ALAMEDA -- Derek Carr hears the whispers and criticisms of his early-season play and that of the Raiders' offense.
He knows that through three games his average depth of target is 6.7 yards, which won't quell the notion that he doesn't like to throw down the field. The numbers don't take into account that the Raiders were down 21-0 before half of U.S. Bank Stadium had sat down Sunday, and the Vikings were playing back in order to prevent explosive plays.
Still, the numbers are the numbers. Without Antonio Brown's ability to take the top off the defense, the Raiders' offense has struggled to find chunk plays down the field. Carr doesn't think the issue is as big as it seems, though.
"We hit a few of them, to be honest with you," Carr told reporters Wednesday. "They were up 21-0, but we still were able to hit a few of them ... It's not like they're not being called, it's not like we are not trying, you know what I mean? The times you've seen on film, we tried to take a deep shot and [Vikings safety Harrison Smith] is back there, I throw it to Tyrell [Williams] for a 20-yard crossing route.
"That's still an explosive gain. There are times, you know, in situations when you're down three, four scores -- there is no play-action deep shot," Carr said. "There's no bite on the play-action. There is no run fake. Early on, we had some play-actions where they just covered it, so we had to throw it away. There's five off the top of my head. If you hit five of those, everyone is high-fiving. It's a big day, but you know how that goes."
Carr has faced widespread criticism early in his career for not taking enough deep shots. For throwing too many check downs.
A number of factors go into Carr's ability to take down-field shots. The offensive line needs to hold up. The running game needs to be a threat. The Raiders can't be in a predictable situation where the defense knows Carr will be looking for a chunk play. The situation also needs to be advantageous and not risk giving the ball to the other team.
But people only see what they want to see.
The line between testing the defense to try for a big play and risking a turnover is razor-thin, and Carr is in a lose-lose situation with his critics.
"Well, if you want to throw it up into two people, you can take it and try and get what you want," Carr said with a chuckle. "But I'm sure I'd get some good comments on that one, too, if I tried that one. It'd be fun either way. But there is a fine line when it's a close score. If a guy is 1-on-1 and you choose not to throw it, that's different. When it's a zone coverage and they are all looking at you trying to bait you to throw the deep shot, that's different.
"I've been in that situation sadly too many times where it's like, 'I'm going to have to answer about this later.' But it is what it is, right?"
No matter what Carr does, his critics won't be happy unless he throws for over 300 yards with multiples explosive plays. Carr wants to help the team win, but he can't do everything. If the play isn't there, he can't make it appear. He can't block for himself or make sure the offense gets the ball in great field position. Football is the ultimate team sport, but Carr is given the blame for any offensive hiccups.
Head coach Jon Gruden wants to make it clear who the finger should be pointed at over the offensive issues -- himself.
"Derek has done some good things," Gruden said Wednesday. "I'm not going to put it all on Derek. I need to take responsibility as a play-caller, you know, I'm calling the plays and designing some of this stuff. So, I put it on myself. He's doing a good job. You know, getting stuffed on fourth-and-a-foot isn't his fault. He didn't miss the blitz pickup in the red zone. We had a ball that should have been caught to set up points at the half.
"But he's doing some good things. I'm not going to sit here and say that we're a finished product. We've gone through a lot of change in the first three weeks and we played three really good defenses."
Carr and the Raiders' offense got off to a good start against the Broncos in Week 1, but they have been sputtering over the past two weeks in losses to the Chiefs and Vikings.
At 1-2, getting back on track in Week 4 against the Colts is pertinent if the Raiders wish to play meaningful late-season football.
With Colts safety Malik Hooker out, Carr and the offense should be able to create some big plays down the field, as long as they aren't down 21-0 in a flash again.