EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Has Terrelle Pryor regressed?
The question, then, is why?
“Whatever you saw,” Pryor said, without a hint of sarcasm, “you saw. I’m not going to lie.”
Pryor had just been told he did not seem the same on the field, that the right knee he tweaked a week earlier, seemed to still be bothering him. Indeed, Pryor said he has a sprained MCL.
Basically, he said, he could not get any push off from his right leg on passes and could not get any push off when he was cutting on runs. So if his legs are his strength, what’s next?
“I couldn’t explode in the passing game,” he said, “couldn’t explode in the running game.”
Pryor, who entered the game needing 44 yards to establish a new franchise single-season rushing record for a quarterback, was instead sacked four times and rushed for a career-low-for-a-start 19 yards. He played with a brace on the knee.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen intimated he was surprised Pryor appeared limited after a week of practice in which the knee was not a hindrance.
“We all could watch from the sideline and tell that it didn’t look like he had the same explosiveness,” Allen said.
Maybe that’s why his inexplicable slant pass to Denarius Moore, who was surrounded by three Giants, floated aimlessly into the arms of cornerback Terrell Thomas, who then returned the interception 65 yards to the Raiders’ 5-yard line.
“It was a route that they run a lot and I was waiting on it all game,” Thomas said. “They run two-by-two slants and coach put us in a great position and I was just happy to make a play for our defense.”
Two plays later, the Giants took a 21-20 lead with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter.
And maybe that’s why Pryor’s pocket sense was compromised late in the fourth quarter, when he was strip-sacked by Mathias Kiwanuka and lost the fumble at Oakland’s 45-yard line with 3:21 to play. Pryor had neither the ability nor the inclination to take off as the pocket collapsed around him and with the Raiders trailing by four points.
Oakland would not touch the ball again.
“We’ve got to get better in the passing game,” Allen said. “We’re not going to be able to win games without being able to pass the ball.
“It’s a work in progress and we’ve got to keep progressing.”
Allen was referring to his team in general, though he could have been talking about Pryor in particular.
Consider: In his last four games, Pryor has been intercepted eight times and thrown one touchdown pass while completing 61 of 120 passes (50.8 percent) for 719 yards. He has also been sacked 18 times for 110 yards.
So as much as the 24-year-old says he does not get tired -- “I get energized,” he said this week -- something is amiss that goes beyond a purported leaky offensive line and maddeningly inconsistent receivers.
“The protection, overall, was solid,” Allen said.
This is the most Pryor has played since 2010, when he was a junior at Ohio State.
Or maybe defenses have figured out that Pryor is most effective when he rolls out to his right, so they put a spy on him and flood the flat.
“I’m not discouraged,” he said. “But today my leg was very sore. I was out there trying to do my best and it wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t able to be myself. With more treatment, hopefully this thing cures up fast.”