It will still goes down as a 21-17 loss, but the Oakland Raiders almost pulled off one of the biggest upsets on NFL's opening weekend against the Indianapolis Colts. A big reason the Raiders played so well was quarterback Terrelle Pryor in just his second career start.
Pryor was 19-for-29 passing for 217 yards and a touchdown and added 112 yards on the ground. Unfortunately for Pryor and the Raiders, there were also a few negatives. Pryor had two interceptions, took a costly sack on 1st-and-goal from the 8-yard line at the end of the game and had a lot trouble getting the offense out of the huddle.
Even though he was hardly perfect, the positives for Pryor far outweighed the negatives and can only be described as a success. The early signs also seem to indicate that Pryor should be able sustain this success, giving the Raiders a chance to win every week even if his own personal statistics regress.
Many of Pryor's mistakes are quickly correctable. The interceptions, the sack and getting the team out of the huddle are all things that either shouldn't be an issue going forward, or the team is willing to accept as long as Pryor is also making big plays. However, it's those mistakes that cost the Raiders the game.
Pryor's first interception was a deep shot down the right sideline. The Raiders would like him to make a better decision, but they will accept a few of those if he can also connect on occasion. If running back Darren McFadden dragged his left foot on a 30-yard strike to the end zone, Pryor would have had a beautiful deep touchdown pass to offset that interception.
The biggest issue Pryor had was actually getting the team out of the huddle. Far too many times the Raiders were getting out late and it cost them a couple timeouts they could have used late in the game. Chalk it up to playing in a hostile road environment, but Pryor will have to get better.
With a home game next week, Pryor will have a more friendly environment to work on getting the team to the line of scrimmage on time. Pryor is still an inexperienced quarterback at the pro level and getting the team out of the huddle and up to the line quickly should come with more playing time.
The biggest reason Pryor's success is sustainable is because he threw the ball well, not because he rushed for 112 yards. The only quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season since the AFL-NFL merger was Michael Vick in 2006 with 1,039 yards. Pryor's 112 yards would put him on pace for 1,792 yards, which would be the single-season rushing record for a quarterback.
Don't expect 112 rushing yards to be the norm for Pryor or his 13 carries; that production is likely going to come down. The takeaway after Week 1 is that defenses are going to have to commit more resources to stopping Pryor on the ground, which is only going to open up more things for Pryor's teammates.
The question with Pryor was never really his rushing ability; it was his ability to make plays with his arm. Against the Colts, Pryor completed 65.5 percent of his attempts. That's not only a respectable completion percentage; it's quite good.
Pryor also wasn't just getting short completions; he was getting big yardage on his passes and averaged 11.4 yards per completion and 7.5 yards per attempt. If Pryor is at least a competent passer, he'll stretch defenses to the breaking point.
Against the Colts, Pryor proved he is a capable passer, but a lot of it was set up by his own ability to make something out of nothing.
Defenses a lot better than the Colts are going to do everything they can to contain Pryor, but part of what makes him different than a lot of running quarterbacks is that he's creating rushing yards on scrambles more than he is from designed running plays. It's a lot harder to adjust to a run play that was designed to be a pass play than a pure run play.
The stats might change from week to week, but Pryor proved he can make things happen with his arm and legs. Pryor almost always pulled the ball and ran it himself when the Raiders used the read-option, while McFadden had just 48 yards on 17 carries for an average of just 2.8 yards per attempt.
Going forward, some Pryor's 112 rushing yards should get converted into rushing yards for McFadden and some should also get converted into pass completions. If teams roll a safety into the box to try to prevent Pryor from getting to the edge, that should create opportunities for the wide receivers and tight ends to make plays.
Teams also can't blitz too much or that would leave them vulnerable to Pryor escaping the pressure and creating a big play with his feet. Having a running quarterback gives the offense a huge advantage as long as he's able to take advantage of the holes in the defense.
Pryor is going to give the Raiders a chance to win games they would otherwise have no chance of winning. Pryor proved against the Colts that he gives life to the offense, but also still makes some mistakes that hurt his team.
What mistakes Pryor makes in a given week might determine if the Raiders win or lose.
When Pryor is passing well, using timeouts efficiently and making smarter decisions with the football, the Raiders will probably win. When Pryor is more inconsistent as a passer, burning through timeouts and making dangerous throws that are intercepted, the Raiders will probably lose. In either case, the Raiders should have a chance to win games because Pryor changes the game.
Pryor should be able to sustain his success as a starting quarterback as long as the measurement for success if keeping the Raiders in games. The Raiders tabbed Pryor the starter for this reason and he should be the unquestioned starter in Oakland for the rest of this year.
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