OAKLAND -- It was a simple zone-read-option play, really. But when Terrelle Pryor stuck the football in Darren McFadden’s gut and saw Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood crashing down hard, the play turned into history.
Pryor pulled the ball out, allowed Hood to fly past him in fruitless pursuit of McFadden and the Raiders quarterback was, in a word, gone.
A block from receiver Rod Streater on Steelers safety Troy Polamalu on the right edge ensured it and Pryor’s 93-yard scamper was the longest touchdown run by a quarterback in NFL history. It was also the longest run from scrimmage in Raiders franchise history, eclipsing the 92-yarder Bo Jackson had against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 5, 1989.
And Pryor’s play happened on the first offensive play of the game. Yes, it set the tone for Oakland’s "hold on for dear life" 21-18 victory over the Steelers.
“I was saying that in my head: Polamalu has to get blocked,” Pryor said. “When I was coming around the corner I saw Ryan Clark flying over with Darren on the fake. So if [Streater] gets his block on Polamalu, I’m going straight up and going to the house.”
The entire right side of Oakland’s offensive line had no idea what had happened until Pryor was already at or near midfield.
“I had my guy on the ground,” said right tackle Matt McCants.
“I was driving my head into the crowd [of players tackling McFadden],” added center Stefen Wisniewski. “I thought it was kind of weird the crowd was cheering for D-Mac on a 5-yard run.”
Right guard Mike Brisiel had just pulled to the left side and also thought McFadden took the handoff before looking up and seeing Pryor on Pittsburgh’s 40-yard line, with nothing but daylight ahead.
“He was like a dadgum gazelle out there,” Brisiel said.
Pryor finished with a game-high 106 yards rushing on nine carries. It more than made up for his 25.7 passer rating after he completed just 10 of 19 passes for 88 yards with two interceptions.
It was on the zone-read that Pryor made his most hay, so to speak.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Raiders rushed for a season-high 132 yards on zone-read plays after entering the game with the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL on zone-read plays. Only the Philadelphia Eagles have rushed for more yards on zone-read plays in a game this season.
None of it came as a surprise to the Steelers.
“We looked at it,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said of Pryor’s running ability. “He’s done it in every game. That’s kind of a component of their offense. I think I labeled that on Wednesday.”
But the Steelers could not do much to stop it … at least in the first half.
Pryor said the offensive game plan changed after halftime, with the Raiders protecting a 21-3 lead and wanting to run out the clock.
Instead, the Raiders had just 35 yards of offense in the second half, with one first down.
“When you get that type of lead, you have to have that killer instinct,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “And we’ve got to be able to come out and be more effective in the second half of football games.”
It was the third straight home game in which the Raiders jumped out to a quick lead -- 14-0 against Washington in Week 4 and 17-0 against San Diego in Week 5 -- only to watch it slowly erode away into nervous time.
“Like Coach said, we started fast, the defense was playing good,” Pryor said. “It’s a team win, whether we play great or the defense plays great. I think we had a phenomenal first half and then our defense had a phenomenal second half.
“At the end of the day, it’s a team win.”
And it all started with a historic run.