ALAMEDA, Calif. — The boos reverberated around the Oakland Coliseum almost as soon as the ball left the hand of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Up and out it sailed, floating harmlessly out of the end zone on a feeble fourth-down fling that felt like the waving of a white flag in the Raiders’ 42-21 blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
It was their third loss in a row, all but eliminating the Raiders from playoff contention. The fed-up fans at the Coliseum let them have it, although their ire was aimed primarily at Carr, the sixth-year quarterback and the face of the 6-7 Raiders late-season swoon.
Carr didn’t play terribly on Sunday, completing 25-of-34 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. But most of that production — including both touchdowns — came in the first half. With the game in reach in the second half, Carr and the offense disappeared. The Titans took advantage with a 21-0 run to make it a blowout.
Hence, the boos.
“You play here long enough it will happen,” Carr said after the game. “We have a rowdy group and that is why we love them. They are passionate. They just want to win. … I understand their frustration. I think I’d shed some emotion too, but I don’t think anything of it. It has happened for six years.”
On the sideline, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden grimaced. For many reasons. The losses keep coming, a growing list of injuries are cutting into the Raiders’ depth, and whatever good feelings were forged through their recent three-game winning streak have all but vanished.
But mostly he grimaces because Carr has become the de facto fall guy for a season gone sideways. And that doesn’t sit well with Gruden, who indicated on Sunday that circumstance is playing a big part in Carr’s performance. Namely a rash of injuries that has disrupted the continuity on the offensive line and sidelined impact rookies Josh Jacobs and Hunter Renfrow.
“I think he played really well today. Carr did,” Gruden said, jaw clenched. “Given what’s going on around him, I think there’s a big story there. At least we recognize it. We’re really proud of the way he’s competing and performing with all the moving pieces.”
By Monday, Gruden was still running lead blocker for his quarterback.
“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Gruden said. “I’m not saying he played a perfect game. But he’s playing good football. He played one of the best first halves he’s played yesterday since I’ve been here. Unfortunately we didn’t sustain it. I call the plays. So I made some mistakes myself. But we have had more moving parts on the offensive line, in the backfield and at the skill position than any team I know of.”
Those injuries continue to pile up.
Jacobs, who has rushed for 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns in a dynamic rookie season, sat out Sunday’s game with a fractured shoulder blade. His status for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars is in question. Trent Brown, their right tackle, missed the Titans game with a pectoral injury. There was no update on Monday about his availability.
Meanwhile, the Raiders also lost rookie tight end Foster Moreau on Sunday to a season-ending knee injury. Moreau has 21 catches for 174 yards and five touchdowns.
They hope to get Renfrow back on Sunday, and certainly his dependability as a big-down target out of the slot will be a welcomed addition. Renfrow missed the last two games with a rib injury.
But clearly Gruden believes Carr is getting too much of the blame.
“The Golden State Warriors are going through a similar process,” Gruden said on Sunday. “It’s not as easy to win when you’re not playing with your frontline guys.”
With one game left to play in Oakland, Carr has grown tired of the excuses. “I just want to win,’ he said.
Contact Vincent Bonsignore firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.