Sunday night’s game could be considered the best performance of the season for a team undergoing growing pains in recent weeks. The most crucial thing that can be taken away from the Oakland Raiders’ Sunday night 27-17 clutch win against the San Diego Chargers is the team is getting better. Their improvement is showing with each week and they’re beginning to form an identity on offense and defense.
The offense received an energy boost with the return of starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor who continued to show glimpses of talent with his ability to escape pass rushes and extend plays with his athletic ability. There was no slump in Pryor’s performance despite returning from a concussion injury and circulating perceptions of free agent quarterback Josh Freeman signing with the Raiders. Despite these distractions, Pryor returned with a bang putting up great numbers by throwing 18/23 for 221 yards and rushing 31 yards on the game.
Pryor’s play this week will quickly make Raiders fans forget about Freeman and provide faith that he is their quarterback for the present and future. Pryor lead with poise and guided an offense that was struggling in recent weeks to a strong start in outscoring the Chargers 14-0 in the first half. Even when the offense was facing a late surge from the Chargers in the fourth quarter, Pryor was able to march the offense down the field and put the team in position to get the points they needed to keep their lead in distance.
Pryor proved in this game that he can shoulder the load of being the face of the offense, especially with the Raiders missing starting running back Darren McFadden who sat out the game with a hamstring injury. He was able to put the team on his back and a had huge boost from the defense who played overall very well.
The defense was all over the field by making things difficult for the Chargers’ offense by picking off Philip Rivers three times and forcing two fumbles, which were recovered by the Raiders. The defense truly stepped up in this game and is starting to form a stubbornness attitude that was evident when they stopped the Chargers on 4th and inches on the goal line in the second quarter. This moment in the action was a game-changer because it swayed the momentum to the Raiders and gave the defense confidence that they could stop the Chargers anytime they wanted.
The defense’s improvement can heavily be recognized by the play of Kevin Burnett and Nick Roach who combined for a monster game in racking up 24 tackles and one sack. Even veteran Charles Woodson showed that he still has some gas in the tank with recording 4 tackles and scooping up a crucial fumble that he returned back for six, which tied Woodson for the NFL’s record for most defensive touchdowns.
This type of play for the Raiders was a good gauge to show where the Raiders are headed as the midpoint of the season is on the horizon. They’re (2-3) and currently third place in a very competitive AFC West division that will most likely see two playoff teams emerge. However, it’s still left to be seen if the Raiders can take the next step in being one these two teams and return to the post season after a 11 year absence.
If the team can continue to make strives and pull out divisional wins there is still hope for a wild card birth. Next week’s game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs should be a true test for the Raiders as they’ll need to beat their long time rival in order to keep pace in the division and continue to fight for their playoff hopes.