The way that Pryor started the game with a spectacular NFL QB and Raiders record 93 yard touchdown run, it feels kind of strange to be making an argument that Pryor missed his chance at a signature moment. However the 4th quarter of big games is when you need your ‘star quarterback’ to step up and make some plays to shut the door on a team like the Steelers and Pryor was unable to get anything going at all.
The touchdown run to start the game was absolutely spectacular and showed everything about why Raider fans are so excited to have number 2 under center. For the second week in a row however Pryor looked fantastic in the first half only to struggle in the second.
Against the Chiefs Pryor had an excellent first half and while he was not completely at fault for the offensive regression in the second half he absolutely contributed to it with his own poor execution. This week again Pryor had a great first half leading three touchdown drives and earning a 21-3 lead with the help of a dominant defense and a good half running the football by Darren McFadden.
After half time the offense almost looked like a different team completely. Obviously with a 21-3 lead a more prudent and safer game plan was instituted which makes perfect sense especially with a young QB. But as you would expect from Dick Lebeau the Steelers made some quality halftime defensive adjustments and there was basically no room for McFadden to run which is the number one reason for the stagnant offense but to go along with that the Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olsen called a number of short pass timing routes which for two weeks in a row Pryor has been unable to execute.
Pryor is at his best when the Raiders are in full attack mode running around in an open offense making throws 15-20 yards down the field, bouncing off defenders which is why in the first half of games or when the Raiders offense is chasing down a lead Pryor is dynamic when the Raiders coaching staff has its foot on the gas. The last two games though when Pryor has been asked to make more short timing throws to eat up clock and slow everything down to protect a lead our offense has fallen in a heap.
A lot of this can be blamed on the offensive line, to slow down the game and play possession football you MUST run the ball and while Wisniewski came back and the Raiders had more success than they have in the second half the O-line was opening up no holes whatsoever.
If the Raiders coaching staff want to be able to grind out games like Hue Jackson used to do with Michael Bush the interior line MUST get better at executing as well. But as I said in the opener the 4th quarter is when great QB’s take over and Pryor had a few opportunities to do so thanks to some great defense and was unable to slam the door on the Steelers as you would expect a great QB to do.
Don’t get me wrong I still feel like Pryor had a good game and he got the win which is the number one thing in the NFL. The Raiders are back in striking range for .500 against a maligned Eagles team next week and a defense playing as good as any in the league. But the last two games have exposed important areas in which Pryor must improve in order to ensure his future as the Raiders QB mainly his ability to be a ‘game manager’ when required later in games with leads.
Nobody is denying Pryor’s ability to be a game breaker and that was on full display against the Steelers in the first half. But playing QB especially when you get to the playoffs you must be able to manage the game hold the football and take what the defense gives you and this is an area Pryor needs great improvement.
A big touchdown drive in the fourth quarter this week would have been huge for Pryor and would have been his moment to come through in the clutch and really send a message to the league, unfortunately he was unable to. But it is all part of the process. Pryor needs to start developing that killer instinct to be able to find a way to put teams away in the fourth quarter because that is what elite and super bowl caliber quarterbacks do.
He will get his chance in the 4th to have that special moment drive again and this experience he is getting now will come to the fore.