Terrelle Pryor threw a game-sealing interception that sealed the Raiders' fate in their 21-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in the season opener. Before that, however, Oakland’s quarterback did more than enough to silence the critics who questioned whether he deserved to start for Dennis Allen’s team.
In just his second NFL start, he did something that no other quarterback in franchise history had ever done before by rushing for more than 100 yards.
Pryor had 112 yards on 13 carries, breaking Rich Gannon’s previous team record. In doing so, Pryor almost single-handedly rallied Oakland to what would have been a stunning Week 1 upset.
Not bad for a player who wasn’t even sure he’d have a roster spot when general manager Reggie McKenzie took over. As a third-round selection in the 2011 supplemental draft, Pryor is the last player drafted by late team owner Al Davis and was one of the few players to survive the roster overhaul McKenzie orchestrated.
It is just one game, however, and there is still plenty for Pryor to correct. However, it was a good step in the right direction.
Pryor put up modest numbers passing, completing 19 of 29 throws for 217 yards. The two most glaring stats were the two interceptions he threw, including one in the end zone on Oakland’s first drive of the game. Both were very costly errors.
Pryor admitted he didn’t learn how to properly throw a pass until this past offseason, and it showed at times.
After completing his first four passes on mostly short to intermediate throws, Pryor was picked off in the end zone on his first attempt at going deep. The pass was wobbly and well off-target, allowing for the easy pick by Greg Toler.
Part of the problem is that the former Ohio State QB tends to short-arm his throws and doesn’t get the proper follow-through. Even on his touchdown throw to Denarius Moore in the fourth quarter that gave the Raiders their first lead of the game, the pass was low.
The other thing is the timing factor. Pryor didn’t get much work with the first-team offense until late in the preseason.
That was especially evident any time the Raiders tried to go deep. Pryor simply threw the ball up for grabs, with no real touch or feel for where the receiver was. He did make a fairly nice throw that almost netted a touchdown, but Pryor’s pass led Darren McFadden too much, making it impossible for him to get both feet in the end zone.
Those are things that can be corrected over time. Both of the interceptions, however, were poorly thrown. The last was a forced throw into triple coverage. Bad decision, bad pass.
Although he had some issues on the final drive, Pryor was much calmer and smoother than he was at the end of 2012 when he made his only other NFL start. He didn’t panic when the protection broke down in the first half and did a pretty good job of feeling the pressure and scrambling out of trouble to keep plays alive.
There were several times in the first half where Pryor’s running saved the Raiders, both on designed plays and others where he improvised. That’s the X-factor that he brings—it’s the main reason Pryor started and Matt Flynn didn’t.
Like RG3, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, Pryor adds a dimension that defenses are having a difficult time accounting for.
At one point in the fourth quarter, Pryor deftly avoided one sack, then quickly rolled to his right to get away from three Colts defenders and passed to Rod Streater for a first down. That helped set up the TD pass to Moore.
Just as important was Pryor’s command of the huddle. A year ago it was one of his biggest problems, as he was frequently late getting the offense to the line as the play clock ticked down. Not this time. He was able to get the plays called quickly and got players into the right spots with few, if any, issues.
As mentioned above, Pryor didn’t overwhelm anyone with his passing, but he did manage the offense and kept the chains moving. Considering the pressure he was getting at times from the Colts defense, the Raiders can live with that.
And Pryor was the leading rusher for both teams, more than doubling the output of McFadden.
The last time the Raiders had a quarterback who could move around this well was Gannon. However, Gannon was more of a pocket passer and only ran when necessary. Pryor’s speed and athleticism allows offensive coordinator Greg Olson to call designed runs for the quarterback.
Again, the two interceptions were inexcusable and have to be addressed. Pryor also took a critical sack on the final drive after the Raiders had a 1st-and-goal situation.
There were a lot of critics who questioned the Raiders' decision to start Pryor. It’s probably pretty quiet now.
Pryor won’t make anyone’s Pro Bowl list based off one game, and there are still so many ways in which he has to improve if he wants to hang on to the starting job.
For just his second start, however, it’s difficult to bash the kid. Had Flynn started, it’s difficult to imagine the game being as close as it was. Pryor is a much better fit for the Raiders at this point, and he should get better the more he plays.