Sunday’s game may have been the best I’ve seen Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr play.
Carr’s stats were great, with 513 yards and four touchdowns. What I saw on film reinforced how well he played. He was very settled in the pocket and threw on balance. He had clean footwork, with more consistency than he has had in that area to this point. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ lack of a pass rush helped (and a key Raiders halftime adjustment played into that), but Carr was disciplined in the pocket. That’s important because while Carr has always had excellent throwing skills, he has a tendency to play a little fast in the pocket and he has had footwork issues.
Carr was sharp early in the game. On the second possession the Raiders called a sluggo/seam, and the Buccaneers had a great defense against it. Amari Cooper ran the sluggo (slant and go route) and Mychal Rivera ran a seam route. The Buccaneers called Cover 3 zone, which is a great defense against sluggo/seam. But Carr’s pump fake on the sluggo to Cooper caused single-high safety Bradley McDougald to react, and the seam to Rivera was wide open for 27 yards.
The Raiders showed empty snaps with four and five receivers, packages I’ve seen all season from them. But they made a halftime adjustment to put a greater emphasis on pass protection on third-and-long. The first two third-and-long plays of the third quarter, the Raiders had running back Latavius Murray and tight end Clive Walford flanking Carr in the backfield.
The Raiders still used some empty sets, and Carr made a great throw out of this one for a touchdown. Cooper lined up in the slot and the Raiders got the matchup they wanted, with Cooper running a vertical route from the slot against safety Chris Conte. Carr made a wonderful throw for a 34-yard touchdown. There’s also some subtle pocket movement with the rush coming from his right.
Carr’s comfort in the pocket stood out in this game. His feet were settled and he had subtle pocket movement while still staying on balance. And he was locked in most of the game.
A touchdown late in the fourth quarter came off another great throw, in another empty set. Rivera was the inside slot receiver on the trips side, and the Buccaneers had a three-man rush with quarters zone coverage behind it. Linebacker Kwon Alexander matched up on Rivera, who ran a jerk route. This is a big-time throw because of the precise ball placement. It was put in the only spot Rivera could catch it.
Then it’s worth looking at the game-winning touchdown in overtime. On fourth-and-3, with the Raiders in another empty set, the Buccaneers rushed five with Alexander blitzing from the slot with man coverage behind it. Carr hit Seth Roberts on an in-breaker route against slot cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah. Single-high safety McDougald missed the easy tackle and Roberts scored easily.
What we saw in this game was a quarterback who was very sharp and showed some positive signs with his footwork and how he played in the pocket. He’ll need to continue to stay hot, with a matchup against a great Denver Broncos defense coming up this week.
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.