KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When coach Jack Del Rio arrived in Oakland in January 2015, the Raiders held the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft coming off a 3-13 record and having burned through eight coaches in 12 seasons without posting a winning record.
Just 19 months later, the Raiders bring a 4-1 record into Sunday’s matchup against the Chiefs, 2-2, fueled by a high-powered offense, led by quarterback Derek Carr, capable of scoring from anywhere on the field at anytime in the game.
Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said the Raiders offense has developed consistency it lacked in the past.
“They’ve been spotty at times, but this year they’re playing more consistent,” Johnson said. “This is a team that is playing with a lot of confidence, they’re coming off a big win, they’ve been down in all the games they have won.”
The Raiders offensive prowess starts with Carr. The 25-year-old quarterback sports a career-best 276.6 yards passing per game with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions through five games. Carr’s growing experience with the team’s offensive scheme and chemistry with a talented group of skill players put the Raiders among the top offenses in the league.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton praised Carr’s athleticism, quick release and ability to spread the ball around the field.
“He’s a big challenge because you can try to pressure him,” Sutton said, “but he gets rid of the ball and it’s hard for anybody to get to him.”
Del Rio believes it’s a combination of factors that helped the third-year quarterback emerge as a star in the making.
“I feel like he’s shown steady progress in all of the different areas that you want to work a young quarterback in,” Del Rio said. “His footwork, the base that he throws from, the decision making, the understanding of what the issues are, where the answers are, the timing with the receivers and all those things, they are all a part of playing good quarterback.”
Carr also possesses a strong supporting cast with dynamic 22-year-old wide receiver Amari Cooper, veteran pass catcher Michael Crabtree and a versatile backfield led by Latavius Murray.
Del Rio believes his group of skill players continues to develop as they play together.
“I think the time they’ve spent growing in the system and growing with Derek and understanding how to be friendly for the quarterback, all those things are paying dividends for us,” Del Rio said.
Sutton said statistics and scouting reveal the Raiders as a very balanced offense with plenty of weapons at their disposal.
“You got to go in and dig and claw and fight, and find a way to affect the quarterback,” Sutton said. “You got to slow the run down, because they’ll run it and keep running if you don’t.”
A critical element of Oakland’s early-season success rests with the team’s ability to thrive under pressure. The Raiders trailed in the second half of three of their four wins, winning those three games by a combined five points.
Carr plays his best football late in the game with his team behind. Carr carries a 133.1 quarterback rating with his team trailing and less than four minutes to play, completing 10 of 15 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
Del Rio said his resilient team works hard to overcome adversity.
“For the most part you come down to one score games and the teams that are able to flourish in those situations are the teams that are going to go home happy,” Del Rio said.
Johnson said the Chiefs respect what the Raiders have accomplished in a short time under Del Rio, but believes his defense can slow them down.
“My hat’s off to what they’re doing,” Johnson said. “Hopefully they won’t have that good of a day on Sunday.”