerback Michael Davis ran around left tackle Kolton Miller, and edge rusher Melvin Ingram III raced past right tackle Brandon Parker.
Carr started to roll right, and Ingram was immediately in his face. Meanwhile, Richard was having his troubles. “Yeah, I just got hung up,” the halfback said. “That play was supposed to come to me. I was supposed to come across through the O-line, to the other side of the ball. It was gonna be a quick throw to me. Got hung up. Bumped knees with one of their D-linemen.”
With the Chargers’ Isaac Rochell, it looked like.
And here’s the moment that Derek Carr cut a rectangle out of a white sheet, tied it to a stick and waved it in the smoky late-afternoon air of the Oakland Coliseum. The quarterback simply threw the ball into the ground. Thud. Game over.
OK, gents, please form an orderly queue to explain and defend the quarterback’s decision.
Here’s Gruden after the game: “It was a play designed for man-to-man, we were trying to generate a pick for our halfback. Give credit to San Diego (yes, he said “San Diego”; remember, it’s always 1998 for Gruden), they made a great play. We were looking for a big play in that situation, and the Chargers smothered it out. … It looked like Melvin Ingram was beating down on him.”
Here is Richard, generally among the most candid players on this team: “I don’t want to say that he shouldn’t have did it. That’s my boy. He gonna do what he thinks. We just gotta do better to finish games.”
And here is Carr himself: “With the look they gave us, Jalen is the guy. We’ve seen it on film work against them a whole bunch of times. We just didn’t get it.”
Scrambling for the first down seems improbable, considering Ingram’s head of steam. But what about locating a secondary receiver? Isn’t NFL offense all about finding better options? Apparently, there was one option in this case. It was the only play in recent NFL history with five receivers in the pattern and four of them mere decoys.