Even before the Raiders and Bills kicked off today, Derek Carr’s distance in the MVP race widened. Last week he an ESPN Panel voted him the leader in the MVP race, but it was Falcons’ Matt Ryan who led the poll with 4 first place votes from the 12-person panel. Ryan likely lost a few of those votes Sunday with him twice picked by Eric Berry returned for a score. The second was a two-point conversion attempt with the Falcons already in the lead that lost them the game with two points the other way on the Berry return.
It was then up to Derek Carr to take advantage and put some distance between the two of them in that race. He did just that with another come-from-behind win.
With the Raiders down 24-9 to the Bills midway through the third quarter, Carr led the Raiders on three straight touchdown drives to take the lead and then added another touchdown drive with a two-point conversion for a 29-0 run and decisive victory from what was once a deep hole.
In that run, Carr went 10 for 16 for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns including the go-ahead 37-yard touchdown on a beautiful over-the-shoulder pass to Amari Cooper. He added a pass to Seth Roberts for the 2-point conversion for the final 38-24 lead.
During the game, there were MVP chants, but those chants could just as easily have been for Khalil Mack with the way his season is going.
Mack is coming off being named AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November after twice being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
The man who made history as the first player ever named All Pro at two different positions (LB, DE) last season, has been destroying the competition of late.
Last week he had a pick six, a game ending strip sack and fumble recovery, and led the team with 6 solo tackles. This week he had a tip that resulted in an interception that led to a touchdown, ended the Bills hopes with another strip sack and recovery, and was second on the team with 7 tackles.
This latest sack makes 10.0 for the season and he has at least one sack in seven straight games (9.0 total). Among players with at least 9.0 sacks, no one has more takeaways (4) and passes defended (3), and only Von Miller has more QB hits (21) and tackles for loss (12).
Neither Mack nor Carr are the type to sing their own praises. Both defer to the other for their success with Mack saying the play of the defense took the cue of the offense coming to life in the third quarter, and Carr saying the offense fed off the play of the defense.
“Man, the offense really did a job, and the whole team did,” said Mack. “The offense was special and rolling. 29 unanswered points is special. We knew we had to step up as a defense.”
“We feed off each other, that’s for sure,” said Carr. “You can always tell when someone makes a play, the stadium gets going, the momentum starts swinging. It’s a great thing. I say it all the time, but I’m glad they took him [Khalil Mack] first. I’m glad he’s on my team. I’m glad we can help lead this team together, it’s really fun.”
Wherever the energy and momentum began, it led the Raiders to recover from a 15-point deficit midway through the third quarter to show up big time again late to post their 10th win of the season going away.
The stats Carr and Mack have are impressive, but the stat that matters most is wins. They are stepping up the most when it matters most, putting the Raiders as the number one seed in the AFC and a one game lead in the toughest division in football. That’s what it means to be an MVP, is it not?