Terrelle Pryor started off Sunday afternoon with a bang with a 93 yard touchdown run, the longest in league history for a quarterback and the longest touchdown run in Oakland Raiders history. It would spark a first quarter in which the Raiders went up 14-0 in the first quarter and finished up 21-3 at halftime.
Unfortunately for Raiders fans the second half would be a much different story for Oakland, continuing a concerning recurring theme in 2013 as after halftime Greg Olson’s offense can’t get rolling.
Up 18 points Olson went conservative in the second half, opting to pound the rock with Darren McFadden who had two touchdown plunges in the first half. After some success in the first half the Raiders could not run the ball up the middle of the Steelers defense which looked much better after Dick LeBeau’s halftime adjustments.
Jacoby Ford’s fumble sparked the Steelers comeback as his fumble deep in Raiders territory allowed an early fourth quarter touchdown to make it 21-10 and started what was a nail biting fourth at the Coliseum.
The defense continued to answer the bell despite the sputtering offense, with Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter both forcing Ben Rothlisberger into mistakes leading to turnovers that in addition to two field goal misses from Shaun Suisham cost Pittsburgh a game that the Raiders gave them every chance to win despite leading 18 points going into the fourth. Similar to the San Diego game, the Raiders lack of offense simply just gave the Steelers too many drives for them to not get back into the game.
Pittsburgh would get as close to a field goal, a Le’Veon Bell touchdown with 90 seconds left and a two point convert on a pitch to their wide receiver cut it within three after a goal line interception was called back due to questionable defensive holding on the play.
In the end the Steelers would run out of time and timeouts and the Raiders would secure a crucial third victory to move one game within .500 at the start of a long stretch of winnable games. If they are to continue their winning streak into games against the Eagles, Giants, Texans, and Titans in the coming month they will need to find a way to conquer their second half demons. A team that has been electrifying in first halves in 2013 and boasts a defense that is sneakily becoming one of the best in the league has the potential to create a buzz in Oakland, but it won’t happen if they can’t get things going on offense fast.
Big Plays Save Raiders
For all of the Raiders shortcomings on Sunday, you still can’t forget that Pryor’s electrifying 93 yard run that started off a 21-3 first half that was defined by big plays.
Rashad Jennings would block a punt later to give the Raiders timely field goal position, and five sacks and two interceptions would keep the Steelers off the board just enough to keep them in front when the final whistle sounded despite being outplayed for the entire second half in which they were shutout 15-0.
Pryor’s run would account for 93 yards off the Raiders 279 total yards after the first play of the game and although their lack of offense throughout the game on Sunday is serious cause for concern, the Raiders will win games frequently if they can find just enough plays to get the points needed for their defense to finish out games. Something a familiar foe in Kansas City has trademarked this season.
Leading up to Sunday, Raiders coaches had nothing but praise for Jacoby Ford, that praise will be likely taken back during team meetings this week.
Ford’s costly fumble at the start of the fourth quarter let the Steelers back into the game with a touchdown to make it 21-10 and it wasn’t the first time Ford fumbled the football on Sunday. A muffed punt would have led to a turnover earlier in the game if the Steelers gunner did not put a fingertip on the ball before it touched Ford.
With Taiwan Jones being experimented as a potential kick returner at times on Sunday it is clear that Ford’s talents have again been put into question, already injury prone Ford has now shown that he can be prone to turnovers as well. That is not a good combination for a player that is decent to slightly good on most Sundays. Ford needs to protect the football better if he is to stay as a fixture on the Raider roster.
Sio Moore shines
Sio Moore had a breakout game on Sunday, getting more (bad pun intended) involved with the pass rush and showing some fire with Martez Wilson being brought into the fold via a waiver wire claim and threatening the rookie’s number of snaps.
The third-round pick sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice in the first half and was routinely in the backfield on passing downs. All in all he had four sacks and two tackles.
Moore has been very passionate since being brought into the Raiders organization and his potential has been widely talked about. A breakout game was coming from Moore, but after injuries held him back people were wonder when that game was coming. It turned out that all that was needed was a bye week to get the UConn product going.
Post-Bye Week Losing Streak Ends at Perfect Time
The Raiders ended their post-bye week losing streak after a decade on Sunday, and it now sets up a very interesting portion of the 2013 schedule, one that will define their season.
Games against sub-.500 Philadelphia, New York, Houston, and Tennessee are next before a Thanksgiving date with the Cowboys. ll four of those games are winnable, which means that the Raiders have a huge chance to be hovering around the playoff race come winter time. They have their challenges (see all of the second half critiques) and it is still a long shot, but at 3-4 the Raiders are still a dog in the NFL Playoffs fight. That is all that anyone could have asked out of Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie and they have done that and more. The Raiders are a competitive football team and are doing so with around $60 million in dead money as part of a rebuild, things are right on schedule. With some improvements along the way the future can come as early as this season. First, they will have to learn how to play four quarters on offense as well as on defense.