There has been a lot of good press this week about Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor after he helped lead his team to a victory over the Chargers last week. Despite all those lauding his progress, including myself, his game against the Chiefs Sunday revealed he still has a long way to go.
Last week the Chargers didn't offer a lot in the way of a pass rush. Even with the Raiders beaten up offensive line, things went pretty well for the offense. Pryor often had a good pocket from which to work and he took a another step forward in his quest to prove he can be a successful NFL quarterback. But with any transition, difficulty can expose weaknesses and cause old bad habits to return.
The Chiefs defense came into this game as one of the best in the NFL and they were every bit that today. They Chiefs combination of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston put the pressure on the Raiders' now even more banged up offensive line and late in the game, Pryor was rattled and his newfound pocket presence was absent and his newfound mechanics broke down.
Things started out well, just as they had last week against the Chargers. Though there were signs early on that things may not be quite as smooth as they were in the home environment of O.co against a toothless Chargers pass rush. That first sign came when Pryor missed a wide open Rod Streater on third down of the Raiders first drive and held onto the ball where he was then sacked. It would portend of things to come.
The following drive ended in another sack. This one was purely the offensive line as Lucas Nix was beaten up the middle and Darren McFadden whiffed on a blitzing linebacker around the outside. Still, it was two sacks on two drives and taking sacks can take its toll on a quarterback's confidence.
The following drive looked promising but began to fall apart first when Pryor was called for a delay of game penalty - something that has mired his early career - then ended on two off-target passes which gave us our first glimpses of shaky mechanics.
Even so, Pryor would shake off the sacks and tighten up his mechanics on the following drive to lead the Raiders on a touchdown drive capped off by a 39-yard catch and run by Denarius Moore for the score. Things would go downhill fast for Pryor after that.
At the next sign of pressure on Pryor, things fell apart for good. A few plays into the next drive, he was pressured and instead of throwing the ball away, he held onto it to take an 8-yard sack. The next play, he took too long getting out of the huddle, forcing Dennis Allen to call a time out. The series ended when he threw too high for Denarius Moore nearly resulting in an interception.
The Chiefs would tie the game up late in the second quarter and the following drive for the Raiders ended in a three and out to head into halftime tied 7-7. The Chiefs had taken the momentum but game was still up in the air. Some regrouping was in order to get the Raiders offense back on track. That didn't happen. In the third quarter, things went from back to worse.
The first drive of the third quarter ended quickly After one first down Pryor rolled out trying to improvise only to throw the ball away, followed by his throwing an off-target incompletion, and the series ended with him holding onto the ball too long to give up another sack.
The next drive ended much the same way, only worse. The final three plays were Pryor putting up a long floater that was nearly intercepted, followed by another delay of game penalty, and ending when he threw off his back foot for an easy Chiefs interception.
To begin the fourth quarter, he floated another pass that died in the air and Rod Streater was forced to come back and play defender to keep it from being picked off. Then the series ended two plays later when Pryor misread the option, kept the ball, and ran right into the waiting arms of Tamba Hali for the sack.
The following drive began with a sack despite Pryor having a nice pocket to step into, he got nervous and left the pocket and where he was sacked. What is commonly known as ‘happy feet'. He would be sacked four times on that drive, three of which because Pryor either left a good pocket or didn't step up into the pocket. Clearly all the pocket presence he was credited for the past two weeks had been shaken out of him at this point and now he was just running scared. Oh, and he was also called for another delay of game penalty on that drive.
The next series ended with Pryor throwing another interception which resulted in a Kansas City field goal to give the Chiefs a two score lead at 17-7. Then the ensuing possession put the cap on the day when Pryor threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. That gave us the final score of 24-7 and sealed the win for the Chiefs.
In total, Pryor was sacked ten times and threw three interceptions. The sacks obviously have a lot to do with the make-shift offensive line which featured two undrafted rookies on the right side and Mike Brisiel moving over from guard to become the third center for the Raiders this season. But those issues were exacerbated when Pryor lost his composure.
The similarities between the game Pryor had and the one Matt Flynn had two weeks ago against the Redskins are pretty uncanny. Flynn was to blame for many of the sacks he took in that game for not feeling the pressure and either escaping or stepping up into the pocket. He also led the Raiders on an early touchdown drive with a touchdown pass. And he also threw a pick six just as Pryor did. Dennis Allen put the loss to the Redskins almost squarely on Flynn, as did most people, myself included. Flynn was cut a week later.
There are also many differences, of course. Flynn was making over $5 million more than Pryor, his issues seem too big for him to be trusted in this offense with this shoddy offensive line, and his attitude following the game was that of defeat and lack of accountability.
For Pryor, this is another stepping stone on a long road to becoming the quarterback he wants to become. There is no way around just how poorly he played in this game, but he has also shown the ability to fix his issues.
The Raiders have a bye week coming up and Pryor has said he will be working with his throwing coach, Tom House, a great deal over the break to try and get back on track with his progress and perhaps even offer some more surprises in his improvement when the Raiders return in two weeks to face the Steelers at home.
If anything, this game shows just how difficult it is to do what Pryor has been doing - remaking himself into an NFL quarterback. He spoke last week of how Tim Tebow tried to do the same thing but fell back into his old ways quickly. Pryor kept ahold of his new mechanics over the first five games of the season and improved his pocket presence up to this point. But old habits die hard. Consider this a relapse. Now it's back on the road to recovery. Bring the coffee and donuts.