Derek Carr has prayed to lead the Raiders in the playoffs since he was drafted in 2014, and those prayers appeared to have been answered in 2016 when his team hit a 12-3 record in the first 16 weeks of this season. decisive for the playoffs.
The problem for Carr was that in the fourth quarter of that fateful 15th game, a victory over the Indianapolis Colts, he had fractured his right fibula.
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So even though his team did go on to the playoffs, Carr couldn’t play.
And, unsurprisingly, the Raiders lost to Houston in the Wild Card Round. The team that had waited since 2002 to qualify for the playoffs got out immediately, mainly because the starting quarterback was a spectator rather than a participant.
Well, welcome to the playoffs, Raider Nation.
Welcome to the playoffs for the first time, Derek Carr.
“Yeah, that’s good,” Carr told reporters on Tuesday. “But don’t forget we’ve already done it. It’s the second time. I just played this time.
“I think it’s an exciting time for me. Obviously that’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I was drafted. That’s all I wanted to do is make the playoffs. and trying to win a championship. And the fact that we’re in the tournament, it’s really cool…
“I’m super grateful. I worked my tail. I prayed that I might experience this someday, and I’m getting there. It’s cool.”
It’s cool. But Carr is hoping it will be more than that with a win at the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. Otherwise, not so cool.
“My goal wasn’t just to make the playoffs. It was part of it, ”Carr said. “But you always have bigger goals and bigger dreams and you always try to achieve more. So to me it’s exciting, but I always try to keep that laser focus on the job at hand. “
That focus has been on that moment for, well, years – since that injury in 2016 and over the following four seasons that didn’t include a playoff berth.
Carr reflected on all of this quite publicly on Tuesday.
“I definitely feel better, especially in the last few years because I’m able to play in different ways, in different styles in order to win a football game,” Carr said, comparing himself to 2016 today.
“I’ve had other kids since that time too, so things have changed a lot in my life since all of this. And so, to be able to play in the playoffs this time around and all my kids, they can go out there and make it. I don’t think I would have any other way to share this moment with them.
“But for me, as a player, I feel like a better player than I was back then. I was young and I did a lot of crazy things that worked and didn’t always work. I just feel like a much wiser and smarter player now than I was then. And I feel more equipped and ready now than I did then. It’s an exciting time for sure. “
Carr can talk about the excitement of competing now, but on Sunday night, when the Raiders were locked in an overtime battle against the Los Angeles Chargers, the excitement was over, but not necessarily for the players.
The fourth quarter and overtime of this game were breathtaking. The pressure was palpable. And in those moments, Carr could feel the playoffs alternately within reach and then out of reach.
It was as if the playoffs were ripped off him again.
So he stepped onto the pitch even when the Raiders’ defense was there to implore his teammates Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue to give all they had and maybe more than they had.
All for a trip to the playoffs.
“Oh yeah, we went over there and I was screaming. I said, ‘Nobody cares. “I said, ‘You’re going to get chipped. Nobody cares. We’re trying to win this game!'” Carr recalls. “And I guess there was a little bit, I wouldn’t say desperation, but I could feel the playoffs at the end of my hand, so I was like, ‘Can we please stop this? If you can do that, please that would be great for us to make it happen.
“I could feel it within my reach. It was so close.”
The Raiders knocked the Chargers out of the playoffs, even though Los Angeles had beaten the Raiders earlier in the season. The Bengals also beat the Raiders earlier this season, so Carr is hoping what happened against Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert will be repeated against Cincy’s Joe Burrow.
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“We’ve got a tough game with Joe and their team this week, and they’ve beaten us already. So there’s no pressure on us, man,” Carr said. “I’m just going to go out there and do my best as a 30 year old man I guess. I guess I’m not one of the youngsters now, although we can play until 40.
“I guess as an old man I’m just going to go over there and do my best and see what happens.”