DENVER — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had the hot hand on a sweltering afternoon, throwing strike after strike in a nearly flawless display.
The one thing he couldn’t deliver: the first win in coach Jon Gruden’s return to the sideline.
Despite Carr’s record-setting day, the Raiders fell 20-19 to the Denver Broncos on Sunday when Brandon McManus hit a 36-yard field goal with 6 seconds remaining.
It was the only lead of the game for the Broncos (2-0).
Carr finished 29 of 32 for 288 yards and a touchdown for the Raiders (0-2). His 90.6 completion percentage is the best mark in franchise history — with a minimum of 20 attempts — topping the record of 89.5 set by Rich Gannon on Nov. 11, 2002, in Denver.
“(Carr) did what we asked him to do, protect the ball, move the football,” Gruden said. “He’s a great player. He’s going to be an outstanding player. I look forward to the days ahead. Hopefully, there’s several.”
Gruden’s first victory in his return to the field from the broadcast booth will come on one of those days ahead. He hasn’t won since Nov. 30, 2008, when he was with Tampa Bay. His last win against Denver was with Oakland on Nov. 5, 2001, behind three TDs from Gannon.
“Tough loss,” Gruden said. “We had opportunities.”
At 92 degrees, the game was the warmest home contest in Broncos history. The Raiders had team personnel holding a white curtain over the bench to offer some shade.
The only thing sizzling more than the temperature was Carr’s right arm.
Carr had one incomplete pass to Jordy Nelson in the first quarter and another with Nelson in the third. His last incompletion was early in the fourth with the Raiders driving. On fourth-and-1 from the Denver 33, he rolled out and threw a short pass to fullback Keith Smith, who let it fall through his hands. The Raiders punted and the Broncos marched down for a score to cut the deficit to 19-17.
“We had a great play call. We had him open. I had to throw it quick, before his eyes were fully ready, with the pressure. We just didn’t connect on it,” Carr said. “Again, he’ll be thinking about that. I’ll be thinking about that, obviously the whole plane ride home. I’ll be thinking about it when I lay my head down to sleep, like I do always and probably get up and do some push-ups or something. Those are the little things we’re talking about.”
Wait, there’s more to toss-and-turn over.
The Raiders were on the move again late in the game when Jared Cook was called for a false start. On third down, Carr completed a pass to Martavis Bryant for a 3-yard gain that could have been more had it not been for an open-field tackle by Bradley Roby. The Raiders punted and Case Keenum went to work, leading the Broncos into range for the winning field goal.
“Obviously, you want to end with the ball in your hands. You want to end taking a knee,” Carr said. “You wanted to waste their timeouts and, ‘Hey, let’s get that first down.’ I still thought we moved the ball decently and took some time off the clock to help the defence and then the last play they just brought a pressure and we had to throw it hot to Martavais (short of the first down). We were one missed tackle away from the game really being over. That’s how close this game is.”
The performance of Carr certainly didn’t surprise Broncos pass rusher Von Miller.
“We already know how fast he throws the ball,” said Miller, who had the only sack of Carr. “You can never lose faith.”
A week ago, Gruden basically called out his QB for passing up throws to receiver Amari Cooper in Oakland’s opener. On Sunday, Carr threw 10 passes in Cooper’s direction and all 10 were hauled in for 116 yards.
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