When news broke late Sunday evening that the Minnesota Vikings signed former free agent quarterback Josh Freeman, Terrelle Pryor was free to slump into his locker and zone out.
Except Pryor may not have received the news before the Oakland Raiders (2-3 overall, 2-1 at home) rolled past the San Diego Chargers 27-17, scoring the most points in the first three quarters for Oakland since they beat Freeman’s new team in November of 2011.
Pryor was simply lights-out Sunday night. No other adjectives do him justice after following up a perfect first quarter with an 18-for-23, two touchdown and zero interception performance.
Well, maybe there’s a few: Amazing, electric, play-making, possibly even “franchise.”
That’s as in the Raiders’ potential franchise quarterback, something that may have sounded silly to even Oakland’s general manager Reggie McKenzie in August.
Pryor finished the game with a 135.7 passer rating. Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said:
“I thought it was outstanding the way that we were able to start the game, to be able to get a stop, hit the deep ball early in the game. To come back after that on the next drive and get a 13 play, 88 yard drive and get a touchdown.”
Wide receiver Rod Streater helped Pryor’s cause on a handful of plays, the first being a 44-yard touchdown pass which he plucked from the reach of two San Diego defenders.
Another save from Streater came on a second quarter in-route, where the pass would have been deemed uncatchable had it not been caught. But it was, and Streater continued to solidify himself as Oakland’s best receiver. Of Pryor, Allen said:
“Terrelle brings that ability to, when things aren’t right, when things break down, he brings the ability to go and make a play. And I thought he made some outstanding plays in the game. He was able to get out of the pocket and get the ball down the field.”
The Raiders defense didn’t slouch either, shutting down the Chargers for the first 40 minutes.
Despite only $27 million being spent on the defensive unit, the lowest number in the NFL, the Raiders defense finds themselves as one of the better units in the league.
They entered Sunday evening tied with the division rival Denver Broncos, and left the Coliseum’s freshly trimmed sod a few notches higher in the rankings. Allen said:
“I thought the goal line stand for our defense was a critical situation in the game. Special teams taking the ball away on the fumbled punt was outstanding, I think we had five takeaways in the game. Those interceptions you guys (the media) have all been talking about, they came around a little bit.”
Maybe more than a little bit, as the Oakland defense recorded three interceptions, two of them coming in critical late-game situations.
Perhaps the biggest defensive play was made by rookie first-round pick D.J. Hayden.
On a late fourth quarter drive by San Diego, Rivers dropped back to pass. The target was another rookie, former UC Berkeley standout receiver Keenan Allen, who ran an inside slant to the back of the end zone. Hayden jumped the route, picking the ball off and sealing the Raiders victory.
The Raiders punted after a three-and-out, but two plays later, Rivers was picked off yet again by none other than Charles Woodson, his 55th career interception. Safety Usama Young recorded a pick as well, which came during the Chargers opening drive.
Woodson picked up a Danny Woodhead fumble and took it to the house during the third quarter, tying Darren Sharper and Rod Woodson’s record for most touchdowns by a defensive player. It was Woodson’s 13th.
Kevin Burnett and Lamarr Houston weren’t left out of the fun, each recording a sack, Burnett also tallying nine tackles. When asked if he thought Pryor had turned a corner, Allen offered up some around-the-table praise:
“I think all those guys, the more they play together, they better the chemistry is going to be. The one thing they all know is that there’s always a chance the ball could get to them because Terrelle can extend the play and create.”
Keenan Allen, who had been seldom used by the Chargers until Week 4, had 115 receiving yards and drew a pass interference penalty on another deep ball. A more experienced cornerback, essentially not D.J. Hayden of today, may have shut him down.
The Raiders were able to shine on national television. Kurt Warner, former quarterback of the Super Bowl winning St. Louis Rams of 1999, said:
“I think the Raiders can build around this guy (Pryor).”
Many others agree.