NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders are showing how quickly a young quarterback can help turn a team around with Derek Carr taking charge in his second season. The Tennessee Titans believe they have just such a quarterback in rookie Marcus Mariota.
Now each team needs its quarterback to help snap a skid Sunday.
The Raiders (4-6) have lost three straight to drop them to third in the AFC West, and they need their offense cranked back up to stay in the playoff race. They’ve struggled the past couple weeks and are making their second of back-to-back road trips after an 18-13 loss at Detroit last week.
“We’re looking to get back on track,” Oakland coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have a lot of playmakers, we have a line that’s been doing a good job protecting players, and Derek has been the guy who is leading the way. He’s been accurate throwing the ball, he’s a good decision maker, and we just really want to get ourselves going again.
Carr, the 36th overall draft pick last year out of Fresno State, already has five 300-yard passing games this season. He has thrown for 21 touchdowns with only six interceptions, and ranks seventh in the NFL with a 99.4 passer rating
“You don’t see him get rattled, Carr, at all for his age or his experience,” Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said.
The Titans (2-8) have lost two straight and had a 10-day break after a 19-13 loss last week at Jacksonville. They also have dropped 10 straight at home. Mariota has yet to win at home even though he leads all NFL rookies with a 96.1 passer rating that ranks 12th in the NFL. Mariota also is completing 65.3 percent of his passes, a mark that would put him third all-time among rookie quarterbacks behind Ben Roethlisberger and Robert Griffin III.
Carr thinks Mariota’s done a great job so far.
“I went through what he’s going through right now last year,” Carr said. “A lot of highs, a lot of lows, that’s going to happen, but he seems like a great person. He knows how to go in and fix the mistakes that he makes and as long as he continues to do that, which from what I hear, I know that he will, he’s going to be a great player in this league.”
Some things to look for out of the Raiders and Titans:
DROPPING THE BALL: Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper has had a stellar rookie season with 51 catches for 736 yards and four TDs. His one problem has been a propensity to drop passes. Cooper’s 10 drops are the second most in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Cooper had two drops last week with just one catch for 4 yards.
PROTECTING CARR: The Raiders have allowed Carr to be sacked only 11 times and have given up just 13 overall. They will be tested by a Titans defense that has 31 sacks and ranks first in the NFL in sacks per pass play. Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo has seven sacks, including at least one in each of the past four games.
GOING DEEP: Carr has been one of the better deep passers in the league this season when he’s had the chance. Carr has completed all three passes he has thrown more than 20 yards downfield the past two games, but is used to having more opportunities. Both Minnesota and Detroit took away the deep pass to make Oakland put together long drives.
RUN MARCUS RUN: Mariota ran for his first touchdown this season in the Jaguars loss. Mariota’s 23-yard touchdown was his longest run and a sign that the left knee he sprained in October is feeling better. The Raiders, giving up 114.7 yards rushing per game, allowed Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford to run for 31 yards and a TD last week.
FINISH STRONG: Both Tennessee and Oakland have had problems in the fourth quarter. The Titans have been outscored by a league-worst 62 points in the fourth period, and the Raiders rank 31st with a negative-52 differential. Oakland has lost twice when leading after three quarters, including last week in Detroit. Tennessee has lost three times in that situation, including last week to Jacksonville.