Derek Carr - Week 9 Film Review

As the resident Oakland Raiders fan of The Touchdown, I watch them play every single week, and I’ve spent the first two months of the season telling everyone how good their offense is. This Sunday, that offense got yet another test, keeping pace with the Detroit Lions.

The Raiders defense is fairly stout against the run, but they are really susceptible to the passing game, and that made me nervous going into this one. Destined to be a high-scoring game, as the Lions D is no better than their opponents’, I knew it would be a case of who could keep their foot on the accelerator the longest.

The Oakland offense went for a nice, balanced approach in this one and did a good job in putting the pressure on with both elements of their attack. Josh Jacobs played fantastically, particularly in the first half, and he ended with two scores as well as his 120 yards. We’ve spoken previously about how good the Raiders running game is, and once again he impressed, but this game wasn’t won on the ground.

This weekend, Derek Carr was brilliant. He was efficient, he was the Derek Carr that people try so hard to forget exists. He was dominant. Putting up 289 yards and 2 TD’s on 20/31, the performance earned a 116.2 quarterback rating.

What stood out to me was how Carr threw so many individually impressive passes, and made play after play, in completely different ways. In this film review I am going to look at six different passes that he threw, and I noticed something fantastic that wasn’t intentional on my part at all.

The six passes that I picked out which show best how incredible a passing performance he had, went to six different receivers. That is both incredible and perfectly symbolic of how he is performing this year.

It doesn’t matter who wass on the field, or what the play call is, Derek Carr was throwing the ball on a dime, and it was fantastic to watch.

What better way to start – it is chronological as well, but that’s less poetic – than Carr’s favourite target on the season, tight end Darren Waller.

The Raiders run a jet motion and then some play action, before Waller gets wide open on a crosser. This was one of just two receptions for the star TE, but it was a really nice and simple toss and catch, nothing special from Carr on this one in particular, but a really nice play design and good footwork from the QB to get him going.

The play design was so simple, just a clearout route with an intermediate crosser that attacked the vacated space behind the linebackers after play action, but it was just one of many plays that showed how easily the Raiders could exploit the Lions defense.

The next play that stood out to me was the first of the many throws that actually was really damn impressive. DC4 made an absolutely stunning connection with Tyrell Williams in the second quarter, placing the ball beyond two nearby defenders to a spot where the diving wide receiver could convert on third down (and 12), in a game where there wasn’t a single punt in the first half.  This play was crucial.

The ball placement on this pass is outrageous. Williams is double covered on his crossing route from the slot and somehow his QB put the ball low and outside where neither of the two Lions defenders could stop it. This is the first – and yet somehow not most – impressively placed throw, finding its way to a spot that seemed near impossible to hit.

The Lions defense was in man coverage – a Cover 1 robber, disguised pre-snap to look like Cover 3 – and Williams did a fantastic job on the stem of his route, flipping his man-defender’s hips and getting separation, but there wasn’t much. What made this catch more impressive was that the spare defender (the robber) also picked him up, and tried to stop him, again leaving even less space for the ball to get to the receiver.

The end zone camera angle shows how perfect this pass really was.

Toward the end of the game there were multiple more fantastic plays from the sixth-year signal-caller, firstly a laser beam to Marcell Ateman over the middle of the field. While not exactly a star name, the big-bodied receiver has done a great job in some of the less common formations and personnel sets, which the Raiders have been using this season – in this case they were in an empty set.

This play from shortly before the end of the third shows, once again, that Carr has some real confidence at the moment, and he trusted himself to put the ball on a frozen rope straight over the middle of the field, and away from the traffic around Ateman.

The Raiders came out lined up in an empty slot bunch formation, with Ateman stood at the tip of the bunch, on the line. This formation overloaded the wide side of the field and spread the defense thin against four receivers on one side of the field.

Derek Carr

By doing this, and then releasing on a four-verts play (with the fifth receiving threat, literally staying on the line of scrimmage, then finding some space) they stretched the defense even more thin down the field. The Lions’ Cover 2 shell now had to deal with four deep routes.

Ateman stems outside on his release, to allow for the right-side safety to widen to the three verts coming his way, and then once he gets behind the central linebacker zone, he breaks back inside and finds a hole in the middle of the field.

As soon as Carr saw it was Cover 2, he knew what he had, and then he threw an absolute bullet. Perfect ball placement, and a fast, flat ball to get it into his receiver’s hands before the two safeties and the linebacker could close the window.

This big play – a 34-yard gain – took Oakland into the red zone, and set them up for this next play, just a few snaps later.

This play doesn’t have some crazy throw, or insane scramble or anything like that. But it is as impressive as any other play we’re looking at this week. Now that you’ve seen the play and the outcome, watch it again, but just watch Carr.

His patience is impressive, and his footwork and awareness are fantastic. He could have run out of the pocket, or he could have taken a sack, but he stayed on his toes, and most importantly kept his eyes downfield, while adjusting his position. When Foster Moreau made an improvised move to find some space, he was ready to throw the ball without a second’s notice, and he put into a pretty small window, to find the tight end for a touchdown.

Again, not every great play is flashy, but this was the difference between three points and seven, and Carr earned every single point with his calm and patient play, and a nice pass when Moreau found some space. It might go unnoticed, but a brilliant play nonetheless.

If you do want to see something a bit more flashy, I’ve got you covered.

This next play is absurd, take that as a warning. Absolutely absurd. When making my notes for this article, I recorded this play as ‘Most insane pass ever, 4th 5:10.’.

So let’s take a look – ladies, and gentlemen, I present to you the most ridiculous pass in the NFL this weekend.

This was the moment in that game when I found out the Oakland Raiders were going to win this game.

I promise you there are less than five QB’s in the NFL who can make this throw, and possibly only three who actually would. The touch is absolutely ridiculous, the placement is immaculate, the confidence is insane.

Jalen Richard ran a wheel route, and the receiver outside of him ran a vertical route, too, meaning that there was plenty of traffic, but a small window within the chaos, and that’s exactly where the leather ended up.

Derek Carr is really, really good.

Like I said, that was the play where I knew DC4 wasn’t losing this game. Now, however, it’s time to watch the play where they actually won it.

Yet again, Carr showed composure and avoided the pressure and made it happen. Just like with the Moreau score earlier, he had to deal with a pretty good rush, but this time he scrambled out of the pocket. Rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow was on a shallow crossing route, and he was able to navigate the traffic and make his way to the front pylon, where Derek Carr delivered a Michael-Crabtree-vs-Kansas-City-esque bullet to the near corner of the end zone.

By the way, let’s give some credit to Renfrow on this play. Watching him from the end zone angle allows you to realise how incredible of a job he did. 

Yet again, Carr showed composure and avoided the pressure and made it happen. Just like with the Moreau score earlier, he had to deal with a pretty good rush, but this time he scrambled out of the pocket. Rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow was on a shallow crossing route, and he was able to navigate the traffic and make his way to the front pylon, where Derek Carr delivered a Michael-Crabtree-vs-Kansas-City-esque bullet to the near corner of the end zone.

There have been times over the last two years – since his MVP level season in 2016 – where Carr would have panicked when he was pressured, or possibly he would have taken the sack, but this season his composure and efficiency with the ball in his hands has been incredible.

This play was the perfect way to end what was a great win for Oakland, in their first real home game for almost two months, and it was all because Derek Carr kept his eyes forward and made it work.

This touchdown is a perfect metaphor for the Raiders team as a whole, and what they need to do for the rest of the season: Keep their eyes forward, avoid the inevitable obstructions in their way, and trust themselves that a chance is going to open up eventually.

Derek Carr did just that on this play, and throughout the whole game, and he proved that he is more than just a bang-average QB. The defense is having a tough time, but the offense is carrying the load, and their underrated quarterback is a huge part of that.

Tyler Arthur

NFL Film and Prospect Analyst

A graduated Journalism student, Tyler also writes for Read American Football and Gridiron Hub. He played Wide Receiver and eventually Quarterback for his university team at DMU, and is now using his knowledge and passion for learning to dive deeper into the analysis of X’s and O’s in the NFL. 


Image credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports