The Oakland Raiders saved their best performance of the preseason by defeating the Detroit Lions 31-20 on Saturday night. With the third preseason game the dress rehearsal for the season, the Raiders put together their best effort. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was the most impressive player on the field. After two shaky games this preseason, Pryor finally got his confidence and dazzled.
“I'm just so happy for him; he works so hard and puts so much time in,” quarterback Carson Palmer said of Pryor. “To have the big plays that he made with his feet and the big throws that he made and the guys step up for him like Juron did; guys have so much confidence in him and I'm just happy for him. Proud of him.”
Pryor replaced starting quarterback Carson Palmer in the third quarter because back-up Matt Leinart was out with a finger injury. In less than two quarters, Pryor was 3-5 for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed five time for 90 yards and a score. On his second offensive series, Pryor showed off his athleticism, strength, and speed. On third and six, the Lions brought a blitz. Pryor recognized the pressure, scrambled to the outside and broke up field. As he turned the corner, the second year man out of Ohio State turned on the jets, burning for 59 yards deep into Lions territory. Two plays late, Pryor eluded a linebacker's sack attempt, broke out of the pocket and ran 17 yards to the corner of the pile-on for a touchdown.
While Pryor's running skills were on display his first scoring drive, he showed his arm strength and accuracy in the fourth quarter. With Pryor exuding confidence from his first scoring drive, the quarterback came right back and led another for the Raiders. This time Pryor went deep down the sideline to rookie Juror Criner, who made a great adjustment, leaping over the defender to make the 40 yard touchdown catch. That would not be the last time the two would connect. Later in the fourth off the play fake, Pryor rolled right and lofted a pass to Criner who was streaking across the field. Criner just got his fingertips on the ball, but secured it, kept his balance and ran into the endzone for a 76 yard touchdown. Pryor led the Raiders on touchdown drives in three of the six series he played.
“He put the right amount of touch on it and I just barely got to it,” Criner said of the fingertip catch.
With Pryor and Criner stealing most of the attention with their terrific efforts, other Raiders showed their ability and some under preformed. On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders continue to improve and impress. The running defense has been solid throughout the preseason and was against Detroit. The Raiders held the Lions to 65 rushing yards and just one rushing first down. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford left the game in the second quarter with a hand injury, but the Raiders held him in check until then. Linebacker Philip Wheeler plays will aggression and has a nose for the football. Rookie Miles Burris stood out with some big hits on ball carriers.
The biggest test the Lions would provide the Raiders was in the passing game. Last season the Lions were in the top five in the NFL in scoring and passing yards per game. Cornerback Ron Bartell landed the responsibility to cover the best receiver in the NFL. He responded by holding Calvin Johnson to just one catch. Defensive tackle Jamie Cumbie made a loud statement that he wants to be part of the Raiders 53 man roster. Cumbie was a constant in the Lions backfield during the second half. He had a sack and knocked down or deflected three Kellen Moore passes, one of which was intercepted by rookie defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi. Bilukidi made an athletic move, diving for the interception and managing to get both hands under the ball as it fell to the ground.
Starting quarterback Carson Palmer continues to be inconsistent. He finished 17-26 for 181 yards and two interceptions. It is a theme this preseason that Palmer throws one awful interception a game. Against Detroit it came on a botched screen pass. The Lions sniffed out the screen and instead of just throwing the ball away, Palmer forced a pass into a pile of defenders that was intercepted by a defensive end. His second interception was on receiver Eddie McGee, who dropped a catchable pass that ended up in the defenders arms. Palmer said this week he likes to take more chances in the preseason; however he must make better decisions in the regular season. On the positive side he led the Raiders first team offense on their first touchdown drive of the preseason which was capped off by a Darren McFadden one yard touchdown. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey made an unbelievable 41 yard catch to set up the score. Streaking down the right sideline, Heyward-Bey came back for the ball, pinned it against the defenders shoulder with one hand, and secured it with both hands as he fell to the ground.
“I think when you look at what we did offensively today, he’s been able to move the ball,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “One questionable decision on the screen play, but other than that, I saw some good things out of Carson today.”
McFadden continues to be the most impressive and consistent weapon on the Raiders offense. He rushed nine times for 27 yards including the touchdown and added two catches for another 11 yards against the Lions. Running back Taiwan Jones saw this first action of the preseason and showed terrific speed and ability to use that speed to get outside. Jones finished with 10 carries for 50 yards and caught two passes for eight yards.
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