Derek Carr led the Raiders to their best record in 14 years in 2016 without a playoff game to show for it.
His third year as the Raiders' starting quarterback was clearly defined as his breakout season, with 26 passing touchdowns and nearly 4,000 passing yards. He guided the team to 12 victories with seven game-winning drives as the Raiders clinched their first playoff berth since 2002. While it was a great moment for the Raiders organization to make some noise in the postseason, the opportunity was snatched away from No. 4 in their Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts.
A sack late in the game broke Carr's ankle, thus immediately ending his season. The Silver and Black would go on to lose their Week 17 matchup before they were handily defeated by the Houston Texans in their wild-card game.
"Lot of emotions from those moments when we clinched with three weeks left and then I break my ankle and I don't get to play. For anybody, that would be heartbreaking," Carr recalled.
Since his injury in 2016, Carr has progressed as a quarterback and a leader – despite not having the regular season wins he would've liked. The Raiders' overall record was 25-39 from 2017-2020. However, Carr threw for over 4,000 passing yards, as well as at least 20 touchdowns, in three of those seasons.
In the 2021 regular season, the years of growth of patience came to fruition for Carr and the Raiders, as he threw for a career-high 4,804 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 68.4 completion percentage and six game-winning drives.
This will be the Raiders' first playoff appearance since that 2016 season, and Carr's first playoff game of his eight-year career.
"For me as a player, I feel like I'm better player than I was then," Carr said reflecting on who he was from 2016 to now. "I was young and doing a lot of crazy things that were actually working out. And it didn't always work out. But I feel like a much more wise, smarter player now than I was then. And I feel more equipped and ready now even than back then."
The only two players who have remained on the roster since the Silver and Black's last postseason campaign are Carr and running back Jalen Richard. Richard, like Carr, has seen the great ups and downs and turnover of the Raiders roster along the way, and is grateful for another opportunity to be in the playoffs, this time with his QB1 healthy.
"I hurt for him back then in 2016 when he wasn't able to finish the season he wanted the way to finish it because again he was having such a stellar season," said Richard. "But now he's coming in [and] he's glowing. ... I can't wait to see him out there go get it. He's super excited and again, he's glowing. I'm just happy we can get into the playoffs, it's been awhile."
The Raiders are going into Cincinnati on a four game winning streak, but playing the Bengals will be a tough task, as the Silver and Black lost 32-13 to Cincy in Week 11. Playing in his first playoff game against a team he's already faced this season, Carr likes his chances and just wants to leave it all on the field.
"We have tough matchup with Joe [Burrow] and their team this week, and they beat us already," said Carr "There's no pressure on us, just going to go out there and do my best as a 30-year-old, old man I guess.
"I guess I'm not one of the young guys now. ... I guess as the old guy, I'll just go out there and give it my best shot and see what happens."
View the best photos from the Raiders' Week 18 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium.