2017 Oakland Raiders: Keys to the Carr

After four straight losses, the Oakland Raiders came into Thursday night’s rivalry matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs needing to turn around their whole season by obtaining a much-needed win.

The Raiders did, as Al Davis would say, “Just Win Baby”. The Silver and Black won in a thrilling 31-30 come-from-behind victory with a game-winning touchdown and PAT attempt on an untimed down to end the game. Carr drove the Raiders down the field in what was eerily reminiscent of the many 2016 wins that this team thrived on during last season’s 12-4 campaign. Let me take you through the keys to Carr waking up a sleeping offensive juggernaut Thursday night.

Play Calling

Raider Nation has been nothing but frustrated with the offense, and the finger-pointing was frequently directed at first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing.  Through the first six weeks, we watched a potent offensive attack unravel into a conservative attack and the statistical production had been worrisome. Downing had adamantly downplayed the struggles.

“We’re so close on so many things.” – OC Todd Downing

It didn’t feel that way to the fans, including myself. The verticality in the offensive passing attack had vanished and the big plays were nowhere to be found. The running game was primarily using off-set single back formations that were revealing predictable plays to opposing defenses. That changed Thursday night as the passing route concepts were more varied and the deep ball came back to life.

Downing increased some play action pass concepts and even used a timely misdirection bootleg using Carr’s underrated speed and ability to throw accurately on the run. The run game still has its work cut out for them, but this isn’t a running team. Carr’s arm is the key and the play calling was favoring his skill set in Week 7 throwing the ball down the field.

AC/DC is back on tour

Amari Cooper has been known for his historic NFL records throughout his first two seasons, but through the first six games of 2017, he’s vanished.

That changed Thursday night as Carr targeted Cooper 19 times, which resulted in jaw-dropping numbers. Cooper still dropped a couple of passes, which has become a theme that unfortunately comes along with his electric talent, but his performance filled the stat sheet: 11 receptions 210 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Carr needs the big play back in this offense and Cooper provides just that. The offensive line has had some personnel rotations due to injury and performance on the right side that hasn’t helped. The unit has also been adapting to some newly introduced zone blocking concepts in the run game. It is because of this that Carr has to pass the ball downfield to establish the run and in turn create the play-action passing attack that finally came to form versus the Chiefs. Cooper brings the verticality that favors Carr’s great deep ball; it’s relieving to see the duo get back on track heading into the halfway point of the season.

The Leader

There’s a reason Carr received some well-warranted 2016 NFL MVP votes. He carried the Raiders to a 12-4 record with his arm & late game-winning heroics.  You could also look at his off-season contract and find out the Raiders organization believes they have a special player to lead this franchise to Super Bowls; yes, plural. Carr is the Raiders, he is the player that brought this team out the dumpster and back into relevancy in the NFL. This team goes as far as he can take them.

The Raiders are still working with a mediocre defensive unit that is injury-laden and very young at critical spots. Now more than ever, the staff needs to put this season back onto Carr similarly to that of the 2016 season. Carr should have free reign of play calling, audible checks, and game planning input. Raider Nation saw just how incredibly confident Carr is this past Thursday in critical moments. Carr is an electric player that builds an energy that the whole team can rally around to more victories.

This season has had some interesting storylines: coaching staff drama, questionable draft picks, defensive woes, anthem protests, player to fan altercations and Marshawn Lynch’s headlining antics. Winning football games cures all of those issues and re-focuses the Raiders’ talented locker room. Carr is the answer and undeniable leader to get this team back into playoff contention in 2017.

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