Three days after another slow start led to another disappointing loss, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had pretty much heard all the theories and analysis.
Between blaming the sluggish beginnings on everything from a lack of urgency to a lack of swagger, everyone seemed to have an opinion.
As far as Carr is concerned, though, it’s all just a bunch of cliches that miss the point. When he flips on the tape and goes through the footage play by play, he reaches a basic and fundamental conclusion.
The 6-6 Raiders’ slow starts have nothing to do with urgency or aggressiveness or swag. Just as their fast starts don’t either. The difference between the two, Carr has deducted, comes down to the fundamental element of execution.
“If we come out fast like we did in Dallas and we execute, we were urgent, you know?” Carr said. “If we come out and have a mental or a bust, and it doesn’t work out and we’re off the field, then, oh, they weren’t urgent today.”
But even Carr admits that identifying the problem is a whole lot easier than solving it.
It’s an issue they need to resolve if they expect to make a legitimate push for the playoffs over the next five games. Otherwise, they are likely to limp to the finish line just as they have the last two seasons.
Carr does acknowledge the argument of some who suggest the difference between better execution and the sloppy manner in which the Raiders have started far too many games could be in how they mentally approach the start of a game.
That seems to be the point Raiders running back Josh Jacobs was trying to make after Sunday’s loss to the Washington Football Team when he alluded to the Raiders coming out flat to start games.
“You have to check yourself and make sure you come in with the right mindset,” Carr said, in agreement. A more laser-like focus, Carr believes, from across the lineup, usually leads to better execution.
“We’ve got to consistently do it, together,” Carr said. “Because not one guy is gonna be able to do it. He can’t rush for 100 if I don’t get him in the right run. He’s not going to rush for any kind of yards if I go into bad looks all day or we can’t block it.”
For whatever reason, the Raiders have not been able to generate a consistently high level of team-wide focus, especially not in the first part of games. That has led to missed assignments, plays in which not everyone is on the same page, and wasted offensive series.
“It’s a team game,” Carr stressed. “So often because of social media and us standing up here, we see our faces, we make it individualized. … We have to come out together, with a collective mindset of this is how we’re going to come out.”
Not just talk it, but actually do it.
“It’s one thing to have a mindset, it’s another to do it against a good team,” Carr said.
Carr also believes there is a fine line between being aggressive for the sake of appearance and being prudent in executing a sound game plan. In the win over Dallas, the Cowboys flashed coverage schemes that were conducive to the Raiders taking big shots downfield.
That hasn’t always been the case — the WFT being a prime example with their two-high safety look that took away the Raiders’ vertical game. The bigger problem for the Raiders is they weren’t able to run successfully or execute their short-pass game effectively enough to draw Washington out of that look.
Simply throwing deep into that kind of pass coverage isn’t the solution. Which is why Carr said it’s vital that the Raiders execute other elements of their offense, beginning Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“You can use urgency and all that, whatever. There’s a time and a place,” Carr said, “But also you have to be smart, especially early in games. Especially against the team we’re about to play. You can’t be out there doing stupid things because their offense will make it 7-0 fast.”
Who: Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
When: 10 a.m. Sunday
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City
Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)
Line: Chiefs -9½; total 48