Originally written on Thoughts from the Dark Side  |  Last updated 11/5/14
The Raiders had an up and down game versus the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday which isn’t unexpected considering the Colts have a talented up and comer at QB in Andrew Luck and other key players on offense and defense and that it was an away game for the Raiders. Still, the Silver and Black squad was able to put together more fight than was expected of the 2013 squad, bringing the Colts to the end of the game when a Terrelle Pryor interception with 30 seconds remaining clinched the victory for Indianapolis. The Good: Terrelle Pryor had his own ups and downs but he was the main reason the Raiders were able to hang in the game. He set a franchise rushing record for a QB with 112 yards on the ground and he added another 217 yards and a TD through the air. Aside from two interceptions, Pryor was at his best when he needed to be – on 3rd down. He consistently scrambled for the marker or was able to use his feet to extend the play and buy his receivers time to get open downfield. The two interceptions were costly and both occurred on passes to the end zone. If the Raiders had been able to come away with points on those possessions, the outcome of the game might have been different. It’s hard to quibble about his missteps, however, when the Raiders wouldn’t have been in the position they were in without Pryor’s legs. While the NFL’s week is not yet done, he went into Monday night, at least, as the top rusher in the NFL for week 1.   Greg Olson’s play calls were winners in my book, too. Olson did a good job of mixing in a number of read-option plays as a base package for Pryor but he didn’t keep Pryor in that package consistently and frequently turned away from the read-option to instead allow Pryor to drop back and pass. Olson wasn’t afraid to mix up his personnel a bit and call some gutsy passes. He called a long pass to blocking tight end Jeron Mastrud, who was wide open at the time. He made good use of pre-snap adjustments to confuse the defense. The offense looked light years ahead of last years’ although execution always makes play calling look better and the Raiders were executing this year better than last years’ offense as well. Still, the improvement in the offense was undeniable and the variation in formations and play calls helped keep the Colts defense on its’ heels much of the game.   The Bad: The run defense did better than the sieve that the Raiders fielded last season as they gave up no big runs – something that fans were only to used to seeing in 2012. Big runs aside, the team didn’t do well enough to stop a sub-par Colts rush, allowing Vick Ballard, a still-healing Ahmad Bradshaw and Luck, himself, to average almost 5 yards per carry. The Raiders had good gap discipline at the second level, not allowing many longer carries, but need to win more battles at the line of scrimmage so that the RB isn’t already 3 yards deep before he’s hit.   The pass defense was potentially even worse, although they redeemed themselves a bit. At the half, Andrew Luck had missed only one pass and had already thrown for 2 TDs. The Raiders had barely been able to rush the passer at that point. Something clicked a bit more at the half and the Raiders suddenly were able to create more pressure. The secondary did some good work, as well, allowing some time for the DL to get to Luck for sacks or making him throw the ball away due to solid coverage. One of the most impressive plays of the game was on a 4th down conversion attempt by the Colts when they tried to fake a handoff and had Luck bootleg out. The Raiders defense correctly read that there were players going out on routes and had both players covered and Luck was sacked on the play for a loss of downs. This turnaround would have been enough to keep the Raiders pass defense off the Bad section except that when they had to have a stop, they weren’t able to. Once the Raiders scored the go-ahead points and the defense had to keep Luck out of the end zone, they were unable to put a stop together and allowed Luck and company to come down the field. The final Colts points were on a passing down in which no one had contain on the quarterback and Luck – who is not known for his speed – ran 20 yards for a TD, almost untouched. That was a huge breakdown by the Raiders and a big-time need to be fixed.   The Ugly: Darren McFadden and the Offensive Line share the ugly spot for the week. The Raiders were supposed to come out running this year (and running well) after scrapping Greg Knapp and his zone blocking scheme transitioning back to man blocking. Instead the Raiders feature back ran for only 2.8 yards per carry against a Colts defense that was being torn apart by Terrelle Pryor and wasn’t focusing on McFadden. McFadden, in a contract year, lacked any hint of explosiveness and looked indecisive as a runner. I can’t help but feel that he’s lost a step due to all of his prior injuries or, perhaps, age has simply caught up to him. Whatever the reason, he doesn’t look like the runner he did coming out of college. The offensive line has been dealing with a massive amount of injuries, true, but with the amount of damage Terrelle Pryor was doing to the Colts defense, they should have been able to spring some large holes in the middle as the Colts were having to focus their defensive ends on containing Pryor on the edges. The line did not appear to be up to the task and failed to open much of anything against a Colts front 7 that isn’t known for being elite run stoppers.
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