Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor played very well in his first career start, but the team still dropped to 4-12 with the 24-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. With the defeat, the Raiders will close out a disappointing season and ensure themselves the third overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The future of the organization got a nice lift today from the play of Pryor. He still has several areas to improve, but showed great promise. The second year quarterback threw for 150 yards on 13-28 passing with two touchdowns and one interception. He also displayed his rushing ability gaining 49 yards on nine carries with another touchdown. The numbers will not blow anyone away, but his ability to keep plays alive and his improved throwing are things to build on. Keep in mind Pryor was the third string quarterback until this week which limited his practice reps. If he can develop, he has a place in the NFL.
On the opening kickoff, San Diego's Michael Spurlock ran for a 99 yard touchdown putting the Raiders into a 7-0 hole. San Diego added a 30 yard Nick Novak field goal on their third possession to extend the lead to 10-0.
After going three and out on their first two possessions, Pryor and the Raiders offense responded to the field goal with a 12 play 80 yard touchdown drive. Pryor connected with Darrius Heyward-Bey, who made a great adjustment, on a nine yard touchdown catch along the sideline to cut the lead to 10-7.
San Diego matched the Raiders scoring drive with a 14 play 81 yard drive of their own. It looked like the Oakland's defense had them stopped, but a fake punt run by Eric Weddle picked up a first down and continued the drive. Rivers found Antonio Gates for an 11 yard score to make it a 17-7 game at the half.
On their first drive of the second half, Pryor had the Raiders moving, but threw a pass to the endzone that was intercepted by Quentin Jammer. Pryor under threw the ball and allowed Jammer to get into position and make the play. If there was one area the young quarterback struggled, it was accuracy on deep balls. That will come once he gets extended practice time, but it was the weakest part of his game today.
The Oakland defense forced San Diego three and out after the interception. They played very well for the third consecutive week after a terrible four game stretch in the middle of the season. They allowed only 210 total yards to the Chargers offense and sacked quarterback Philip Rivers twice. Lamaar Houston had 1.5 and Desmond Bryant notched the other half. Penalties are still an issue for the defense as the team was flagged 9 times for 67 yards.
Despite the solid defensive performance, Rivers connected with Danario Alexander on a 34 yard touchdown to extend the lead to 24-7. Alexander beat Brandian Ross, who was starting his first career game, for the score. Today's game marked the eighth different secondary combination the Raiders have played this season.
Trailing 24-7, Pryor began the fourth quarter with a scoring drive. He connected with Rod Streater on a 38 yard play down the sideline. Streater made a terrific double move to get free and Pryor put the ball right on the money. On the next play, he faked a hand-off to Darren McFadden, kept it himself on a rollout, and burst into the endzone for a three yard touchdown.
Pryor really showed his strength in the game. He was able to push defenders off on runs and keep plays alive. Despite an average game from the offensive line, the Chargers did not record any sacks, Last week they had 11 against the New York Jets. He also helped the Raiders convert 8-15 third downs, which as a huge area of weakness this season.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders defense forced a Chargers punt. Calling an all-out block, Coye Francies broke through the line and blocked the punt. It was recovered by Kaelin Burnett at the San Diego 11 yard line. McFadden powered down to the 1, but a false start penalty pushed the Raiders back to the 5. Pryor rolled to the right, stopped, and tossed a pass to a cutting Denarius Moore for the five yard touchdown. It was a great job of Pryor moving to elude pressure while keeping his eyes on the receivers down field.
Even though both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore had touchdown receptions, they did not help Pryor as much as they could have. Several times Pryor would keep plays alive and look to them to make play. Both players dropped passes or did not do enough to convert important broken plays.
The Raiders attempted the onside kick, but San Diego recovered ending the game 24-21. Pryor along with the defense led the comeback charge that fell just short. Now the Raiders will look to 2013 for improvement.
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