If the Oakland Raiders could consistently play as well as they played to start out last night's contest against the San Diego Chargers they would be a playoff team. Terrelle Pryor could not have answered the rumors surrounding the Raiders QB situation any better than he did last night. After his performance there is nobody left wondering why the Raiders failed to make a strong enough effort to sign Josh Freeman, though for many fans of the Raiders it was never a worthy inquiry anyway.
Terrelle's stat-line is really impressive with a night where he completed 18 of 23 passes for 221 yards, 2 touchdowns and no turnovers. His Quarterback rating on the night was 135.7 which is great, but his quarterback rating over his first 10 passes of the game is what was really amazing. It was a perfect 158.3. He did not miss one pass attempt out of his opening 10 and 2 of them went for touchdowns.
Terrelle was not able to keep his burning hot start going through out the whole game which is understandable considering its awfully hard to keep perfection going for a long period of time. He faltered on a number of drives in the 2nd half and was having trouble moving the ball at times. It's all about working on his consistency, but when he is playing well he is a fun player to watch.
The best part of Terrelle Pryor's performance last night did not come in those first 10 passes though. It didn't come when he was scorching the San Diego defense in the beginning of the game, it came after several failed drives and a complete lack of momentum. It came at the time that the Raiders needed it the most, on a 3rd down completion late in the 4th quarter that all but ended the Chargers fierce comeback attempts.
It's great to see a player do well when things are working for them, when it feels like they can do no wrong. It is even better when the player performs well in the middle of a down period where the team is in a funk. Pryor completing that one third down play meant more to his growth than anything else he had accomplished as a starter, because that one play saved a victory for this team (with a little help from Sebastian Janikowski, of course).
Besides Terrelle Pryor's impressive performance, the Raiders also got something special out of another first year starter in rookie D.J. Hayden. Hayden had yet to make his presence felt in the NFL and it was starting to make some fans nervous about how well he mentally recovered from his college injury that almost took his life. He put some of those worries to rest last night.
There were three plays were D.J. was tested and passed with flying colors. There were two plays in a row where the Chargers threw to the back corner of the endzone on Hayden and he covered them tightly enough to keep them from being caught. One of those plays the ball was actually caught by the receiver but DJ managed to hit him while the player was airborne and force him out of bounds. The third play though was the real keeper play.
Phillip Rivers thought he had Keenan Allen wide open in the back of the endzone. Allen had shook D.J. from his coverage and sat in the hole in the zone, he was open. Rivers was just a hair late on his throw but it was enough time for D.J. to recover his position. He read the play and dove for the ball as confidently and quickly as someone could and he came down with the interception in the endzone. It was his first career interception and it was huge, hopefully just the first of many more for the corner out of Houston University.
Speaking about many more, how about Old Man Woodson! That guy just keeps surprising with his gutsy performances game in and game out. He came here to help revive the franchise that first drafted him and he is doing his part on the field to do so. He isn't just here to talk like a leader, he is here to show on the field that he is a leader. His fumble recovery for a TD tied him for the record for most defensive TD's by a player, but if he keeps playing like this he will be the sole owner of the record in not long.
Charles also had the final nail in the Chargers coffin with his 54th interception of his career. It is pretty neat to see D.J. Hayden get his first career interception and for Woodson to snag yet another one in his illustrious career during the same game. Hopefully it is a symbolic moment that we will look back on as the day that DJ Hayden showed that he will be the next generation of elite, though that is just letting my love for this team make me start dreaming again. Luckily dreams do come true every now and again, so we may very well have witnessed a symbolic changing of the guard moment last night.
This game wasn't all roses but it was an important win in a divisional match up. Now the Raiders are 2-3 with another huge division game sitting in front of them. Next week they head to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, and if they win they will have a .500 record overall and they will be 2-1 in the division. Let's celebrate the victory from last night for just a little bit longer, but then it's all business heading into Kansas City to face the Chiefs on their home ground.
One thing is for certain though, we can all feel a lot more confident about this team going into Arrowhead after the performance they put out there last night. This team is all heart and they have their leader in Terrelle Pryor, it will be interesting to see if they can continue to progress and grow after an important win.