Derek Carr wants his actions to speak louder than his words and on Monday Night Football he played like it.
For most of the offseason, No. 4 was the recipient of some unfair criticism and on the national stage, he showed why he's the franchise quarterback of the Las Vegas Raiders. In a 34-24 win, Carr out-dueled future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, tossing three touchdowns with zero turnovers, 282 yards, and a 73 percent completion rate.
"I mean, I'll let everyone else talk about the statement [win]," Carr told reporters postgame. "I'm tired of talking. Some people can probably hear it in my voice sometimes. It's nice to go out and to be 2-0. It's nice to play against the Saints, the world champions, the top whatever defense, the top whatever offense. This special teams unit is one of the best in the league. It feels good, a good win on Monday night, but just like I told the guys after the game, 'the job's not done.'"
For the first quarter of play, things looked bleak for the Raiders' offense. The New Orleans Saints have a stout defense and the Silver and Black were struggling to get much of anything going until Carr honed in on star tight end Darren Waller.
Last season, Carr developed trust with the dynamic playmaker, proving he was more than just a speedster with length. Against the Saints, Carr and Waller dissected the aforementioned stout defense without a hiccup. Play after play, Carr targeted Waller and gave him the opportunity to make something happen after the catch. The two connected 12 times for 103 yards and one touchdown, which came on a fourth-and-goal designed play for Waller.
Carr's connection with Waller is strong, but his ability to get everyone on offense involved is his greatest skill. Similar NBA point guard Rajon Rondo — I know Carr would approve of the comparison as a die-hard Lakers fan — Carr facilitates with poise, is tactical, and rarely makes the wrong decision. His decision making on third down against the Saints was impeccable, carefully reading the defense and picking it apart with ease.
Over the past three seasons, the Raiders have improved their third-down efficiency dramatically. In 2018, the team converted on third down 37 percent. In 2019, that number improved by six percent. In 2020, the Silver and Black own a third-down conversion rate of 54 percent, good for the third-best in the league through two weeks. The improvement is undeniably tied to Carr's comfortability in Head Coach Jon Gruden's system.
"This is my third year in the system and I'm on cloud nine with that," he said with an air of relief. "When you get time on task with the plays and the routes, and things like that, things like that [Zay Jones] touchdown can happen when you spend time together."
When the Raiders began to struggle last year, NFL pundits questioned whether Carr was the best fit with Gruden, but the doubt fueled him and he knew he would be the first quarterback to take a snap at Allegiant Stadium, regardless of what anyone said.
"This organization has stuck behind me through some hard times," Carr said. "Through some times when our team struggled, there's no doubt about it, but when you can get on the other side of things and be 2-0 as the Las Vegas Raiders, that's a pretty cool thing."
Through two games, the Las Vegas Raiders look vastly improved from last season, and Derek Carr is the main reason why.