ALAMEDA, Calif. -- While there is never a good time to lose your franchise quarterback to injury, the Oakland Raiders being without Derek Carr for two to six weeks with a transverse process fracture in his back might not necessarily be a death knell for the Raiders' season.
Now, there is a reason EJ Manuel was a free agent this offseason after being the first quarterback selected in the 2013 draft by the Buffalo Bills. But he has experience to the tune of 29 games and 17 NFL starts.
A year ago, after Carr was lost for the season with a broken right fibula in Week 16, the Raiders turned to rookie Connor Cook for a playoff game at the Houston Texans ... a week after Cook dressed for an NFL game for the first time.
Plus, Manuel played like a vet in relief of Carr in Denver on Sunday and had the Raiders 36 yards and a PAT away from an improbable victory.
"There's some definite positive, encouraging signs that we can build on," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said of Manuel on Monday in his weekly media conference. "Obviously, it's always a big blow to lose a good player, a key player and your quarterback. The good news is he's not gone for the year ... it could be as short as two weeks.
"Certainly, the way EJ played [Sunday] was uplifting."
Manuel completed his first eight passes and the Raiders' offense appeared to run smoother with him at quarterback and fullback Jamize Olawale in the backfield than it did with Carr and running back Marshawn Lynch in Oakland's eventual 16-10 loss.
Manuel had the Raiders at the Broncos' 36-yard line at the two-minute warning with no timeouts remaining before a false start penalty on receiver Seth Roberts moved Oakland back five yards.
Two plays later, Manuel had Amari Cooper open briefly inside the 10-yard line before Denver safety Justin Simmons came over from center field to pick the ball off and seal the game.
"I thought he was very poised throughout the time that he played," Del Rio said of Manuel. "He handled his business. He went through the reads. I think, with the exception of the clock expiring in that environment, that's the one thing he didn't get near the repetitions that we got with our starter, obviously. That's the one thing that I came out of there saying as a coach, 'OK, I have to have him better prepared for that.'"
Manuel finished 11-of-17 passing for 106 yards.
"It's a big hit," Raiders All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack said of Carr going down. "Franchise quarterback. My homeboy. My brother, you know what I'm saying? I know he's going to be all right but at the same time, it's about the team and the next guy's got to be ready. And EJ came in and he did some good things. But unfortunately, it couldn't put us over the hump."
The Raiders will need Manuel to get the Raiders (2-2) rolling as they prep for three straight home games against the Baltimore Ravens (2-2), Los Angeles Chargers (0-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (3-0).
"The poise that he played with, I don't think the moment was too big for him," Del Rio said of Manuel. "I thought he was accurate, he made good decisions with the exception of putting that one up late on second down -- just check it down there and keep moving the chains.
"But overall, I liked the demeanor he played with, I liked the certainty he played with, I like his accuracy."
Still, Manuel has a career record of 6-11 as a starter and his last victory came in a 29-10 Bills win against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 14, 2014. Just don't go calling for Colin Kaepernick to be signed just yet.
Manuel said he just needed to get into a rhythm in Denver.
"I think, looking all of the guys in their eyes, they were confident in me, which gave me confidence in myself," Manuel said after the game. "When those guys have been out there since Day 1, as a backup you don't want to mess up any things that they already have pretty much established. You just want to go in and do your best and try to help us win, but we were able to move the ball.
"If you're the next man up and your number is called, you have to go up and perform. This is a performance-based business. ... I'm going to go out there and do my best to help our team win."