OAKLAND -- This was how Derek Carr was supposed to look and play in Jon Gruden's offense, right?
A dash of West Coast offense dink and dunk here, a sprinkling of that pixie dust from 2016 there and, voila: a more comfortable and confident Carr in the pocket, exhibiting presence and poise and stepping into his throws.
Indeed, this was the best Carr has looked in the pocket since Dec. 24, 2016, when these same Indianapolis Colts broke the Oakland Raiders quarterback's right leg and ended his dream season.
Though Carr had three passing touchdowns and his first career rushing score on Sunday, the nightmare of 2018 continued with a 42-28 loss to the Colts in a game the Raiders led, 21-13, in the third quarter. Oakland fell to 1-6 heading into Thursday night's road game against the San Francisco 49ers (1-7).
Bay Area bragging rights? On one hand, it will be the last time these two teams face each other, shy of a (cough, cough) Super Bowl while repping Oakland and San Francisco/Santa Clara as the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020. On the other, this will feature the lowest combined winning percentage (.133) for a prime-time NFL game on Nov. 1 or later, per The Associated Press.
What a time to be alive.
And what a time to be Carr, who trailed the Colts 10-0 before he took his fourth snap of the day.
"It shows that everything we're doing is right, to me," said Carr, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 244 yards and had three TD passes for a passer rating of 136.6 and also scored his first career rushing touchdown.
"Everything that Coach is asking me to do, obviously the results haven't been what we wanted, but I wish I could tell you there was like some magical thing I did different [today], because that would make for a better story. But I've been doing the same thing, just listening to my coaches ... just trying to get better every week. ... I know that with certain guys gone that I do have to step up being more vocal."
Guys such as Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper, traded to the Dallas Cowboys last week. And All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack, dealt to the Chicago Bears on Sept. 1.
Gruden has asked Carr to be more vocal.
And Carr has been under scrutiny since essentially bottoming out in London two weeks ago in a 27-3 blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks, when he was sacked six times and had reportedly lost a "fractured" locker room.
Gruden, though, was not having it Sunday afternoon.
"I don't think the criticism is anything we are really going to address," Gruden said. "The critics are going to be critics. I've said I think he's a great player.
"Again, I'll say I think he's the strength of this team and I'm excited about him."
Carr completed 17 straight passes at one point, and his 1-yard score over the top of the pile was his first career rushing TD in his 69th game. It was the first rushing TD by a Raiders quarterback since Terrelle Pryor went 93 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 27, 2013.
"I saw him having fun today," running back Jalen Richard said of Carr. "I saw him having fun today, like not worrying about anything.
"Everybody has their moments of frustration. ... Every now and then he would give you that D.C. straight face, like ..."
Richard gave a mean mug.
"But other than that, he was out there having fun," Richard added. "Didn't have to yell, nothing like that. He was just enjoying himself."
Especially when he hit Seth Roberts in stride for a 31-yard TD. And when he found Jared Cook on a similar skinny post pattern for a 25-yard score. Same with the 6-yard TD he threw to Brandon LaFell in the third quarter to give the Raiders a 28-21 lead.
Being kept clean by an offensive line to the tune of just one QB hit and no sacks will grow confidence for both the line and the quarterback.
Just imagine how much more "fun" these games would be with a victory attached.
"I'm not even close to where I can be," Carr said. "I still missed a few passes today that I wish I had back. I know that things can be better.
"Just to go out there and score some points and be efficient -- it does help you feel better as a human. At the same time, I didn't really feel good, because we lost. I'm tired of losing."
As are the Raiders and their fans.
"For the most part, we've done some really good things," Carr said. "Today was ... just reaffirming what I already knew. When the wins come, hopefully everyone will know, too."