Derek Carr wasn’t playing his best football the first five weeks of the season, throwing interceptions at a high rate, including three in the opener against the Los Angeles Rams.
But that’s in the rear-view mirror for the former Fresno State star — he hasn’t thrown an interception in the past seven weeks.
He’s looking to make it eight straight when the Raiders (2-10) face the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1) at 1:25 p.m. Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Make no mistake about it, Carr said he would trade the stats for wins.
“The season hasn’t gone how we’ve wanted. We all know that,” Carr said. “There’s no denying when Coach (Jon) Gruden got here, just learning from him and (offensive coordinator Greg Olson) Oly and (quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan) Cally, that I feel like a better football player.”
Carr has thrown for 3,112 yards and 16 touchdowns against eight interceptions. With four games remaining, he’s on pace to throw for a career-high 4,149 yards.
He just passed Rich Gannon for second most passing yards in franchise history in a loss against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Carr hasn’t had many of the team’s offensive weapons at full strength because of injuries that riddled the receiving group this season. Martavis Bryant and Brandon LaFell were put on injured reserve; Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys; Seth Roberts is on concussion protocol; and Jordy Nelson had been nicked up for the past three weeks.
And running Marshawn Lynch (groin) hasn’t played since Week 6 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Carr has leaned heavily on tight end Jared Cook, who is having a breakout season with 709 yards and a career-high six touchdowns.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin knows what Carr brings; he coached the quarterback at the Pro Bowl in 2018.
Carr helped the AFC to a 24-23 victory over NFC when he threw a touchdown pass to Delanie Walker with 1:31 left.
“I was really just impressed by him, his general football demeanor,” Tomlin said of Carr. “His passion for the game was obvious. He was upbeat. We knew because he was the youngest guy in the quarterback group that he’d be in the game at the end. He just did a really good job of leading us through those circumstances and helping secure victory.”
Carr credits his coaches on how he’s played the past several weeks after a shaky start.
“Anybody can say whatever they want,” he said. “We can turn the film on and go deep into that and see, man this is what they’ve taught me, these are the things that I’m doing better. I’m just thankful to them, I really am because since they got there, it’s been a learning process.
“We’re going to be efficient, we’re going to be really good together. That right there is exciting to me.”