With overtime touchdown pass, Derek Carr gets a second chance to make a first impression

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Things did not start well for Derek Carr on Monday night in Las Vegas against the Raiders, and they almost ended in worse fashion. Carr overthrew most of his targets in the first quarter, completing two of 10 passes for 22 yards, and drawing the ire of one Charles Barkley on the Peyton and Eli Manning MegaCast on ESPN.

And then, with the score 27-all, Carr threw a floaty pick to cornerback Anthony Averett with 6:19 left in overtime. At that point, it appeared that Carr and the Raiders were done. All the Ravens had to do was to drive down the field and put things in the hands (or the right foot) of Justin Tucker, the most reliable kicker in NFL history.

But that didn’t happen — the Ravens lost the ball on third-and-7 on their subsequent drive as Lamar Jackson fumbled on a sack by linebacker Carl Nassib — who, by the way, is the first openly gay player in league history — and Nassib recovered the ball at the Baltimore 27-yard line. Kenyan Drake tried a one-yard run to set up the field goal attempt which never happened — the Raiders were busted for delay of game, and then, there was the choice to put things in Carr’s control on second-and-14 from the Baltimore 31-yard line.

Then, the Ravens went with a Cover-0 blitz look — which they’d done with shocking alacrity throughout the game — and this happened as a result.

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Zay Jones, the former Bills second-round pick in 2017, with a grand total of 124 catches in his five-year career before this game, made the biggest play of his life as he cracked open Baltimore’s spotty, blitz-affected coverage, and took it in for the 31-yard touchdown that decided the game.

“The beautiful thing about that — there was an audible that coach told me during the week — hey, if we ever get this look, get ready for this play,” Carr said after the game. “And Zay Jones was in. Zay Jones, since he got to our team, every time I ask him to throw at 6:00 a.m., he’s there. Every single time. He’s never missed one. So, to see him come up with the game-winner like that, the last two Monday nights, he has two touchdowns, I hope that everybody in the world roots for Zay Jones, because he works harder than anybody else on the team.”

How rare was this eight-man blitz in this particular situation? Very.

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Fortunately for Carr and the Raiders, who were down 14-0 in the second quarter and never held the lead until they won the game, it’s not how you start — it’s how you finish. And in the first game at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium with fans in the house, the Raiders gave their new city an odd triumph for the ages.

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