The expectation is that Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is going to take a big step forward this season.
His beleaguered franchise just might be ready to do the same.
The Raiders haven't started 2-0 since 2002 but have the opportunity to open with back-to-back victories this season when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
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Oakland rallied for a 35-34 road win over the New Orleans Saints in its opener. Coach Jack Del Rio seized the chance to obtain a victory with a gutsy two-point conversion call and Carr delivered with the winning throw to receiver Michael Crabtree with 47 seconds remaining.
It was the type of dramatic victory that can set the tone for future success. And Carr says he can see the belief blooming as the Raiders take aim at reaching the playoff for the first time since that 2002 squad advanced to the Super Bowl before losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Everyone on this team is so confident in what we can do,” Carr said on Wednesday. “It's not arrogant, it's not that we think we're better than anybody. We respect every team that we play. At the same time, we know the work we've put in. We know how to compete.
“Like Coach (Del Rio) said, we're learning how to win. We love what we've done, but I think it's just the confidence level that everybody has.”
Carr passed for 319 yards in the victory that saw the Raiders score 22 fourth-quarter points. The third-year pro passed for 3,987 yards and 32 touchdowns last season and another big season could move him into the upper tier of NFL quarterbacks.
Carr hears the chatter about his growth and said it all comes down to believing in the process.
“I trusted from the beginning,” Carr said. “I remember I told you all, we were 0-10, I still thought we could go play in the Super Bowl. That's always been my mindset. I've always worked toward that and I still will work towards that. So whether we're 1-0 or 0-10, my mindset's always going to be the same.”
Atlanta is aiming to rebound from a 31-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a contest in which it didn't record a sack while Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston threw four touchdown passes.
The Falcons would like to avoid a 0-2 hole but even last season's fast 6-1 start didn't get them into the playoffs. Atlanta finished 8-8 and missed the postseason for the third straight season.
Quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 334 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Tampa Bay. Ryan played his best football in the contest after Atlanta sped up the offense to try to recover from an 18-point deficit but coach Dan Quinn doesn't believe a no-huddle attack fits his squad.
“We don't see it as a featured way where, every play, we are no huddle,” Quinn said Wednesday. “We wouldn't be able to play in a style that would best suit our guys. That said, we do like going in and out of that speed. That stresses the defense a lot.”
Falcons receiver Julio Jones remains hampered by an ankle injury. He caught four passes for 66 yards and one score against the Buccaneers.
“I've played through things,” said Jones, who caught 136 passes for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns last season. “It's nothing that's going to hold me back from going out there and producing or doing what I do.”
Regardless of his health, Del Rio is concerned about figuring how to match up with Jones.
“He's big, he's fast, he's strong,” Del Rio said. “He's good with the ball in his hands. He's become a much better route runner. I think when he first came in, he was a little raw in that regard, but man, he's become a really good route runner as well. I think he's a heck of a football player.”
Oakland allowed 419 passing yards and 507 overall against the Saints. The Raiders will try to spring defensive end Khalil Mack loose after he didn't reach Drew Brees in the opener. Mack had 15 sacks last season, second-most in the NFL behind Houston's J.J. Watt.
The Falcons won the last meeting 23-20 on Oct. 14, 2012 when Matt Bryant kicked a 55-yard field goal with one second remaining.