By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND, Calif — Winning football games in the NFL are extremely difficult, especially when you don’t have a quarterback.
Ask teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and the New York Jets who are playing musical chairs at the game’s most critical and scrutinized position how difficult it is to win in the NFL.
Those teams are a combine 5-25 this seasons, while the likes of the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and the Atlanta Falcons are a combine 24-4 this season with smart signal callers who can take over games.
Then there is Derek Carr and the 6-2 Oakland Raiders who continue to surprise each week.
Carr, who has ice water in his veins to go along with great confidence, plays more like a 10-year veteran than a third-year quarterback as evidence to his record-setting performance in Oakland’s wild 30-24 overtime victory in Tampa in Week 8.
The Oakland quarterback threw for 513 yards (setting a new franchise record, breaking the mark held by Cotton Davidson), with four touchdowns and no interceptions on 40-of-59 passes against the Buccaneers.
Carr and the Raiders’ offense racked up 626 total yards while dominating the time of possession by nearly 15 minutes. Tampa Bay’s defense looked gassed under the sweltering West Florida sun, staying on the field for 85 plays Sunday.
Carr found wide receiver Seth Roberts for a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown down the middle of the field with under two minutes in overtime. Before that, Carr found tight end Mychal Rivera for the game-tying score with 1:38 left.
The win moved Oakland to 5-0 on the road this season. It’s the first time that the franchise is 5-0 on the road in a season since 1977.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Raiders became the 46th team under the current playoff format to win five straight road games in a season.
The previous 45 teams have all gone on to make the playoffs that season.
On the season, Carr has thrown for 17 touchdowns (third-best) to just three interceptions. His 2,231 yards through the air ranks him fifth among all quarterbacks in the league.
But many outside of the Bay Area aren’t sold on the Raiders, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2002 which is the last time Oakland played in the Super Bowl, because they don’t have a signature win.
With the hated Denver Broncos coming into town and the game being featured on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Carr and the Raiders will have a chance to show the rest of the country how good they really are with first place in the highly competitive AFC West at stake.
Denver (6-2) dropped division rival San Diego at home 27-19 Sunday behind their punishing third ranked defense.
Super Bowl 50 MVP linebacker Von Miller recorded one of four sacks on the day for Denver. Miller is second in the NFL with 8.5 sacks this season.
The defense also added three interceptions, one of which was returned 49 yards for a touchdown by free safety Bradley Roby in the second quarter against San Diego Sunday.
This is the type of game that Carr and the Raiders must get up for more so than the previous eight games this season.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper had a career day, victimizing Tampa Bay for 12 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown, while fellow wide receiver Michael Crabtree added eight catches for 108 yards against the Buccaneers.
Cooper is third among NFL wide receivers with 787 receiving yards, while Crabtree is tied with Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans for the league lead in touchdown catches with six.
The duo are considered one of the best in the league, but will have their hands full with Denver’s cornerback tandem in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr.
Talib and Harris Jr. lead one of the best secondaries in the league, along with hard-hitting safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart. Denver surrenders a league-low 183.9 passing yards per game to opposing teams, while Oakland averages 285 passing yards per game, fourth-best in the league.
Despite recording a league-record 23 penalties for 200 yards on Sunday (yes, that is two football fields worth of penalties if you’re scoring at home), the Raiders are proving that they can play with anybody because they have a quarterback
Oakland’s 31st ranked defense which has allowed 410.4 yards per game to opposing offenses, yielded just 270 yards of total offense against the Buccaneers.
After a slow start, linebacker Khalil Mack has returned to dominating fashion. Mack registered two sacks off Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, giving him five of Oakland’s 11 sacks for the season.
Carr who has quickly become an MVP candidate, and the will need to lead Oakland to victory over the Super Bowl champs if the Raiders are to garner any respect outside of the 510 area code.