ALAMEDA — Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen doesn’t need to play any games about who his starting quarterback will be this week.
Terrelle Pryor answered those questions in the season opener with his game-breaking running ability and vastly improved passing that almost helped Oakland pull off a shocker before losing 21-17 at Indianapolis.
After refusing to announce his starter last week for “competitive” reasons, Allen is all in with the dual-threat quarterback heading into Sunday’s home opener against Jacksonville. Pryor spent most of training camp working with the backups while Matt Flynn ran with the first team.
“Pryor is going to start for us,” Allen said Monday.
For good reason.
Pryor completed 19 of 29 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown and set a Raiders franchise record for rushing by a quarterback with 112 yards on 13 carries. Pryor became the eighth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw for at least 200 yards and run for at least 100 in a single game.
“That’s the element that he brings to the game,” Allen said. “So, that’s always going to be there, his ability to create, his ability to make things happen with his feet. The thing that we judge on the practice field is his ability to make good decisions, his ability to throw the ball on time, with accuracy. Those are things that we want to see that he continues to improve because that’s what’s going to make him a really good quarterback, is if he continues to improve in those areas.”
There are areas in the passing game that Pryor needs to work on still and he is quick to acknowledge them. Despite the gaudy numbers he put up, Pryor took the blame for the loss because of two interceptions and a bad sack he took in the final two minutes after he drove Oakland to the 8 on the potential game-winning drive.
That last-ditch chance ended on an interception on third-and-goal from the 24.
“This one’s on me,” he said. “Everybody else did a great job. The receivers did a great job catching the ball when they had a chance. There’s no one really to point fingers at but me, literally, this time. I’ll take the blame and get better. We’ll be better.”
Pryor was awfully good with his feet even if he still has some work to do with his arm. He is the leading rusher in the league heading into Monday night’s action.
“I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing,” Pryor said.
He did it scrambling when a pass play broke down, gaining 50 yards on six carries, according to Pro Football Focus. He also did it on designed runs out of the read-option.
All that running wore out a Colts defense that was visibly gassed in the closing minutes.
“It’s definitely an advantage when you got a quarterback that’s going to make people run around for a long time,” Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski said. “It keeps people on their toes, too, because they’re not really sure what’s going to happen. It definitely puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Pryor also negated the blitz by completing 8 of 10 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown when the Colts brought extra rushers, often after he scrambled to create more time.
Pryor’s biggest struggles came on deep passes. He completed just 1 of 7 throws more than 20 yards downfield, including a fluttering interception aimed at Rod Streater that killed a promising opening drive for Oakland.
“It’s a process when you’re trying to get better at something,” Pryor said. “I feel like I got better at throwing the ball and that I can take a team downfield with my arm.”
NOTES: The Raiders came out of the game healthy, with the most notable injury being a sore shoulder for S Tyvon Branch that is not expected to keep him out of practice. ... Allen said he did not believe there was any issue on the hold by Marquette King on a missed 48-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. ... Allen said he did not know whether LT Menelik Watson (knee) or TE David Ausberry (shoulder) would be back at practice Wednesday.