The Oakland Raiders did not look prepared at all to play in the 34-26 third preseason loss to the Chicago Bears.The first team defense allowed the Bears to move and score effortlessly and the offense turned the ball over. Then quarterback Terrelle Pryor entered the game and the entire energy changed.
With the coaches firmly behind quarterback Matt Flynn, he got the start. He was horrific throwing two bad interceptions and completing only 3-6 passes for 19 yards. Flynn struggled to move the offense at all. Flynn played five series in which the Raiders offense traveled a total of 64 yards, scored zero points and had the two interceptions. On the first interception Flynn and wide receiver Denarius Moore had miscommunication as Flynn threw the pass well before Moore came back from his cut and Bears cornerback Tim Jennings made the easy pick. The second interception was all on Flynn. He has plenty of time in the pocket, but forced a ball over the middle. With this performance Friday from Flynn, the Raiders have a quarterback competition and Terrelle Pryor may have taken the lead.
“Obviously it wasn’t what I, or we, were looking to do out there,” Flynn said. “They have a good defense and if you make mistakes, they take advantage of it. We made too many mistakes and just couldn’t really get into a rhythm out there.”
Enter Pryor. Pryor relieved Flynn late in the second quarter. His first drive ended with him wildly overthrowing wide receiver Rod Sreater, who suffered a concussion in the game. The next series is where Pryor really sparked the offense. With just one minute to go and the team getting drilled 27-0, Pryor scrambled for a 13 yard gain, then hit rookie Mychal Rivera for 26 more. The Raiders were able to send out Sebastian Janikowski for the 58 yard field goal to put three points on the board before halftime.
“I just think I competed,” Pryor said. “That’s the first thing coach said in today’s meeting, that he was looking for guys to compete. Any time competition has come, ever since I was young, I always wanted to compete. To me, it’s just what I do. I work hard, and I’ve been working hard – that’s how I expect to play. It’s not individual though, my teammates: linemen, receivers making great catches, running backs blocking the guys that are going to make me hot. Other guys made a lot of plays it wasn’t just me.”
Pryor only played better in the second half and staged an improbable comeback. On the first drive of the second half, Pryor drove the Raiders down the field. Once in Bears territory, Pryor dropped back to pass, eluded pressure in the pocket, stepped forward and stiff armed a defensive end as he broke free for the 25 yard touchdown run. After the Bears, fumbled, the Raiders came away with another Janikowski field goal. Pryor struck one more time after a Joselio Hanson interception. After making a bad play not to throw the ball away and take a sack, Pryor redeemed himself hitting rookie tight end Nick Kasa in the seam for a 19 yard touchdown. In four drives, Pryor was able to lead the offense to 20 points. He finished 7-9 passing for 93 yards and a touchdown, adding four rushes for 37 yards and another score exiting in George Costanza fashion: on a high note.
“I think obviously we have to look at it,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of the quarterback competition. “I think when you look at it I don’t think Matt [Flynn] played well in this game. Obviously, I thought Terrelle [Pryor] came in and gave us a spark. I thought he played well in the game. I think that’s something that we have to go and look at it. I’m not going to make any decisions on anything, obviously, tonight. I want to get a chance to go back and look at the tape and see how things went. But it was obvious that Terrelle gave us a little bit of a spark tonight.”
The results of this game totally changed the quarterback situation in Oakland. Flynn chose the worst possible game to have his worst possible performance. He left the door open for Pryor and he kicked it down. Pryor took the reins and brought energy to the entire team. As Pryor continued to put points on the board, the defense was rejuvenated and forced two turnovers right after Raider scores. He did it against the Chicago second defense, but it was impressive. Flynn and the first team offense were stagnant and flat. So was the first team defense, which was absolutely shredded. Pryor is not perfect or polished, but he gives the Raiders the best chance to win.
“I can’t say, because Matt [Flynn] does a great job,” Pryor said of the starting quarterback race. “He did a great job last game moving us down the field with that two-minute drive. Like I said, you guys have been interviewing me for a good while now, and every day I just want to get one percent better – that’s my key. All I want to do is get better. I have a love and a passion for this game that is amazing, it’s incredible. I love this game more than anything. I just want to get better every day.”
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