ALAMEDA, Calif. -- When breaking down 10 Plays That Defined The Oakland Raiders’ Season, I decided to go in a chronological order, rather than try to assign a certain importance on said plays. But Play No. 4, which occurred in Week 3, definitely set the tone for the remainder of the season as far as the Raiders’ QB shuffle later in the year.
Sept. 23, at Denver, Terrelle Pryor suffers a concussion late in a blowout trying to run the ball in for a touchdown.
Let’s just say that not everyone in the Raiders’ front office was especially thrilled with how coach Dennis Allen managed things on the brightest regular season stage there is: "Monday Night Football."
First, after winning the coin toss, Allen elected to receive the kickoff, rather than defer, and put the relatively untested Pryor under center to start the game, against a rabid defense and a frothing fan base and, as I already mentioned, under the bright lights of "Monday Night Football."
Then, with only five seconds remaining in the first half and the Raiders at the 50-yard line, Allen did not give the strongest leg and highest-paid kicker in the game a shot at a record 68-yard field goal in a game the Raiders were already trailing 27-7.
And perhaps most damning, not only was Pryor still in the game with the score 37-14 midway through the fourth quarter and taking hits galore, his number was called to try and run the ball in from the Broncos’ 6-yard line on 2nd-and-goal. But he was met by Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard and blasted on a helmet-to-helmet hit (legal because Pryor was outside the tackle box). Pryor went limp and the ball came loose, but he was ruled down, and Pryor stunningly was kept in the game to run two more plays, both of which were unsuccessful at getting in the end zone.
Pryor was ruled to have suffered a concussion on the play and was not on teh field the remainder of the game and the Raiders came under fire for how they handed the quarterback in the immediate aftermath of the Woodyard hit. The Raiders eventually fell to the Broncos, 37-21, and Allen took no chances with the NFL’s concussion protocol the following week.
The official story was that while Pryor had cleared the league’s test to be eligible to play, Allen did not like what he saw so he made him inactive against Washington…after Pryor requested the use of a tinted visor on his helmet (sensitivity to light is a side effect of a concussion).
In fact, Pryor was on the sidelines the next week rocking dark sunglasses and watching Matt Flynn, who had initially been acquired to be the franchise quarterback. But Flynn was so bad in a 24-14 loss to Washington that his time in Oakland was short. He was released a week and a day later.
How different, then, would the Raiders’ season have looked much later, when Pryor injured a knee and lost his job for a while to undrafted rookie Matt McGloin, if Flynn had not been pressed into action so soon and was still the primary backup, when the offensive line coalesced, so to speak?
Check back Tuesday for Play No. 5.