ALAMEDA — Derek Carr believes he has made steady progress in his rookie season as an NFL quarterback even if it hasn't always been evident in his results.
Those subtle steps to becoming a more polished pro passer paid off in a big way last week in the signature performance of Carr's rookie season with the Oakland Raiders.
Carr threw three touchdown passes and was in complete control of the game when the Raiders beat their Bay Area rivals last Sunday in a 24-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Carr now looks to follow that up with another strong performance this week when Oakland (2-11) visits Kansas City (7-6) for the second meeting between the teams in less than four weeks.
The biggest development for Carr has been the way he has been able to control defenses with his eyes or shoulders, creating openings for his receivers. Carr said he did that a little in college but had had to learn to do it more often and with more subtlety as a pro.
“It's been cool to learn because your eyes can dictate a lot of throws being open,” he said Wednesday. “You can help yourself out a lot, especially in zone coverages and all those things. It's been nice to be able to progress and do it in games, not just practice.”
In a season that started with 10 straight losses and included coach Dennis Allen's firing, Carr has provided a reason for optimism with his play at quarterback. He threw two touchdown passes in a turnover-free debut against the New York Jets, almost led a late rally at New England, threw four TD passes in a loss to San Diego and threw a winning TD pass last month against Kansas City.
But the performance against the 49ers was by far his best. Carr completed 22 of 28 passes for 254 yards with no turnovers, posting the highest passer rating (140.2) for an Oakland quarterback since Rich Gannon had a 141.9 against the Giants in 2001.
It came a week after the low point of his season when he threw two interceptions and got pulled for Matt Schaub in the fourth quarter of a 52-0 loss at St. Louis that was Oakland's most lopsided defeat since 1961.
But even in that game, Carr saw improvement in the way he was able to control the defense.
“I've seen him grow a lot that way,” interim coach Tony Sparano said. “He's done a good job. He can use his vision really well. He's starting to play with the secondary that way with his eyes and has a much more definitive plan on what he's doing with the football before the snap.”
Those changes helped Carr succeed in crucial situations last week when the offensive line gave him plenty of time to throw. Carr completed 9 of 10 passes for 98 yards and three touchdowns on third down. He even handled the little pressure he faced well, completing 6 of 7 for 93 yards in those situations, according to Pro Football Focus.
For the season, Carr has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a 78.3 passer rating. He has also been sacked just 16 times as he has shown the ability to get rid of the ball quickly after watching his older brother David get sacked an NFL record 76 times as a rookie in 2002 with Houston.
“He knows how to move in the pocket,” Kansas City defensive lineman Dontari Poe said. “He doesn't play like a rookie at all. He's a real good quarterback. It really wasn't a secret though. We knew that watching film on him.”
NOTES: CB Tarell Brown did not practice after leaving Sunday's game briefly with an injured right leg. … WR Rod Streater, who is still on short-term IR, did not practice because of soreness in his broken foot. … WR Denarius Moore (knee, ankle) got hurt away from the building and did not practice. … RT Menelik Watson (ankle, foot) also was sidelined. … The Raiders signed WR Kenny Shaw and TE Evan Wilson to the practice squad.