Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has thrown nine interceptions this season with seven coming in the fourth quarter, including three in the final stanza of last week's 34-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The second-year signal-caller with gunslinger tendencies realizes that there are some things he can do better, and some things that are out of his control.
"We definitely want to work on cleaning it up and avoiding those. Certainly, a lot of NFL games are decided there in the fourth quarter, so we need to be at our best and that's everybody," Carr said. "We all need to be at our best in the fourth quarter. If that's not occurring, we're definitely going to take steps to ensure that we give ourselves every opportunity to be better going forward. You're pointing out something that I'm aware of. That obviously is something we're going to have to improve on as we go forward.
Carr, who is just the fifth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,000 yards and 20 TDs in his first two seasons, has demonstrated a flair for the dramatic and has engineered three game-winning drives in the fourth quarter of his eight victories as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Last year, he delivered the Raiders' first win of the year with a game-winning touchdown pass to James Jones against the Kansas City Chiefs. This year, his 12-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts gave the Raiders a 37-33 win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2, and another 12-yard touchdown pass to Roberts, this one with 1:21 left to play, propelled the Raiders past the Tennessee Titans in Week 12.
The first Raiders quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 in back-to-back seasons since Kerry Collins (2004-05), Carr has come close on more than one occasion to engineering other fourth-quarter comebacks, or has given the Raiders the lead late and either made mistakes or had the other team's offense snatch victory away from the Silver and Black.
In 2014, a holding call against guard Gabe Jackson negated a running back Darren McFadden touchdown run late in a Week 3 16-9 loss at New England. Carr would be intercepted shortly thereafter as his pass bounced off Denarius Moore's hands into the waiting arms of Vince Wilfork who had dropped into coverage on a zone-blitz. Carr threw four touchdown passes in a Week 6 loss to the San Diego Chargers but threw a late interception on a deep ball intended for Brice Butler.
In 2015, Carr gave the Raiders a late 20-19 lead at Chicago only to have the Bears kick a game-winning field goal with two seconds left. In Week 5 against Denver, down 9-7, a pass intended for Roberts was picked off and returned for a touchdown with 7:05 left. Carr was able to tie the game at 35-35 in Week 9 at Pittsburgh with a 38-yard strike to Michael Crabtree with 1:21 left only to have the Steelers kick the game-winning field goal with four seconds left.
The Raiders were leading the Chiefs 20-14 with the ball on the Kansas City 33 when the wheels came off. A screen pass intended for Roy Helu, Jr., was intercepted and returned the Raiders 2-yard line. A pass was picked off by a defender who wasn't covering the intended receiver, and a third was intercepted after a diving Amari Cooper was unable to haul the pass in.
"The one that sticks out to me is the first one. The other two are like the most unfortunate things that could happen. Guys playing man coverage on someone that I'm not throwing the ball to and gets one. Stuff like that just hurts," Carr said. "The first one is me learning. I don't have to make every play. I don't have to try and do everything like I was trying to do. I hurt my team when I tried to do that. I tried to make some heroic play and do all that when I didn't need to. I learned a lot from it. It hurt. It'll be instilled in my mind for a long time. Hopefully I'll just continue to learn from it and not do that going forward."
Carr said that despite what happened against the Chiefs, his approach, demeanor and personality remain the same.
"It's not fun to watch on film. It's not fun to think about. For me to bounce back, it's easy. Like I've told you guys before, it doesn't matter how good it is or how bad it is, I'll always be the same guy," Carr said. "Does it suck, does it sting? Do I lay awake thinking about it? Absolutely. It's not for selfish reasons. I just feel the hurt of my team. That's what hurts me. It's not that I feel sad or anything like that – I could care less how I feel. I just don't like other people feeling that way."
Carr, who says his object in everything he does is to win, uses a basketball analogy to describe the fourth-quarter situations in which he often finds himself.
"I always want the ball. I always heard Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant say they missed a lot more game winners than they hit," Carr said. "But, the only ones we seem to remember are the ones they hit. Someday, hopefully that will be the case, that there is a lot more that we make."