Derek Carr taking lumps as Raiders guarantee another losing season

BALTIMORE -- Let's make one thing perfectly clear: Derek Carr is not the explosive quarterback he was in 2016, when he finished tied for third in NFL MVP voting and the Oakland Raiders went 12-4 for their lone winning season since 2002.

That isn't a knock on Carr. Rather, his play during his first year under Jon Gruden is a side effect, to some degree, of playing for Gruden and his version of the West Coast offense. That isn't even taking into account Carr's broken right ankle, broken pinkie finger on his passing hand and three broken bones in his back in less than 11 months.

There are things that are simply out of Carr's control, such as having rookies at both tackle positions in Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker.

Carr was sacked three more times in the Raiders' 34-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, upping that single-season career-high mark to 35 sacks. The Raiders fell to 2-9, guaranteeing their 13th losing season since 2003, and despite Carr's protestations, they remain in the running for the top pick in the draft.

The first sack, on which Carr's fumble was returned by Terrell Suggs for a 43-yard touchdown, resulted in Carr spraining his surgically repaired right ankle and visiting the medical tent for the second time on the day. He was also sent off by the refs at the end of the second quarter to be examined for a possible concussion after banging the back of his head on the ground when he was pushed down.

Carr, with the ankle heavily taped, did not miss a snap. Nor did the Ravens miss an opportunity to dole out more punishment. Carr was sacked on the next two snaps.

While Oakland is not winning games, Carr is gaining some admiration in his locker room.

"He's got heart," said tight end Jared Cook, who had an acrobatic, one-handed, 16-yard touchdown catch from Carr. "How many people would want to be back there with 350-pound dudes coming down at them or trying to bend them and tear their leg off? And you've got to deal with that all game.

"For him to be standing back there and delivering the pass that he does and still be successful ... you're taking a 'W' to me. You're the man to me. I don't care what you say. He's been put in a very tough position this year, but he's handled it with grace and honor, and he's doing what we need him to do for this team."

No, Carr is not the same guy he was two years ago. But until Sunday, he might have been a more efficient quarterback under Gruden.

Yes, Carr had an off game, with an uncharacteristic 18 incompletions in his 34 pass attempts (his 47.06 completion percentage was his lowest since Dec. 8, 2016, at Kansas City and tied for the third-lowest percentage of his career). The Ravens got to him with a standard four-man rush, per ESPN Stats & Information, finishing 10-of-21 for 83 yards (4.0 yards per attempt) and taking two sacks on those plays. Carr was under duress on 39 percent of his dropbacks against four-man pressure, well above his season average of 21 percent, the third-lowest mark in the NFL entering the game. Interestingly, Carr was 6-of-13 with an average of 8.5 yards per attempt against a rush of five players or more.

He entered the day completing a career-best 70.4 percent of his passes while averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. Also, Carr's career-best interception-less streak reached six games on Sunday.

Minor victories, right? No doubt Carr and the Raiders would prefer the wins that come on the scoreboard while avoiding the punishing hits that have become the norm.

"I hurt it pretty bad," Carr said of the ankle. "I tried to stand up, but I couldn't. Once I got to the sideline, I tried to hurry up and get back in there. I wanted to finish the game with my team. It's important to me, and I want my teammates to know that I am going to finish a game if I possibly can. I will not take the easy way out."

Gruden left him no choice in the Raiders' 34-3 blowout loss at the San Francisco 49ers in Week 9, saving Carr, who had been sacked seven times by the Niners, more punishment.

Gruden contemplated taking Carr out at M&T Bank Stadium, where he was sacked on those three straight plays.

"He wants to finish with his teammates," Gruden said. "There's a certain responsibility, I think, you have as a coach to let your quarterback, your captain of the team, finish the deal with the rest of his teammates, no matter how it gets."

Admirable? Sure. Smart with a $125 million quarterback who, many think, will click with Gruden next year after a full season of experience together?

Well …

Hey, what's that theory again about Gruden working better with veteran quarterbacks such as Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson, and isn't that Joe Flacco about to get Wally Pipped by Lamar Jackson in Baltimore?

"We fell behind two scores," Gruden said. "We have to pass protect better when we have to pass protect. Everybody knows we have to pass protect. The problem all year was the problem today."

If Carr keeps getting hit the way he is, it won't be his problem any longer.