The injury to Derek Carr put a cloud over the Oakland Raiders’ Week 16 win over the Indianapolis Colts. The quarterback will be out until at least the Super Bowl, an appearance that without Carr, now seems highly improbable.
It created a natural question for coach Jack Del Rio. Given that the Raiders were up 33-14 with 11 minutes remaining, should Carr have even been in the game?
Del Rio has no regrets.
“Andrew Luck, people here in the Bay Area, I think, have a pretty good understanding of what he is capable of. I know I do,” Del Rio said, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN. “We felt like you had to keep the pedal down on that opponent, that quarterback in that game. You’re talking about a team facing elimination. We knew we were going to get everything they had to close the game anyway they could, and we were prepared for that.”
That isn’t wrong. Del Rio also noted (correctly) that the Colts fought back and lost the game by only eight points. Indianapolis forced Oakland to convert a third-and-eight on the Raiders’ final possession. If that didn’t get converted, the Colts would have gotten the ball back with roughly two minutes remaining. So while a 33-14 lead appeared insurmountable, the game was not over at the time of Carr’s injury.
So, he belonged in the game. But should the game plan have been different?
The play in question was a second-and-18 from the Colts’ 41. The Indy pass rush hadn’t touched Carr all day. But on a second-and-18, a heavy pass rush is likely. Oakland could have called a quick pass (or even run) as a way to pick up some of the yards to make third down more manageable. At the very least, picking up a few yards would have put Sebastian Janikowski in range to kick a field goal to put the Raiders up 36-14.
Of course, there’s no way to predict an injury. But a deep drop back in an obvious passing situation definitely exposes the quarterback to risk. If you’re losing 33-14 in the fourth quarter, you may not have much of a choice. But with that lead, a more conservative call would have made more sense.