CLEVELAND (AP) — Derek Carr ducked into the huddle and delivered a message.
With Oakland trailing by three points and time running out last week against Baltimore, the second-year quarterback shook off a bruised hand and key interception and told his teammates to believe.
If they did, Carr said, they would win. And he promptly led the Raiders on a game-winning, 80-yard touchdown drive, completing a comeback that may have announced his arrival in the NFL.
He did it at home.
Now comes the road test.
The Raiders will pack their suitcases for the first time this season, board a charter jet and try to end their 11-game road losing streak on Sunday against the Browns, who are handing their offense back to quarterback Josh McCown a week after Johnny Manziel filled in and threw two long touchdown passes to Travis Benjamin in Cleveland’s 28-14 win over Tennessee.
Carr was still slinging TD passes at Fresno State the last time the Raiders (1-1) won a game outside O.com Coliseum. Oakland’s road drought stretches back to a win on Nov. 17, 2013, in Houston, and the Raiders have dropped 16 straight while playing in the Eastern time zone.
After going 0-8 last season as a road rookie, Carr’s eager to taste victory while traveling. As far as he’s concerned these Raiders are starting fresh.
“This team hasn’t played on the road yet,” he said. “We’ve seen what it takes to win. We’re just trying to replicate that every week. We have to be focused on a good week of practice and flying somewhere to play our game this time.”
First-year Raiders coach Jack Del Rio spent the week reminding his players that this is a new season, a fresh start. The former linebacker said success on the road has nothing to do with time zones, sleep patterns or in-flight movies.
When they enter Cleveland’s raucous FirstEnergy Stadium, the Raiders have to be mentally strong.
“It’s all mindset,” Del Rio said. “We’re working on the things that you need to be to be a good football team, and part of that is travelling with a purpose, traveling well and performing well on the road. It’s a hostile environment. It’s going to be loud, a lot of different factors working against you.
“We want to be road warriors. We want to be the kind of team that can travel well and play in any kind of conditions, any kind of weather, any kind of crowd, and just be very purposeful and go in there and be able to impose our will on the opposing team.”
Along with Oakland’s road issues, here are some other things to watch:
JOHNNY BENCHED: Manziel’s first career win wasn’t enough to keep him in the lineup as the Browns will go back to McCown, who sustained a concussion on the season’s opening drive. Cleveland’s coaching staff feels the 36-year-old McCown, who spent 2007 with Oakland, gives them the best chance to win, and with their jobs possibly on the line if this season doesn’t go well, who can blame them?
SEARCHING FOR SACKS: Moving Khalil Mack from linebacker to defensive end and adding sack specialist Aldon Smith was supposed to give Oakland a fierce pass rush after a franchise-low 22 sacks last season. Instead, the Raiders have yet to bring down the opposing quarterback once. This marks the first time since sacks became an official stat that the Raiders failed to record one in the first two games.
SLOW BOWE: The Browns signed Dwayne Bowe as a free agent to be their No. 1 wide receiver, but to this point he’s been no help at all. Bowe sat out the season opener with a hamstring injury and then was targeted just once last week. Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said Bowe is still slowed by the injury, and the team has to be mindful not to rush him along.
SUPER COOPER: It hasn’t taken Raiders rookie WR Amari Cooper long to have an impact on Oakland’s offense. Cooper, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, had 109 yards receiving last week and a 68-yard touchdown. Cooper is averaging 13 yards on 12 catches.
“Amari Cooper does not look like a rookie,” Pettine said.
NO IMPROVEMENT: Cleveland spent the offseason trying to shore up the league’s worst rushing defense. It’s still got holes. The Browns are allowing 160 yards per game — again No. 32 overall — but coordinator Jim O’Neil sees progress amid the slovenly stats.
“I do think that we’re doing things this year that we weren’t doing last year in the run game,” he said. “I know that the numbers don’t support that, but I see us going the right way with it.”