The Raiders’ season ended Sunday the same way it began, with a loss to the Chargers.
On a rainy day at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, the Raiders’ disappointing season came to a merciful conclusion with a 24-21 loss to the Chargers that leaves them 4-12 and wondering what changes the offseason should bring.
But at least the Raiders made things interesting.
With starting quarterback Carson Palmer out with an injury, the Raiders wisely decided to give No. 3 QB Terrelle Pryor a start to see what he can do, and Pryor – the second-year pro from Ohio State – showed flashes of brilliance that put him in the mix for the No. 2 job next season behind Palmer.
In his first NFL start and first extended playing time in a regular-season game, Pryor completed 13-of-28 passes for 150 yards and two TDs and ran nine times for 49 yards and another score.
The Chargers went up immediately, 7-0, on Micheal Spurlock’s 99-yard return of the opening kickoff, then took a 10-lead into the second quarter.
At that point, the Raiders – who had gone three-and-out their first two drives – put things together, as Pryor lead an 80-yard drive that culminated with his 9-yard TD pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey. On the drive, Pryor completed four passes and also picked up 8 yards on a scramble.
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It was the Raiders’ first touchdown in 10 quarters.
The Raiders then fell 17 points back entering the fourth quarter -- as the Chargers tacked on touchdown passes from Philip Rivers to Antontio Gates and Danario Alexander – before rallying for two late touchdowns to make it close.
First, the Raiders drove 76 yards with Pryor scooting around left end for 3 yards and a TD with 7:49 remaining to cut the gap to 24-14.
With 2:55 Remaining in the game (and the season), Coye Francies blocked a Mike Scifres punt to give the Raiders the ball at the Chargers’ 11. Quickly, Pryor hit Denarius Moore for a 5-yard TD to cut the gap to three points.
But, the Raiders’ subsequent onside kick was recovered by the Chargers with less than two minutes remaining, and San Diego was able to run out the clock to preserve the win – expected to be the final victory for head coach Norv Turner.
Reports in U-T San Diego indicate that Turner and GM A.J. Smith will be fired after another disappointing season, this one ending at 7-9 and the team out of the playoffs once more.
All told, the game will be remembered in the Bay Area for Pryor’s peformance that showed both his upside and downside. His strong arm and quick feet were apparent, but so were some off-target throws. His final stat line also doesn’t look as good as it could have because of some dropped by throws by Raiders receivers on a wet, cold day.
Now comes an offseason filled with questions.
Will head coach Dennis Allen be retained? If so, will one – or both – of his coordinators, Greg Knapp (offense) and Jason Tarver (defense) survive? Will the Raiders scrap the zone-blocking scheme that seemed to handcuff star running back Darren McFadden, or will they strive to get better at it? And how many veterans will be shown the door to make way for new talent and an influx of rookies from a better draft position in 2013?