In Pryor, Raiders have hope – finally

Published: Monday, Sep. 9, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4C
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 9, 2013 - 6:36 am

INDIANAPOLIS – Running superbly, throwing better than he ever has and giving the Raiders a lead in the fourth quarter, Terrelle Pryor exasperated a strong opponent, quieted a raucous dome and gained national respect Sunday.

Yet Pryor's most significant accomplishment was delivering hope.

Even in defeat, his performance brought a sliver of hope to a demoralized fan base, a coach whose job is at stake and a franchise that has spent the past decade mocking itself.

Oakland's 21-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium was unremarkable aside from the visual evidence of Pryor's growth as a quarterback. He was a desperate option last season, and uncertainty about his future prompted general manager Reggie McKenzie to draft one quarterback and sign another through free agency.

Now, suddenly, Pryor, in his third season, looks like the only quarterback on the roster with a chance to lift the Raiders from the Era of Embarrassment.

It's one game, so there is plenty of time for opponents to study Pryor and seek ways to disrupt his game.

But in the pressurized predicament of making his second career start, in the season opener, on the road, in a dome, against a 2012 playoff team, Pryor exceeded reasonable expectations. His Raiders outgained Andrew Luck's Colts 372-274.

It was largely because of Pryor's arm and feet and, yes, decision making, that the outcome was in doubt until the final seconds, to the shock of 65,412 in attendance. Pryor's 5-yard dart to Denarius Moore with 11:09 left gave Oakland a 17-14 lead that crumbled when Indy responded by marching 80 yards for the winning touchdown.

Though Pryor's passing stats were decent – 19 of 29, 217 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions – his rushing stats (13 carries, a Raiders quarterback record 112 yards) were impressive, and his surprisingly proficient presence was encouraging.

Pryor's glaring mistakes were one late sack and two interceptions, one in the first quarter when he threw late to Rod Streater in the end zone and the other in the final minute.

Pryor's self-evaluation was harsh, dismissing the way he twisted the Indy defense into knots with his scrambling, ignoring his 66 percent completion rate and – as highly competitive folks tend to do – zeroing in on his contributions to defeat.

"I did awful," he said. "Two interceptions … could have won the game … had them on the ropes down there. That number on the win column is all that matters to me."

What has to matter to the Raiders, though, is the sight of progress.

In a season when they've been casually dismissed as short on talent and without an NFL-caliber quarterback, Pryor's showing gained them a measure of respect.

Respect in the NFL equals hope, and that was hardly visible before Sunday.

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