ALAMEDA, Calif. — The touchdown passes and yards are down. The interceptions and sacks are up.
The straight upward trajectory that Derek Carr’s career took for his first three seasons in the NFL hit a speed bump this season, contributing to the Oakland Raiders’ fall from a 12-win team to one almost certain to miss the postseason.
But rather than being discouraged by the results, Carr said he will use the lessons from this season to build for the future.
“I use it all to just fuel the fire,” he said Thursday. “There’s been things that I’ve gone through this year that I’ve never been through and I’m learning how to deal with those things and not just deal with them, but execute them at a high level. So, I absolutely, 100 percent believe that going forward, again, this time next year we’re standing here I’ll feel like, man because I trust my work ethic, that I’m a better player this year because of what I went through.”
Carr had few setbacks last season when he led Oakland to seven comeback wins and was one of the most promising quarterbacks in the league when he threw for 3,937 yards and 28 touchdowns with only six interceptions before a broken leg in the next-to-last game of the year ended his season before he got to play in the postseason.
Carr turned that performance into a $125 million, five-year contract in the offseason that briefly made him the NFL’s highest-paid player, but the performance hasn’t matched that level.
He’s on pace for his lowest yards per attempt, TD throws and passer rating since his rookie season in 2014.
Carr’s path is not an unusual one. He became the 13th quarterback in the past 30 years to start at least 10 games in his first season and have his passer rating improve in each of the next two seasons.
Only Troy Aikman followed that with another year of improvement in year four, leading the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl title.
The other 11 quarterbacks saw their passer rating drop by an average of nearly 10 points in year four, a group that includes quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Cam Newton.
“The experience he’s getting, he’s definitely growing,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “Even the very best. Even the very elite quarterbacks of all time weren’t perfect every year. Derek is good football player. We’re going to win a lot of games together here.”
After winning the first two games of the season, Carr struggled in a prime-time loss at Washington and then injured his back in a loss the following week in Denver. He missed one game with that injury before returning for a loss at home to the Chargers.
Carr has been up-and-down ever since, mixing in some highlight-level plays with more poor ones than usual.
Oakland’s latest loss was an example of that when Carr nearly led a comeback win only to fall short when he fumbled while trying to stretch the ball over the goal line for the go-ahead score in the final minute of a 20-17 loss to Dallas.
That defeat left Oakland on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention. The Raiders (6-8) need to win their final two games, hope Buffalo and Tennessee lose twice, Miami wins twice and Baltimore gets at least a win or tie in its final two games.
“You know, it’s definitely one of those things that you’re not out until you’re out,” Carr said. “We’ve all seen crazier things, that’s for sure, especially playing this game. You’re not out until you’re out.”
NOTES: WR Amari Cooper (ankle) worked out on the side and Del Rio said he hoped he’d be able to play Monday. … C Rodney Hudson (kidney stone), C Jon Feliciano (concussion), CB David Amerson (foot), DL Denico Autry (hand, ankle), DT Treyvon Hester (ankle), LB Bruce Irvin (concussion), TE Clive Walford (concussion, neck) and DB Keith McGill (knee, illness) all didn’t practice. … DL Mario Edwards Jr. (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis.