Jon Gruden resigned from his job as the Las Vegas Raiders head coach seven weeks ago, but his advice was echoing in Derek Carr’s head during Thursday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Raiders, in the midst of a disappointing three-game losing skid, were locked in a passing battle with the Cowboys that would eventually see Carr throw for 373 yards while Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 375 yards.
But it wasn’t the yardage Carr was thinking about, but rather being the aggressor and getting more points.
“One thing I’ve tried to do this year especially when [Henry Ruggs III] was here was I was going to try to be so aggressive,” Carr said Thursday evening after the Raiders’ 36-33 overtime victory was in the books. “And it leads sometimes to not complete as many balls on a percentage chart or whatever.
“But Gruden used to tell me, ‘Don’t ever take your arm out of the game. So when we call these things, let’s rip ’em.’ And today we saw some things on film where hopefully we could get some looks. Hopefully we could get some one-on-ones down the field where we find some of those and have an explosive day.
“And this defense, when you watch the film, they don’t give many of those up. That’s why I’m so excited we executed at such a high level. Because when you watch the film, they’re unbelievable.”
Carr and the Las Vegas passing game were unbelievable.
The Raiders didn’t just throw the football around, but threw deep — completing a 56-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson, a 54-yard pass to Hunter Renfro, a 35-yard pass to Zay Jones, a 31-yard pass to Renfro, and a 30-yard pass to Jackson.
The Raiders threatened the Dallas secondary so well the Cowboys responded with four defensive pass interference penalties against them, all on cornerback Anthony Brown.
It was an unexpected strafing of the Dallas defense that had generally performed well enough for the Cowboys to rise to and maintain a comfortable lead in the NFC East.
But not this game.
This was like a bombardment from a distant continent.
“I think it’s obvious when they (Las Vegas) needed something, they went deep,” Dallas coach Mike McCarthy said. “That really was in line with the tendencies that they showed going into the game. We didn’t handle it as well as you would like…”
The Cowboys have lost 3 of 4 games now. And the defensive pass interference penalties were only the tip of the proverbial iceberg because Dallas had 14 penalties for 166 yards. That’s 102 more penalty yards than Dallas mustered running the football.
The Cowboys had 110 penalty yards on third down alone.
It was part of a game in which 28 total penalties were called and only the second NFL game this season in which over 200 yards in penalties were assessed.
So McCarthy was a little hot and bothered afterward.
“The big plays are part of their offensive approach, and it was particularly effective in situations today,” he said before repeating again later. “Twenty-eight penalties – I don’t really know what the hell you want me to say. Write whatever you want, I’m all for it.”
Some people will write the Dallas offense is troubled now. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has a bothersome knee that limited him to nine carries. The receiver corps was missing Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, and the offensive line had some whack platoon system going on in a game offensive line coach Joe Philbin wasn’t even at because he stayed home because of COVID-19.
But questioning the offense that nonetheless scored over 30 points is not it.
The Dallas defense was the real problem.
And the penalties in the secondary were well called.
“The penalties obviously helped and they were legitimate things that happened,” Carr said. “We kept saying, ‘They’re holding.’ If they don’t hold us, we feel we’re going to hit those plays. I thought for our whole team, after everything that’s gone on, for us to bounce back, it says a lot about our football character.”
Carr is referring to the fact the Raiders ended their losing skid and are still in the playoff hunt despite losing their coach and Ruggs being in jail for allegedly driving drunk and hitting another vehicle which caught fire and killed a young woman and her dog.
So, some terrible stuff.
But the Raiders have kept moving forward.
And their solution for replacing Ruggs is adding Jackson, who was waived by the Los Angeles Rams and signed with Raiders to give them a deep threat at age 35.
Jackson had 3 catches for 102 yards and the 56-yard score.
“He’s electric,” running back Josh Jacobs said.
Jackson has apparently fit well into the Raiders locker room, and his work ethic is every bit as dedicated as the other receivers’.
“They keep their heads down, they keep working,” Carr said. “They keep working extra with me. ‘What do you want on this route? What do you want on that route?’ Even if I haven’t thrown it in, like, three weeks. ‘What do you want? You want me to go like that?'”
That paid a dividend on Jackson’s touchdown because he and Carr discussed during the week what to do if they got a certain look with the deep safety.
“He did it exactly like I asked him to,” Carr said. “I tried to throw it as hard as I could. And he made an outstanding catch and broke a tackle for a touchdown. That gives the whole [receiver] room the conversation that, ‘Man, that could be me next time.’ “
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