Derek Carr has told the story several times. The day he moved to Las Vegas he looked at the Review-Journal and saw a photo of Tom Brady along with speculation about whether the Raiders would pursue the legendary quarterback as Carr’s replacement.
His annoyed reaction is understandable. Carr was looking for a fresh start as he entered his seventh year at the helm of a franchise moving to a new city and beginning a new era. Yet instead of a welcome mat, he was greeted by speculation of whether he was the right man for the job.
The perceived snub may have bristled Carr, but it may also have lit a fire under him.
Carr is off to a tremendous start and will look to keep it going when Brady finally does play in Las Vegas on Sunday, though it will be as Carr’s opponent, not replacement.
Here are three keys to watch for as the Raiders host the Buccaneers at 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Allegiant Stadium:
All in the past
Whether motivated by the perceived disrespect of the offseason or simply because it’s his third year in Jon Gruden’s system and he finally has all the pieces in place, Carr is playing the best football of his career.
He’s completing a career-high 73.1 percent of his passes and has 11 touchdowns to just one interception. He has recorded a quarterback rating of better than 100 in each of his five starts this season.
The Buccaneers’ defense provides a stiff challenge, particularly in a week when Carr had to practice without his entire starting offensive line due to COVID-19 protocols.
He hopes to have them back for the game, though there will be at least some concern right up until game time.
Despite all the distractions and unknowns, Carr must stay focused on the task at hand. He knows he’s playing the Buccaneers, not Brady.
While he has talked about the offseason flirtation between the Raiders and Brady before, he declined when pressed this week.
“I really just don’t care,” he said. “I’m just doing my job, man. I’ve spent too many hours caring about that stuff … I just don’t care anymore. I’m here to do my job at the highest level I can possibly give to this team, this organization. I’m going to give it everything that I have just like I do every week, every time I hit the field.”
“All the other stuff that comes with it, that’s for everyone to talk about and tweet about.”
The ‘Fluke Call’ Game?
This will be the second time this season Raiders’ fans are forced to confront the history of the ‘Tuck Rule’ game.
First, it was a return trip to New England to play the Patriots. Now, the Raiders get a shot at Brady, whose career was launched by that call.
Brady laughed this week when he said Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden brings up the play every time they see each other.
“That was just an unbelievable game,” he said, according to Pro Football Talk. “I still see it today and it’s a great part of my football history and it’s probably a very sour part of their football history, but that’s the way it goes. … It’s a fluke call, one ball bounces your way or one goes the opposite way. I’ll always feel I have some type of strong feeling or emotion toward the Raiders.”
Run, Henry, Run
This will be the first time the Raiders have a fully healthy Henry Ruggs for a second consecutive game.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson had to love what he saw out of the speedy first-round pick in the win over Kansas City.
Ruggs had two catches for 118 yards and a touchdown, giving the Raiders an explosive element to their offense.
Now the challenge becomes finding even more ways to get him the ball and keeping him on the field.
“A big part of the reason we drafted him where we did is we knew he’d be a big part of our offense,” Olson said. “I think when he’s been out here and he’s been healthy, he’s been everything we thought he was. With him being healthy last week, it was easy again for us … to target him. We’ll continue to do that as long as he’s healthy.”