Andrew Luck ran 19 yards for the winning touchdown Sunday, giving Indianapolis a 21-17 season-opening victory over Oakland.
Luck was 18 of 23 for 178 yards with two touchdown passes, but earned his eighth career fourth-quarter comeback by scrambling for a score with 5:20 to go in the game. Still he wasn’t the quarterback that earned the most raves throughout Sunday’s season opener as Terrelle Pryor showed why he was named the Raiders Week One starter from the opening drive to the final whistle.
Despite two endzone interceptions, Pryor moved the Raiders offense in such a fashion that you couldn’t tell that Oakland was named the worst team in football by many television experts prior to the season. Coming into the game as 10.5 point underdogs and starting the game down 14-0 with Luck 8/8 on passes the game looked like it could get out of hand, but Pryor never let it.
A timely touchdown drive that was finished off by a one yard Darren McFadden plunge sparked the Raiders defense into two second quarter stops that gave Pryor a chance to tack on points before the half. He did just that, getting well into Sebastian Janikowski’s range. Not missing a field goal inside the 50 yard line for all of 2012, Janikowski shanked it wide as the second quarter ended to keep the Raiders down 14-7, a miss that came back to haunt them in the final moments of the game.
In the second half the stingy defense remained and Pryor’s knack for moving the offense remained. Buying time with his feet and setting the Raiders all time rushing yards record for a quarterback, Pryor made the game a four point one early on in the third setting up SeaBass for a 38 yard field goal that was a little more automatic for the Polish Cannon.
The Raiders appeared to take their first lead of the game when Darren McFadden caught a perfectly placed Pryor heave in the top corner of the endzone. The instant replay turned over the touchdown, but it didn’t phase Pryor who marched it all the way down to the red zone. Denarius Moore dropped a touchdown on first and goal, but he made up for it shortly after catching a five yarder to give the Raiders the much deserved lead.
After Luck’s scramble, Pryor remained calm, charging Oakland down the field. A gutsy play action call on 3rd and 1 saw tight end Jeron Mastrud wide open for a 41-yard pass to get the Raiders within scoring distance. Pryor upped the ante by hitting Moore on a twenty yard pass on 4th and 9 to put the Raiders in the red zone, it looked like the magical debut was in the cards.
In the end the offensive line cost the Raiders at the worst possible moment, collapsing right down in the middle of the pocket and for one of the rare occurances on Sunday, Pryor was unable to escape the pressure and took a sack that took Oakland outside of the red zone. A crushing blow considering the Raiders could have kicked the field goal had Janikowski made his first half field goal.
The game ended with the second interception of the night from Pryor, the same result of the first one as Pryor was caught forcing a ball for a touchdown and was punished by the Colts secondary. Luck took the knee and closed out the game, a game that Oakland can hold their heads up high about knowing they could have beat a 2012 playoff team on the road using their fourth left tackle in three weeks.
Pryor was the obvious catalyst in Oakland’s quality product on the field on Sunday. No quarterback in the Raiders recent history could have put the Colts so close to victory. Not Carson Palmer and definitely not Matt Flynn. Countless times he had to avoid two and even three pass rushers and he showed no problems in doing so and made everyone around him look better. Every Raider receiver and running back made a valuable play on Sunday, particularly Rod Streater who showed a golden connection with Pryor on rollouts that saw him wide open for first downs down the middle for five receptions and 70 yards. Denarius Moore also caught five passes for 40 yards and the goahead touchdown, dropping a few catches but ultimately showing that as their connection with Pryor grows so will their receiving numbers.
Positivity should surround Raider Nation after this game. Yes, Pryor’s two interceptions near the endzone cost Oakland in the end. But so did Tracy Porter’s poor coverage on Reggie Wayne, so did SeaBass’ missed field goal and a missed call on the Luck touchdown when D.J. Hayden was obviously held by the endzone as Luck skirted by. That is football, and Pryor earned the right to make a couple mistakes by making up for the mistakes of his offensive line for four quarters. The answer is clear on who Dennis Allen’s starter is for 2013 and it is Pryor.
Where the Raiders are headed will become clearer during the week, but it is now clear what most around the Raiders have known all preseason. That the Oakland Raiders are not even close to the worst team in football, and that they will be competitive in the majority of their football games this season. A night from Pryor where he was a impressive 19 of 29 for 217 yards and one TD, and broke the Raiders rushing record for a quarterback with 13 carries for 112 yards has expectations and spirits up in the Black Hole. The Autumn Wind is back, and it was calmer than anyone could have expected.