Last week Terrelle Pryor burst into the conversation for starting quarterback job for the Raiders. Whether that decision was a lock would depend on the final preseason game and if he could have a repeat performance. He was unable to deliver and therefore left plenty of questions heading into the regular season.
Last week against the Bears, it wasn't just Pryor's standout performance but also Matt Flynn's poor showing that had people talking about Pryor unseating Flynn as the Raiders' starter. The one big caveat being, of course, Flynn was facing the Bears' starters and Pryor was facing backups. But even still, the spark Pryor provided was undeniable. Plus, Pryor can't exactly be faulted for the other team removing their first teamers. He controlled what he needed to control and dominated the competition presented.
That performance earned him the start this week while Matt Flynn is resting tendinitis in his throwing arm - the same issue he had last preseason which opened the door for Russell Wilson to step up and take his job.
The difference here is last preseason Wilson DID step up and take the job. This was Pryor's chance to re-enact that story for himself and he didn't get the job done. He played the entire first half and finished 3 of 8 passing (only one of which was an on-target drop) for 31 yards and an interception. He also couldn't reach the endzone. That gave him a 9.9 QB rating for the game.
Pryor's only saving grace is the same saving grace we have always known was his strength - his legs. He ran three times for 48 yards. But even that wasn't up to snuff. He was tackled behind the line of scrimmage three times (2 sacks) - none of which were a result of a free rusher from a missed block or blown assignment.
Now, don't get me wrong (even though I know you will if you want to), Pryor did some good things in this game. He made something out of nothing a couple times and one of those times he turned on the afterburners and picked up 25 yards like it was nothing. On that same drive, he had two nice passes to Rod Streater - both for first downs - and the end result was points on the board from a field goal.
The problem is, that's not near enough. Pryor has already shown these flashes. The coaches know he is capable of these moments. What they need to see is him put them together without the big mistakes in-between. He didn't need another game of flashes against backups. He needed another dominant performance.
The Raiders traded for Flynn because they had designs on him being the starter. At that time Pryor had yet to show he could throw the ball at an NFL level. He has comes leaps and bounds since then with his mechanics and the results have been quite impressive. But he showed Thursday night that his decision making is still not where it needs to be and in the most high-pressure moments, he reverts to his previous poor mechanics with detrimental results.
The million dollar question is; Does this mean Pryor played himself out of the chance to be the starter? Absolutely not. That could very well still happen due in large part to Flynn's struggles this preseason.
Dennis Allen said following the game that he has made his decision on the starter but he isn't making it known whether it's Flynn or Pryor. He wants to force the Colts to prepare for both quarterbacks. The thing is though, they may have had to prepare for both anyway because even if Flynn keeps the starting job, Pryor will be seeing the field in certain packages. That much has been established.
Those packages would have been simply the offensive game plan in the regular season opener had Pryor played well enough to force his way into being the obvious choice. As it stands, the Raiders are in the position where they have two quarterbacks who have in spurts shown the ability to move the offense while never showing the consistency to distinguish themselves as the sure starter.
It's right where the Raiders did not want to be at this point. They wanted Flynn to show himself worthy of the trade and his salary and he has yet to do so. They had hoped they had hedged their bets with developing Pryor and drafting Tyler Wilson in the fourth round, but Wilson is so far out of the conversation, he may be among the cuts Saturday.
The only thing on the Raiders' side right now is mystery. But with the answer to that mystery being the lesser of two evils, it isn't exactly something that strikes a lot of fear in the Colts. Pryor could have made this decision easier Thursday by having a great game. Or even perhaps a pretty good game. It was nothing close, so the mystery of who will start for the Raiders continues.
We'll find out in about a week and a half.