The Raiders lost their season opener to the Colts in Indianapolis Sunday, but may have found hope for their future.
Though second-year quarterback Andrew Luck led the Colts back from a fourth-quarter deficit for a 21-17 victory over the Raiders, Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor was mostly brilliant and the silver-and-black defense played much better than expected.
Pryor completed 19-of-29 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown (with two interceptions, both in the red zone) and also ran for 112 yards – a Raiders record for a quarterback – in his debut as the team’s No. 1 quarterback.
It was just his second start in the NFL, having started the final game of 2012. But this time, Pryor earned the gig with a much superior training camp over Matt Flynn, who was acquired in the offseason.
According to ESPN Stats, Pryor is just the third quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lose a game in which he threw for 200 or more yards and ran for 100 or more.
The Colts jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but the Raiders came back with 17 straight points. First, Darren McFadden scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter, then Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 38-yard field goal in the third to cut the deficit to 14-10.
Pryor -- who operated sometimes out of the pistol formation -- then led the Raiders to a 17-10 lead on a 5-yard pass to Denarius Moore on a slant with 11:12 remaining in the game. Earlier in the drive, Pryor had connected to McFadden on a 30-yard pass that initially was ruled a TD, but it then reversed because McFadden didn’t get his second foot down in the end zone before going out of bounds. Also, the Raiders took what looked like a costly delay-of-game when they failed to get a play off before the play clock expired.
The Colts answered, however, with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Luck scrambling up the middle of the Oakland defense for 19 yards and the winning score with 5:49 remaining.
Oakland still had a chance, and marched from its own 20 to the Indianapolis 24 before Pryor was intercepted by Antoine Bethea with 31 seconds remaining in the game.
Though the outcome was disappointing, the Raiders showed that with Pryor – whose running ability kept plays alive – they may be a dangerous offense for defenses to stop this season.
Pryor often appeared to take off too soon after his primary receiver was covered. But on other plays he took his time in the pocket and delivered accurate passes.
In addition, the near-win over a playoff team from 2012 featured a defense -- with only two starters back from last season -- that sacked Luck four times and held the Colts to 274 net yards. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver consistently used a more aggressive scheme, often blitzing defensive backs, to get to to Luck.
Next up for the Raiders is their home opener next Sunday against Jacksonville, which lost 28-2 to Kansas City in its opener.
At least now, Raiders fans can have some optimism. With Pryor, the team can make plays.
“You know that Pryor is going to make mistakes,” tweeted the Chronicle’s Ann Killion. “But it’s also clear that he’s going to do some really good things.”