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Derek Carr has a fiery answer to his critics but Raiders’ toothless defense requires he be ‘perfect’

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in a month, there was the Raiders had a competitive game. The problem was that the surprising parts of the game were sandwiched between familiar Raiders familiar failings.

It started out looking just like the Raiders had looked early against the Seahawks in London before the bye and the Chargers in LA before that. The Colts jumped out to a 10-0 lead, scoring on their first two drives, and mostly having their way with the Raiders’ defense. Andrew Luck was 10 for 10 before his first incompletion and the Raiders offense had a total of three plays for 8 yards.

The second quarter saw the shift to the Raiders, and it was downright mindboggling how proficient the Raiders offense was seemingly out of nowhere. The Raiders scored three touchdowns in the second and third quarter with Derek Carr completing 16 straight passes for 205 yards and 3 touchdowns. He even had a rushing touchdown.

His performance was just the kind of answer he needed to respond to a rough week for him in the media. Reports that included questioning his toughness, talk of a fractured relationship with him and his teammates and rumors he could be the among those to be traded. He responded with two lasers for touchdowns to Seth Roberts and Jared Cook and a third touchdown pass in which he escaped pressure, stepped up and found Brandon LaFell crossing in the end zone.

“I had to answer some funny questions. But I know you guys are just doing your job, so it’s nothing personal, I know that,” Carr said after the game. “It was hard. A lot of the stuff that was going around was just like ‘that’s just not true’ and that hurts. Especially just as a man, not even football. My goodness, you know. Enough’s enough. And so just to be able to go out here and play football again. . . It was hard, but just to be able to go out there and just score some points, be efficient, it does help me feel better.”

Along with the criticisms Carr received, the questions of whether he could be traded were spurred by the trade of Amari Cooper after Jon Gruden had denied Cooper was being shopped. And, of course, losing Marshawn Lynch to a groin injury.

In that half of football in the middle of this game, Doug Martin made him forget he was without his top back. Martin rose up and played some outstanding football for two quarters, running for 71 yards on 12 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and two catches for 17 yards.

Those numbers had the Raiders take a 14-13 lead into the third quarter and a 28-21 lead into the fourth quarter. Then just like that switch came on after the first quarter, it was flicked off in the fourth.

They again, started things off with a three-and-out, only this time it led to a 25-yard dud punt from Johnny Townsend. This after the rookie punter had punts of 28 and 27 yards in London.

That three-and-out was especially tough because the Colts had scored to begin the quarter to tie it at 28-28 and the Raiders needed to answer. Afterward, the Colts would drive for another touchdown to take a 35-28 lead.

With 5:16 left in the game, and the Colts having scored on four straight drives, with touchdowns on three straight, the Raiders were now desperate to go on a long scoring drive of their own. On the first play, Doug Martin got the handoff and fumbled it away. The Colts took over at the Oakland 27-yard-line and scored a touchdown on their fourth straight drive, including outscoring the Raiders 21-0 in the fourth quarter.

”Very disappointed,” said Martin. “Both sides were playing hard, having a good game, offensively, defensively. To fumble like that at the end, it sucks but a lot of guys went out there and played their hearts out. They put it all out there on the field. I’m really proud of ourselves.”

The Raiders/Colts differential in the second and third quarter: 301-174 yards, 28-11

The Raiders/Colts differential in the first and fourth quarter: 46-287 yards, 0-31 points

The offense did its job in this one. But with the defense giving up long, clock draining drives, they really had no shot. The Raiders offense really only had three chances in the first and fourth quarters because the defense could stop the Colts from dominating time of possession. While forcing just ONE PUNT all game.

As Derek Carr said “It’s tough, but it makes us think as an offense think ‘hey, when we get the ball we have to score every time, we got to be perfect.’”

For these Raiders, the way the first and fourth quarter played out is a tune that has been on a loop in each of their six losses.

“It’s been that way pretty much the entire season,” said Jon Gruden. “Three possessions in the second half against the Chargers. We had three possessions in the second half against the Seahawks, and I think we had three possessions in the first half today. It just goes to show you we have a long way to go like I’ve been saying.”

The most damage came on the ground and to the tight ends. Jack Doyle led the team with six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. Three of the Colts five touchdowns were to tight ends, along with four of the top ten longest plays. The inability to cover tight ends is a longtime problem for Raiders defenses and Andrew Luck was really enjoying all the wide open targets to his tight ends.

Erik Harris got the start at safety ahead of Reggie Nelson while Marcus Gilchrist and Karl Joseph rotated in as well. Harris had one of the few plays in the passing game for the Raiders, breaking up a pass in the end zone to hold the Colts to a field goal on their second drive. But he and the rest of the Raiders defensive backfield was helpless against the Colts tight ends.

”They have good tight ends, one of the best pair of tight ends we’ve played this year,” said Harris. “They’re a different team when Jack Doyle is out there. We just have to do a better job.”

On the ground, Marlon Mack killed the Raiders to the tune of 132 yards on 25 carries (5.3 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.

The success with the running game and to the tight ends in the short game meant Andrew Luck rarely had to take any risks or go deep downfield. And when you don’t have to take risks, you don’t turn the ball over. The Raiders literally only even touching Andrew Luck once in the game, helps as well. That’s a wrap.