This was the final chance for many of these Raider players to make a case for themselves to be part of the core of next year's team. These are the players who would not go softly into that goodnight.
Right off the top, what jumps out at you is he lead the team with 13 tackles. Those kind of numbers are fantastic for a linebacker. That was how many tackles Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly had against the Raiders last week. But Houston is a defensive lineman. Nine of Houston's tackles were solo tackles. The next most tackles by a Raider was seven combined tackles by Miles Burris. Houston also had 1.5 sacks which means he ends the season as the Raiders' sack leader with 4.5.
He ended the Chargers first drive by sacking Philip Rivers. The he began the next drive with a run stuff at the line. A couple drives later, he teamed up with Desmond Bryant to sack Rivers again, then he ended the series with a three and out with a run stuff for a short gain. That stop gave the Raiders the ball back with enough time to score before halftime, though they failed to capitalize.
Late in the fourth quarter with the Raiders needing a stop, he had two run stuffs - one being a tackle for loss. Then on the next possession, he had another run stuff at the line and two plays later, the Raiders blocked the punt and scored for a lost ditch chance to tie or win it. On a game which began with a 99-yard kick return touchdown and had the Raiders down the entire time, to finish the game with a legitimate shot is an accomplishment. Terrelle Pryor needed as many chances as possible to get the offense going and Houston's efforts on the defense facilitated that.
He was again the most reliable target among Raiders receivers. Terrelle Pryor went to him for the first first down of his career - a ten yard catch. Later in the same drive, he looked to Streater again to attempt the first touchdown of his career. Streater got the outside and the defender had to interfere with him in the endzone to keep him from making the catch. Unfortunately, the fight between Takeo Spikes and Mike Goodson caused offsetting penalties and wiped out what should have been first and goal at the one yard line. The Raiders would still score two plays later.
Late in the game, with the Raiders down 24-7, Pryor looked to Streater again in his attempt to make the comeback. He put Streater in some tough positions to make the catch too. First on a third and seven, Pryor threw high and wide of Streater but he made the correction and pulled it down for a 14-yard gain. The very next play, he went to Streater again and again threw it high. This time it was in traffic which caused a big hit that had the young receiver riling on the ground for a couple minutes. But despite the hit, he held onto the ball for a 15-yard gain. Once he got up, he put his helmet back on and was ready to return to the game. And did he ever return. Two plays later, he got Quentin Jammer to bite on a fake and burnt him for a 38-yard catch on a rope from Pryor. It set the Raiders up at the 3-yard line. Pryor ran left on a bootleg to score on the next play thanks in large part to a block laid by Streater.
Streater caught five passes on four targets to lead the Raiders with 77 yards receiving.
This was a tough one. Pryor made as many ugly passes and poor decisions as he did great plays. In the end, he made more great plays than mistakes but what really earned him Baller status is simple - If not for his playmaking the Raider never would have even stood a chance. And that's what it's really about when all is said and done.
Bad Pryor: Things started off rough for him. The first series ended with him being tackled for loss on third and one. The second ended when he threw into coverage to Brandon Myers. But the third drive was his coming out party.
Good Pryor: To start the drive, he threw it up to Darrius Heyward-Bey who drew an illegal contact penalty. A few plays later, on third and two, he connected with Streater for his first first down pass. He has his second first down on the next play when he rolled out left and the threat of the run drew the linebacker up which left Myers wide open for a 17-yard gain. A few plays later, on third down again, he ran for a six yard gain and a first down. A few plays later, he showed a great deal of leadership when he pulled Mike Goodson out of a scuffle in an attempt to avoid a penalty that would have threw a wrench in an otherwise successful drive. On the next two plays, he ran for eight yards, and threw a nine yard, back-shoulder pass to DHB for the Raiders first touchdown in three weeks and the first of his career.
Bad Pryor: Things didn't go so well the rest of the first half when he had two overthrows for a three and out on the next drive and the half ended when he failed to get out of bounds and the time ran out. The Raiders were in field goal range so that mistake cost the Raiders three points.
Good Pryor: The second half started well for Pryor. He drove them into scoring position thanks to a 22-yard pass to Myers and a couple good scrambles.
Bad Pryor: It ended badly when he threw up a rainbow shot that was picked off in the endzone. The next two drives continued to show the kind of bad passes we had seen in training camp in which he was either off target, late, behind, or had no zip on short and intermediate passes and threw wobbly long passes. The result was three straight three and outs.
Good Pryor: But then, just like before, suddenly he put it all together and drove the Raiders on a scoring drive. That scoring drive featured the best looking pass I have ever seen him throw either in regular season, preseason, or training camp. It was a perfect strike to Rod Streater along the right sideline for 38 yards and he ran it in for a touchdown from three yards out on the next play. Suddenly the Raiders were back in it down 24-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Bad Pryor: The next series he fumbled the ball, couldn't recover it and batted it out of bounds. That's illegal so it resulted in a five yard penalty. The next two plays were off target incompletions and the Raiders gave the ball back with time running out for any chance at completing a comeback.
Good Pryor: He was given a reprieve when Coye Francies blocked a punt to give the Raiders the ball at the San Diego 11-yard line. He capitalized on it by using his elusiveness to improvise and found Denarius Moore wide open in the back of the endzone to bring the Raiders within three points and a successful onside kick away from having a shot to tie or win it.
Good Pryor: Pryor was at least partially responsible for every touchdown the Raiders had Sunday - two passing, one rushing. The Raiders hadn't scored three touchdowns in a game since November 4th in 42-32 loss to the Buccaneers.