Before It All Got Silly, Derek Carr Kept His Cool
10:44 AM EDT on September 14, 2021
It's easy to forget in the delirium and the cruelty and the agony of overtime in last night's Raiders-Ravens game, but for a solid three minutes or so around 11:30 p.m. ET, it really looked like Justin Tucker was going to be the Ravens' hero yet again. With 42 seconds left and the game tied at 24, the most accurate kicker in NFL history smashed another no-doubter field goal from 47 yards away, erasing any memories of a shaky postseason and, one thought, putting the Ravens in position to wrap up the game barring a miracle.
But Derek Carr—who earlier on looked like he was shaking off rust from missing the entire preseason—still had over half a minute to work with, and he made every second count. In a five-play, 35-second, 38-yard sprint, Carr and the Raiders executed a glorious dream of a desperation drive, exploiting the Ravens' conservative defense and crossing just barely enough of the field to beat the clock into field-goal range and send the game to overtime. It's not the kind of thing I'm used to seeing in football—particularly when we're talking about a franchise as easy to laugh at as the Raiders—but watching Jon Gruden's boys of all people run this kind of anxious hurry-up drive to perfection just makes it all the more fascinating.
Starting from their own 25, Carr ignored the graphic onscreen that said "Targets 20+ Yards Downfield—Derek Carr—1/6" and stepped up to throw across the middle and find Bryan Edwards for his first catch of the night, which got them to the 45. There was a small hiccup in the spotting of the ball as Las Vegas ran up to spike it, but the 22 seconds remaining was still a few more than they needed.
On the drive's third play, Carr again enjoyed a massive numbers advantage at the line—an odd choice by the Ravens given the Raiders' bruised-up and inexperienced pass protectors—which gave him the opportunity to set and fire and once more slip the ball through to Edwards in between two defenders at the Baltimore 37. They'd run up and spike it with seven seconds to spare.
But to bring about OT, the Raiders still needed one more play to fall in their favor—the game-tying kick. Just as the Ravens were lucky to be able to rely on Tucker in the clutch, Las Vegas, too, had the luxury of bringing out Daniel Carlson, their fourth-year kicker who last season went 33-for-35 on field goals and made all four he took from beyond 50 yards. There was nothing automatic about this boot from 55 yards out—and Carlson's two missed extra points from last year hint at everything that could have gone wrong in this instant—but Carlson could have crushed this one from a mile away.
This drive perhaps did not make me scream "oh my god!" a bunch of times like this game's ridiculous extra period did, but it was just some surprisingly well-performed football. It was calm, it was smart, and it was skilled, and even though I really could not care less about the Raiders, this is the sort of thing I love to see at the end of a game. And it reflects well back on Carr, who now despite a career win-loss record of just 48-63 can still claim ownership of 22 fourth-quarter comebacks for his team.
“He is very calm and always says the right thing at the right time,” Raiders tight end Darren Waller said afterwards about his QB. "He is very encouraging yet challenging at the same time, and it makes guys feel like they can do it, but also challenges them to bring their best out.
“There is never really any panic in the huddle. There’s never really any uncertainty."
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