For much of this season, quarterback Derek Carr has been the Raiders’ biggest playmaker.
Going into Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum, Carr ranked among the NFL’s top quarterbacks. He’d thrown 24 touchdown passes vs. just six interceptions. His accuracy and decision-making had been exceptional.
Just last week, his late touchdown pass lifted Oakland to a win over the Titans.
But in Sunday’s 34-20 loss to the Chiefs, Carr made two critical mistakes that were the difference between losing and winning.
His first came early in the fourth quarter with the game tied 20-20 and the Raiders at the KC. 33-yard line. Under a heavy rush, Carr fought to stay upright in the pocket and at the last minute – just before being pulled down – tried to get the ball out to a receiver. But the ball instead just plopped into the hands of Josh Mauga, who returned it all the way to the Oakland 1. The Chiefs promptly scored on Alex Smith’s 1-yard throw to Jeremy Maclin. After the extra point was missed, Kansas City had a 26-20 lead.
Then, with under 2 minutes remaining, the Raiders had the ball at their own 9 on third-and-9, when Carr tried to connect with Amari Cooper deep down the middle. Instead, former Raider safety Tyvon Branch picked off the pass, after it skidded off Cooper’s outstretched hand, and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. The Chiefs converted for two points, sealing the final margin of defeat for Oakland.
Carr finished 31-of-48 for 283 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
With the loss, the Raiders fall to 5-7, a tough loss in their bid to finish with a winning record and a playoff berth. The Chiefs improve to 7-5. It marked the Chiefs’ sixth straight win.
With four games remaining, Oakland has a tough schedule. Even to win three of four to finish at .500 – against the Broncos at Denver, the Packers and Chargers at O.co and the Chiefs in Kansas City – will be difficult.