Pryor excels, but there is no QB controversy


Pryor excels, but there is no QB controversy

OAKLAND -- The knee-jerk reaction will be to proclaim Terrelle Pryor as the Truth. The multi-faceted threat under center. The guy who should, gulp, start at quarterback for the Raiders in their season opener.

And if all you saw was a stat sheet after the Raiders' 31-20 defeat of Detroit in both team's third exhibition game on Saturday, it might be understandable. Except

There is no quarterback controversy in Silver and Blackdom. None. Not even after Pryor excelled and excited -- finally -- and starter Carson Palmer had another somewhat uneven day that looked uglier on said stat sheet.

Consider: Palmer was 17-of-26 passing for 181 yards and two interceptions for a 53.5 passer rating while Pryor was three-of-five for 137 yards and two TDs's and a 143.8 rating. Pryor also ran the ball five times for 90 yards, while Palmer was stopped for no gain inside the 5-yard line and was sacked once.

Now, I'm not saying Pryor's stats were fool's gold. Far from it. What he accomplished was indeed impressive, and his 59-yard run down the right side in the third quarter was breathtaking. But you must keep in mind what Pryor did, he did against backups and guys who will not be on NFL rosters in another week, while Palmer was running against one of the most fearsome front lines in the league, and moving the ball well. Even without two of his top receiving targets in Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford and the projected starting center in Stefen Wisniewski.

If nothing else, this should convince the Raiders' coaching staff it needs to incorporate a specific package for Pryor, to utilize his special talents in certain situations. Maybe even when the Raiders' offense stalls inside the red zone, as it has under Palmer.

"He's still a work in progress," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said of Pryor. "But I thought he made some strides today. He's not where we need him to be. He's not where he wants to be. But he made some progress."

And with a talent as raw as Pryor is, that's all you can really ask for in the preseason. Especially since backup quarterback Matt Leinart sat this one out with his injured right index finger.

"I felt real comfortable because when I was with the (third-team offense), I would get like 10 plays in practice," Pryor said. "That's not really enough for me that I can really get the feel for it. They say that you win games in practice, and I wasn't winning in practice with 10 plays. It's impossible.

"I'm not really getting the feel for the exact plays that I'm going to be running, whereas this week (practicing with the second-team offense) I did. It was good to get a few extra reps behind Carson. It was great."

Even if his first touchdown pass, the 39-yard toss to Juron Criner, was not. The ball was slightly underthrown but on target and Criner showed off his leaping and ability to adjust in the air to haul in the pass.

Pryor's second TD was a 76-yard catch and run by Criner, who shook off the defensive back trying to tackle him.

But hey, playmakers make plays, right? Palmer's two picks came on a misguided middle screen attempt to Taiwan Jones and on a pass to Eddie McGee that bounded off his hands.

Pryor was also intercepted, on an ill-advised pass into blanket coverage. Though it was nullified by penalty.

"I hate losing so much," Pryor said, "people won't play video games against me because I will throw the controller and break it, and then I have to buy another one. I'm fiery. Losing drives me crazy. I won't shake the other team's hand if they win. I don't want to look at them. I just hate failing."

Got it? Remember, this is the same guy who said he played like "dog crap" against Dallas in the exhibition opener. Beyond that, it's been a rough month for Pryor. His mentor, his father and even his dog -- "my best friend," he said -- have all died since just before training camp opened.

So yeah, Pryor feeling at home at having major success on a football field was a big accomplishment for him.

Just don't get it twisted. Take it for what it's worth and put it in your back pocket.

"I'm just so happy for him," Palmer said. "He works so hard and puts so much time in. To have the big plays that he made with his feet and the big throws that he made and the guys step up for him like Juron did, guys have so much confidence in him and I'm just happy for him. Proud of him."

As he should be. Just, don't get carried away. Yet.

Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots


Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots

MEXICO CITY – Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City:

1. So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders aren’t stacking wins as they’d like. Nobody in the AFC West is, either. The Chiefs lost another one, meaning the AFC West crown remains within reach. They’re two games back in the division and one back in the wild card race.

That, above all else, will keep the Raiders motivated after a disastrous loss to New England.

“We're professionals and to me, so long as you have hope, you keep your hope, you keep hope alive,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So, we'll continue to scratch and claw and fight for everything we can.”

The Raiders can harken Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb and Dumber.” So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders will only stay in it if they start a prolonged winning streak. There’s a chance do that on an upcoming two-game home stand. They play Denver and the New York Giants, respectively, in Oakland over the next fortnight. Those teams have five wins between them.

Wins can’t be assumed with the Raiders. With their inconsistency and mistake-prone play, they can lose to anyone.

Fight remains in this group. They’ll continue to push, especially with a 9-7 record being a legitimate playoff contender. They haven’t played worthy of such consideration, but remain hopeful a switch gets flipped.

“We are who we are, we're not going to turn on each other, we're not going to turn on anything about what we do,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Obviously, we know that our culture and everything that we do works, because we have seen it work.”

2. Receiver corps becoming a weak spot

The Raiders have a talented group of receivers lacking consistency and production. That was the case on Sunday, when pass catchers hindered offensive flow and scoring opportunities.

Seth Roberts was the biggest offender. He had a drop, a false start and lost a fumble near the goal line with the Patriots up 14-0 late in the first half. Roberts had 12 yards in his pocket but held the ball one-handed, away from his body fighting for more. Marquis Flowers knocked it free and Patrick Chung recovered.

That was the turning point, a true 10-point swing. The Raiders lost a chance to reach the end zone, and allowed New England to get a field goal as the half expired.

“That was a major turn of events,” Del Rio said.

The slot receiver wasn’t the only receiver who stalled the Raiders offense. That group had five drops, according to Pro Football Focus, including two from Michael Crabtree. Johnny Holton wasn’t credited with a drop, but he had a perfectly thrown deep ball clang off his helmet and shoulder pads.

It’s a bad night in a bad year for the Raiders receivers, who haven’t been producing.

3. Lopsided score keeps Marshawn from going Beast Mode

Running back Marshawn Lynch was the only player who had a good Sunday. The bruising back ran roughshod over New England’s front seven, right from the start. He totaled 67 yards on 11 carries, and seemed primed for a big day and a higher-than-usual carry volume.

He and the Raiders run blocking was consistent, allowing him to reach the second level on several occasions.

The lopsided score, however, meant the Raiders had to abandon the ground game.

“I thought we ran the ball well early,” Del Rio said. “I would like to have ended up with 30-plus rush attempts in the ball game, but you got to stay within reasonable amount of the score in order to stick with the run.”

The Raiders were down two touchdowns in a flash, and were three scores behind at the half. That forced Derek Carr to chuck it towards an unreliable receiver corps. That method proved inefficient and never created the big moments.

Lynch has run well since returning from a one-game suspension. He has 25 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. If there’s a positive to take from Sunday’s beat down, Lynch’s efficiency might be it.

Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad


Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders have played in Mexico City the last two years, and have given up a home game to do it.

You already know head coach Jack Del Rio’s stance on the matter. He doesn’t like it. Not one bit.

The NFL announced Sunday morning that Mexico City will host games annually through 2021. The Raiders will be on the short list to return during that span.

“They’ve done a nice job for us over the last two years,” Del Rio said. “If it was a road game, I’d enjoy it. If they stop making (international contests) our home games, we’ll be fine.”

Hate to be the bearer of bad news Jack, but the Raiders will keep giving home games away. That’s expected each year until the Raiders formally move to Las Vegas.

The Raiders might not come back to Mexico for a third straight season, but could host a game in London next year. The NFL sent four games to the United Kingdom this year.

The Raiders have a massive fan base in England and Mexico, which makes them an attractive option to play abroad.

It might make financial sense for the team and the league to expand its base beyond borders, but the football people don’t find it fun.

The Raiders had more fans watching Sunday’s 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca, but it’s no substitute for playing in Oakland.

“I think the crowd down here is pretty excited for the Raiders, so we appreciate that,” Del Rio said. “When you travel four-and-a-half hours, you’re not at home. We appreciate the hospitality and the good people who came out and supported us, but it’s hard to call it a home game.”

This one, especially. The Raiders had overwhelming support last year’s game against Houston, but Patriots fans were a large and vocal minority. They had plenty to cheer, as the Patriots waxed the Silver and Black over four quarters.

It’s hard to say the Raiders had a home crowd this time around, with plenty of noise when they were on offense.

“You know what, traveling down here, I think it was like four hours or something like that, and getting here, I think that hospitality was great, but it really wasn't, it wasn't the Coliseum,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “It didn’t have that feel. Now, we loved playing here, we loved coming down here and playing, but it felt more neutral.”