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Ran into the ghost of Al Davis after Sunday’s game, lurking in a hallway in the bowels of the Indianpolis Colts’ massive stadium.
I asked Davis if he was glad to see his Oakland Raiders back on a positive track, as shown in their 21-17 loss to the Colts, a game the super-underdog Raiders almost pulled out of a 14-0 fire. Although I didn’t mention “fire,” because who knows where Davis has been.
‘’Heck with you,” Davis said, but used much earthier language. “You know me better than that. Just win, baby.”
We chatted, then I turned to walk away.
‘’Hey,” Davis called with a derisive snarl, and the man’s timing was always good. “Whattta you think of my guy now?”
Al Davis’ guy was/is Terrelle Pryor, the wasted supplemental draft pick from Ohio State, the misfit nonquarterback who had the football world snorting about old Al getting fooled again, making another draft blunder.
On Sunday, Al’s final pick, the man two or three of Al’s head coaches truly believed would not be an NFL quarterback, opened some eyes.
Pryor wasn’t flawless. Making his second start — his first was in a meaningless game in last season’s finale — Pryor threw two killer interceptions, but he also dazzled.
He completed 19 of 29 passes for 217 yards. On a combo plate of called running plays and desperation jailbreaks, he ran for 112 yards, a Raiders quarterback record (Rich Gannon, 85 yards, against the 49ers in 2000).
A lot of us made sport of head coach Dennis Allen’s attempt to gain a “competitive advantage” by not naming his starting QB until game time. It seemed like a silly tactic, but as we’ve learned from Jim Harbaugh, there’s a fine line between silliness and genius.
Pryor was ready, and he was impressive.
‘’I tell you, Terrelle Pryor is a stud,” Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck said. “He made some unbelievable plays.”
And Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore’s impression? “I think he stepped up and put the team on his back. He carried us the whole game.”
The “Wow!” moment came in the fourth quarter, the Raiders trailing 14-10 with 3rd-and-10 on the Colts’ 19. Pryor dropped back, found nobody open, and started moving and/or grooving. By my unofficial stopwatch, he bobbed and weaved for 13 seconds, snap to whistle, finding Rod Streater with a 17-yard bullet.
Moore said the receivers work harder with Pryor because some of the plays go on and on and on.
‘’With Terrelle Pryor, a play that normally lasts three to five seconds, with him it could last 10 seconds, because he can use his legs, scramble, then we run back and forth trying to get open,” Moore said.
It’s the difference between a Sunday drive and a roller-coaster ride. And considering the Raiders’ questionable offensive line, Pryor clearly makes the Raiders much more dangerous than they would be with a conventional quarterback.
‘’He provides a spark,” Allen said.
Pryor was creative and gutsy, without being out of control or going all schoolyard. He showed the attribute that an Oakland quartback will need: coolness.
Allen and his players kept their enthusiasm in check after the game, but underneath the we-let-a-great-opportunity-slip-away frowns there was an undercurrent of giddiness. You can’t perform like that and not feel confidence that your team just might be competitive.