Derek Carr's 'off-schedule' plays down stretch at Indianapolis help keep Las Vegas Raiders' playo...

ByPaul Gutierrez via ESPN logo
Monday, January 3, 2022

Derek Carr did something different in the Raiders' fifth walk-off win of the season -- he "created" down the stretch of their 23-20 victory at Indianapolisthat kept Las Vegas' unlikely playoff hopes alive.

And he did it in a manner that may have looked familiar to Raiders fans who have been around for more than five years -- especially his key "off-schedule" 24-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow with less than a minute to play on third-and-10 from the Colts' 48-yard line.

"Those are the plays that you see so many of those great quarterbacks make, and I'm not putting my name in there," Carr said. "I'm saying, like, you seeAaron [Rodgers] make them all the time. You see Patrick [Mahomes]. Those guys. Those are plays that aren't drawn up. It's just your receiver staying alive and helping you out and making plays on the ball.

"For me, I've watched those guys and you try and take things from everybody and learn from them and that was just, whether it's the protection or the routes covered, whatever it is, then you just try to find a couple of steps up to your right or up the middle, whatever."

Carr extended plays with his legs. He played with more zeal, less caution. He overcame his own mistakes -- two bad interceptions -- with even better results thanks, in part, to said "off-schedule" plays.

The kind he made routinely back in 2016, the last time the Raiders had a winning season and when Carr finished tied for third in NFL MVP voting.

With 54 seconds remaining in a tie game, Carr, under heavy pressure, stepped up in the pocket and led Renfrow with a perfectly placed ball over Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II. Renfrow came down with it inside the 25-yard line and only a heel touch by Moore, as Renfrow lost his balance and slipped to the turf, keeping it from being a touchdown.

It was initially ruled a TD before the replay official saw the touch, and Las Vegas was at the Indianapolis 24-yard line.

"I didn't think I was [touched] at first, but I'm glad I was," said Renfrow, who caught 7 passes for 76 yards, with an 11-yard TD on a fourth-and-2 play in the fourth quarter to give Las Vegas a 20-17 lead. "Because then we were able to run the clock down."

Three Josh Jacobs runs later and the Raiders were at the Colts' 15-yard line with 2 seconds on the clock. Enter kicker Daniel Carlson. Ballgame.

But not without the Carr improv to Renfrow.

It was his 29th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, with Carr leading the Raiders into range for Carlson's 33-yard game winner as Las Vegas improved to 9-7.

"When the game's on the line like that, I'm just trying to keep every play alive as long as I can," said Carr, who completed 24 of 31 passes for 255 yards. "I'm not going to go out and rush for 100 yards but I can create, and extend the play a little bit longer when I get outside and things like that."

Indeed, Carr was 4-of-5 on throws more than 10 yards downfield in the fourth quarter, including the 24-yarder to Renfrow. Before the final quarter, Carr had been 1-of-6 with the two interceptions on such throws, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"I thought," said Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia, "you saw Derek create today."

Said Carr: "Just to make some more time to let someone maybe break off his route and do something else and we did it well today. We don't do it every play but for the most part, whenever we can do those things, it opens up our offense and it helped us win a football game today, that's for sure."