The success the Raiders had with an uptempo attack in the final minutes of Sunday’s win over the Broncos raises an interesting possibility.
Could the Raiders tap deeper into that evolving part of their playbook, which also happens to be one of Derek Carr’s biggest strengths.
From the moment the Raiders got the ball back with 1:43 remaining in regulation, trailing 16-13, right on up to their game-winning drive in overtime, Carr, in conjunction with Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, orchestrated parts of two drives from the line of scrimmage.
It played into Carr’s processing and leadership skills — both of which are reflected in the 26 fourth-quarter comebacks he’s led and the 32 game-winning drives he’s overseen in his career.
“I have always loved those moments,” Carr said. “That is what I dreamed of as a kid.”
The question is, can the Raiders benefit by going uptempo more often than just in end-of-half or end-of-game situations?
“It’s something we weigh, honestly, every week,” McDaniels said.
The Raiders used uptempo at various points during their first win over the Broncos earlier this season. And did well in those situations.
But as Carr showed in the end-of-regulation drive to get the game-tying field goal to push Sunday’s game to overtime, first by hitting Keelan Cole on a 21-yard pass and then, in hurry up and catching the Broncos off guard, hooked up with Josh Jacobs on a 43-yard pass on the very next play, there is no reason why the Raiders can’t replicate this more during other parts of the game.
Especially with Carr getting a better command of McDaniels’ offense and his teammates more comfortable in this scheme and playbook as well.
“Going through the entire offseason, going through the season, you grow,” said Raiders offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi. “You put new plays in, new schemes in that you maybe didn’t do in training camp because you’re just growing and evolving. As you get more time on task with the players you have, it definitely makes things easier to kind of adjust and do things new on a weekly basis.”
It’s also a matter of mindset. In late-half or late-game situations, teams are often looking for big chunk plays to either steal momentum points or come back from deficits. That means being aggressive in taking big shots on deeper throws.
“In two minute, it’s really different than doing it in the first quarter,” McDaniels said, “I mean, two minute you have to push the ball down the field basically to try to create a scoring opportunity for yourself because you just don’t have enough time. Doing it in the first quarter is a little different. So, how fast? What kind of tempo? All those things are something we should consider, and we have.”
One building block to utilizing it more is how well Carr plays in those situations. “He definitely is comfortable doing it,” McDaniels said.
On the other hand, when you go uptempo you also put a strain on your personnel. By limiting the time between plays, you’re limiting your ability to sub players in and out. That means rolling with one particular personnel grouping over an extended period of time.
“I think our depth at all the positions also factors into how much you want to do that,” McDaniels said “Just how many plays do you want to do that because our guys got a little tired yesterday, there’s no question. The receivers especially got a little winded in the altitude.”
Moving forward, though, on Sunday in Denver a new door may have opened for the Raiders.