ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — When the game is on the line in the closing minutes, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr looks for inspiration in an unusual place.
Instead of trying to emulate quarterbacks known for late-game heroics like Ken Stabler or Tom Brady, Carr looks to the basketball court and Kobe Bryant for a player to imitate.
“In my head, I’m a big Kobe fan,” Carr said Wednesday. “That Mamba mentality. You have to go out there and you have to do it. I’ve studied him and watched him forever. That’s always been my mindset when I get into close situations. They don’t always work out, but that’s where my mind is at.”
Carr delivered in the clutch in the opener at New Orleans, driving the Raiders 75 yards in the closing minutes to throw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts with 47 seconds remaining. He followed that up with a 2-point conversion pass to Michael Crabtree that gave Oakland a 35-34 win.
Carr said the key in those situations is slowing the game down and making sure small things like footwork and his eye placement are proper so the results follow.
“I definitely have worked on it,” Carr said. “There’s times where I get emotionally hijacked, then I’ll try and force something and do something. I just tried the whole game to be my same competitive self just with the same mentality good or bad. I felt that being able to stay that way kept my mind in a good spot throughout the whole game.”
The comeback in the opener marked the sixth time in two-plus seasons that Carr has a led a fourth-quarter comeback. He had a strong performance in all as he shows even more improvement at the start of his third NFL season. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 319 yards, while committing no turnovers and taking no sacks. He threw the one TD pass and also converted a pair of 2-point tries that helped lead Oakland to the win.
The Raiders look to follow that with another win in the home opener Sunday against Atlanta (0-1) as they seek their first 2-0 start since the 2002 season
“We came away very impressed,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We knew that he was a nice athlete but having the vision to (know) where to hitch up, when to scramble, when to convert, those are the things that come with some maturity, you know, ‘Where this is a time where I can go take my shot to run it for a first down.’ He totally captured that part.”
Before the late drive to win the game, Carr’s most notable play might have come with his legs when he scrambled 11 yards to convert a third-and-9 in the second quarter. He capped the run with a summersault flip over defender De’Vante Harris and followed that with an emphatic first-down signal.
Carr injured his hand in last year’s opener when he tried to stiff-arm Cincinnati’s Adam Jones on a scramble and coach Jack Del Rio wants him to be more cautious when he runs because he is too important to the team.
“It’s really hard, especially in the flow of the game,” Carr said. “Coach was happy that I stopped trying to run people over and use the stiff arm. Now he said, ‘Unless it’s for the Super Bowl, stop flipping over people, too.’ I think everyone’s heart dropped when I did that, I think mine did too.”
NOTES: RT Austin Howard returned to practice after missing the opener with a sprained right ankle. … OL Menelik Watson (groin) and Matt McCants (knee) missed practice after leaving last week’s game with injuries. … Starting C Rodney Hudson and G Gabe Jackson also did not practice.