BOZEMAN, MONTANA, AUGUST 30, 2014 — After 11 straight miserable seasons, the Raider Nation finally has a ray of hope. Based on the fourth and final Oakland Raiders’ preseason game, a star has been born. This shiny silver and black star is rookie quarterback Derek Carr.
Forget that the last preseason game is mostly a scrimmage between backups. Carr was brilliant. The Raiders hosted the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is in midseason form, looking every bit as dominant as the team that won it all only six months ago.
The game started as expected. Russell Wilson moved the Seahawks 80 yards in only four plays, throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to put the Seahawks up 7-0 less than two minutes into the game. Wilson was done for the night. What happened next was shocking to anyone who has seen the Raiders over the last 11 years.
With Matt Schaub out nursing a sore elbow, Carr got the start. When Schaub is in the lineup, the West Coast Offense of Dink and Dunk with Dennis Allen does not inspire anyone, but Carr throws a gorgeous deep ball. He threw early, often and successfully.
Taking over at the Oakland 32, Carr quickly fired a 12-yard completion. On third down and 10, Carr found Brice Butler for 13 yards. On third and ten from the Seattle 16, Carr found Denarius Moore for 11 yards. The 12-play, six-minute drive ended with a five-yard touchdown run to tie the game. This was with Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden both having the night off.
This was David Carr successfully taking on the all-world Seattle defense. This was Richard Sherman and the entire Legion of Boom being manipulated by a rookie quarterback. Although Seattle’s defense would also take the rest of the night off, Carr was just getting started.
Seattle fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing the Raiders to take over at the Seahawks’ 36. There would be no dinking and no dunking. Al Davis had to be smiling in heaven as Carr went straight for the jugular. The touchdown pass went to Moore, one of Davis’ last draft pics. The Raiders led 14-7, but Carr was far from done.
A 45-yard punt return gave the Raiders another short field at the Seattle 20. Again, Carr needed only one play. The deep throw to the end zone had the Raiders leading 21-7. This was more pinball than football. The Raiders scored 14 points in 13 seconds on a pair of one-play drives.
Oakland got it back and faced third and two from their own 47. Carr does not dink and dunk. He threw a 27-yard completion. The second quarter began with the Raiders facing third and six at the Seattle 11. Carr found Moore for the touchdown. The Raiders led 28-7 after barely more than 16 minutes of football. Carr had thrown three touchdown passes and led touchdown drives on all four of the Raiders’ first four possessions. Forget field goals,the Raiders were finishing drives in a big way not seen in a long time.
Carr was supposed to see extended playing time. Instead he was finished after completing 11 of 13 passes for 143 yards and the trio of touchdown passes. Matt McGloin played the rest of the way, and this time McGloin did not need to come back from a large deficit.
McGloin did make one mistake, throwing an interception that resulted in a 55-yard Seahawks touchdown. Yet overall McGloin was poised, going 10 for 19 for 105 yards with one touchdown pass and the one interception. McGloin’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Butler had the Raiders cruising up 35-14 in the second quarter.
The Raiders stayed calm at the end of the game when former Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor led a furious rally to get the Seahawks within seven points with 4 1/2 minutes left in regulation. Despite the electricity Pryor brings, he would end up being cut from the Seahawks the day after the game.
As for this game, a failed Seahawks onside kick followed by a penalty on the Raiders had Oakland facing third and 17 from their own 45. With Seattle smelling pass, a run gained 20 yards. With Sebastian Janikowski out injured, a backup kicker drilled his second field goal from 47 yards out just past the two-minute warning. The Raiders won the game 41-31, but like virtually every preseason game, the score tells very little of the story.
Like it or not, Dennis Allen has a quarterback controversy. Carr was magnificent. Third string quarterback Matt McGloin is solid. Starter Schaub is shaky. Whether the issue is physical or mental, he has had a rough preseason. The Raiders started Matt Flynn last year because they paid him the most money. This time General Manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Allen may wish to just bench Schaub. McGloin can start if the team is that worried about Carr being thrown to the wolves.
The Raiders have plenty of glaring weaknesses, but they seem to have found their best quarterback since Rich Gannon and Kerry Collins played a decade ago. Now the team has to decide if they will let their best players play. Yes, this is preseason, but the Raiders matched the Seattle starters. If they can do that in the regular season, the Black Hole will be about the fans and not the slow, painful uphill climb out of football’s abyss.