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2021 Rewind: Derek Carr vs. Denver Broncos

Reliving a dominant performance at Mile High

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos
Derek Carr
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr put together an impressive 2021 season in several different ways. From overcoming adversity off the field to putting together some outstanding performances on it, Carr deserves a ton of credit for leading the Raiders to the postseason.

Arguably, his best outing last year came in Week 6 against the Denver Broncos. He only had 18 completions on 27 attempts — a 66.7 completion percentage — but still tossed for 347 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions and zero turnover-worthy plays. Las Vegas’ pass-catchers also had two drops, giving Carr an 83.3 adjusted completion percentage on the afternoon.

To make it even better, the Raiders’ signal-caller threw four ‘big-time throws’ (BTT), per Pro Football Focus, which was the second-most among quarterbacks for the week, and his BTT rate (14.3 percent) ranked first. He also topped the charts in overall PFF Grade (90.5) and yards per attempt at 12.6, 3.3 yards higher than the second-place finisher Joe Burrow.

Obviously, it was a strong outing for Carr and the film makes it even more impressive.

Our first clip will show a good example of how Carr had such a high YPA for the game.

The Broncos run a one-high coverage with safety — No. 31 Justin Simmons — favoring the single receiver side by playing near the top of the numbers. Carr takes a peek in that direction initially to see if Bryan Edwards can win a one-on-one matchup against rookie corner Partick Surtain II — No. 2. But with Simmons cheating to the boundary, Carr comes off of Edwards and works to the other side of the field.

That subtle look was enough to hold the safety on the single receiver side and help open up a window to throw to Henry Ruggs, who wins quickly on the post route. The quarterback then rips the ball about 35 yards in the air and has the touch to put the ball just out of the safety’s reach for a 48-yard touchdown on third and two.

Great processing and an absolute dime by Carr to start the game.

I included more of the pre-snap action in this clip on purpose. The throw isn’t terribly impressive but it is an example of a quarterback being mentally alert.

The Raiders motion Ruggs across the formation to get a coverage indicator, and Carr responds by changing the play at the line of scrimmage. It’s obvious he knew what coverage Denver was in because he turns his back to the defense on the play-action fake and still gets rid of the ball in rhythm at the top of his drop to a wide-open Hunter Renfrow. Carr delivers a strike right on Renfrow’s frame to help lead the wideout after the catch to pick up about 30 yards.

This play was made in the film from Monday to Saturday and is a testament to the eight-year pro’s intelligence.

Here’s another great read by Carr off of play-action, and another example of why it was frustrating the Raiders didn’t use run fakes more often last season.

The Broncos’ safeties rotate a little too early to tip off the coverage so the quarterback knows it’s single-high and likely cover one. Then, the linebackers and the safety that’s coming downhill bite hard on the run fake, opening up the middle of the field, especially with the corners playing off and with outside leverage.

Carr ends up throwing this ball before Edwards finishes his break and the Raiders go from the 15-yard line to the 30 to get the drive going. This is actually a decent play Ronald Darby — No. 21 — considering the circumstance as he closes on Edwards quickly to make it a tighter window. It’s just a better throw by Carr, who shows off some impressive anticipation, accuracy and arm strength on the completion.

Pre-snap, Denver shows a two-high look but they roll the boundary safety down — Simmons at the bottom of the screen — post-snap and end up playing cover one. The trips formation forces the field safety — Kareem Jackson No. 22 — to favor the three-receiver side, to help open up the other side of the field for Darren Waller on the over route from the slot.

The pocket starts collapsing in front of Carr so he can’t quite step into the throw and the ball is a little underthrown, but he does a good job of putting it in front of Waller and towards the sideline. That allows Waller to keep the cornerback on his back and use his body to box out the corner, just in case that defender has good makeup speed to recover and make a play on the ball.

This certainly isn’t a strong-armed throw, but it is a nice drop in the bucket by Carr.

As the old cliché goes, “the NFL is all about matchups” and this is a great example of why that saying has been around for a while.

Alexander Johnson — No. 48 the right inside linebacker — is a good player, but he struggles in coverage and Kenyan Drake is a great receiving back. Those two are one-on-one here with Drake running an out and up out of the backfield, a complete mismatch.

Carr looks to the middle of the field initially but I’m pretty sure he was going to take advantage of the aforementioned matchup the entire time. The reason I think this is watch Ruggs at the bottom of the screen as the point man in the slot.

Ruggs is wide open over the middle of the field on the dig route, but Carr opts to drop another ball right in the bucket to Drake for a touchdown instead of taking the easy completion for a first down. Also, it looks like Carr is trying to keep the field safety — Jackson at the top of the screen — away from the sideline and in a position to make a play on the throw.

This is a good example of the aggressiveness a lot of people have been asking for from the team captain.

Full disclosure, this is my favorite clip of the entire article.

It’s third and long and the Broncos run cover zero with seven blitzers while the Raiders only have six blockers, so the ball has to be out quickly. In the past, Carr would probably look to check this down immediately which isn’t a bad decision because, again, there are more rushers than blockers.

It doesn’t help that Brandon Parker loses to Von Miller at the bottom of the screen, but Carr gets more depth on his drop to buy some time. He then rips it down the field to Ruggs on the post route, without being able to step into the throw as he subsequently takes a shot from Miller. The ball ends up traveling about 40 yards past the line of scrimmage in the air and the Raiders turn third and long from the 44 to first and goal from the 4.

This is just a ridiculous throw by Carr off of his back foot. Also, shoutout to Josh Jacobs for picking up the blitz and putting the blitzer on his butt.

I’ll keep it short and sweet for our last play as the game was out of hand at this point with Vegas up 14 and a little more than 10 minutes to play.

Denver runs cover one again and that puts 5’9” Bryce Callahan — No. 29 the nickel corner — one-on-one with 6’3” Bryan Edwards in the slot. Edwards does a good job of getting outside the numbers so Carr doesn’t even have to look off the safety, and Carr takes advantage of the size mismatch for another explosive play to put the nail in the Broncos’ coffin.