Terrelle Pryor could not quite get his underdog Raiders over the top in Indianapolis on Sunday, but he may have given Oakland cause for optimism anyway.
Pryor, looking less like the NFL QB who admitted this offseason to being a novice passer and more like the dynamic Ohio State superstar he once was, accounted for 329 total yards and had his Raiders within eight yards of a shocking road win. Unfortunately, Pryor made two of his worst plays in the closing seconds, helping Indianapolis clinch a 21-17 win.
But first, the good ...
Despite not officially being named the Raiders' starter over Matt Flynn until just before kickoff, Pryor added an extra dimension to Oakland's offense. Not only did he run for 112 yards, with the read-option featured on more than one occasion, he also kept several plays alive with his legs. His best effort may have come early in the fourth quarter, when he scrambled to his left, rolled all the way back across the field to his right, then delivered a strike to Rod Streater for 17 yards on 3rd-and-10.
Two plays later, Pryor stuck a pass in to Denarius Moore for a touchdown to put Oakland up, 17-14. The magic ran out after that sequence. Andrew Luck answered with an impressive drive of his own, capped by a 19-yard rushing touchdown.
After driving Oakland all the way back to Indianapolis' 8, Pryor took an ill-timed 16-yard-sack while trying to scramble. The Raiders' upset bid then ended when Pryor underthrew Streater by several yards -- on what may have been a miscommunication -- with Antoine Bethea intercepting the pass.
Still, for a team some mentioned as a possible winless-season candidate, Pryor's performance will be a jolt of life. Certainly, he was good enough to keep Matt Flynn glued to the bench for a Week 2 matchup with Jacksonville and beyond.
Though Pryor will have fewer detractors now, that group will still point to his miscues. On top of the sack and interception in the waning seconds, Pryor also fired a pick to end Oakland's first drive of the game.
Given Flynn's downside, though, Oakland will overlook those errors for now to focus on Pryor's positives. If nothing else, Pryor's athleticism proved extremely valuable behind the Raiders' banged-up line. He gave the Colts fits all afternoon, with their lone sack coming on that timely takedown during Pryor's last-gasp push.
Opposing defenses in the future may have more success corralling Pryor, especially with another game's worth of film available for study. It is also worth pointing out that Indianapolis finished 21st in total defense and 29th against the run last season, so there will be tougher tests as the year progresses. The Raiders may not want to live and die with moral victories this season. But Pryor at least offered them the potential for a building block in Week 1, even if he ultimately fell just shy of victory.