It would be an insult to the word awful to say Matt Flynn and the Oakland Raiders first-team offense looked awful during a 28-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Friday night at the Superdome in Louisiana.
Yet, people are already characterizing Flynn’s absolutely atrocious first half performance as heroic simply because he walked off the field after five sacks without injury, but he also walked off without helping his team by calling audibles, switching protections, being aware of the rush, scrambling or throwing incompletions.
The truth is, Terrelle Pryor’s four incompletions and 9 yards passing were far more encouraging than anything Flynn did.
Statistics don’t lie, it’s the interpretation of statistics that can take us to the dark side, and believe me the following statistics need William Wallace type leadership to find freedom:
Matt Flynn 12-16, 124 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT 117.7 qb rating
Terrelle Pryor 1-5 9 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 39.6 qb rating
Matt McGloin 4-7 32 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 29.2 qb rating
Flynn was sacked five times in two quarters; Pryor and McGloin each took one sack in their 15 minutes of work. Plus-minus for points scored under each QB : Flynn -16 (7-23), Pryor +10 (10-0), and McGloin -2 (3-5).
But it was Flynn who was painfully bad, a deer in the headlights exhibiting no leadership, spark, grit or solutions. Many are already blaming Flynn’s entire performance on his porous offensive line, but guess what, this is the kind of protection Raider quarterbacks are going to have all season.
Gene Upshaw and Art Shell aren’t walking through that door, and without a healthy Jared Veldheer, its open season on Raider QB’s in 2013. With nine new starters on defense, the Raider offense must score to stay in games. So whoever starts at QB has to realize punting is not the answer, be unafraid of taking risks, and be able to make plays while running for his life.
Does that sound like Matt Flynn?
Flynn’s accuracy was nonexistent for 27 minutes, with each sack he became more skittish, and his only real play of the first half came on a poor decision, an inaccurate throw caught by David Ausberry for 24 yards in triple coverage. Flynn blew an easy touchdown with all day to throw off play-action, missing a receiver all by his lonesome 40 yards downfield.
Flynn finally made a couple nice throws during an 11 play, 82-yard touchdown drive that is being given far too much credit, and it came against a vanilla Saint defense, one content with a 23 point blowout with starters vs. starters.
Before that drive, Flynn completed only one pass longer than 7 yards, and led the Oakland offense to just 48 paltry total yards.
Raider coach Dennis Allen summed up the first half like so. “We didn’t play well in any of the phases of the game”.
Amen to that.
Terrelle Pryor opened the second half with some positive runs before a false start brought up 3rd and 6, one of many plays demonstrating Pryor was more assertive with his audibles and protections than Flynn.
Pryor recognized the blitz, hurried an audible, got his receivers in position, calmly beat the play-clock without wasting a timeout, and then outran a blitzing defender he’d been eyeing for a first down.
Pryor’s first incompletion was one of his most impressive throws as a Raider. On 3rd and 11, Pryor waited for the play to develop in the pocket, eyes downfield as a defender was making contact with his legs, and instead of searching for a quick dump off with his team down three scores, Pryor tried to make a play. Pryor failed in his efforts, but only after dropping a beautiful toss to the sideline that Brice Butler couldn’t quite corral.
Terrelle is learning the delicate balance between aggressiveness and poor decisions, but one thing you won’t ever see him do is roll around on the ground in the fetal position while praying his defense will outscore Drew Brees — paging Matt Flynn.
To be clear, the Saints defense defended the read-option well, and Pryor wasn’t that impressive, unless you compare him to Matt Flynn. But if you’re not seeing Pryor’s progress then you should pay closer attention. Pryor also made two very decisive plays at the Saints’ goal line that Matt Flynn doesn’t even have the option to attempt.
People will tell you this first play was a mistake, they’re wrong.
A botched snap on second down at the Saints’ 7-yard line saw Pryor collect the ball, look downfield, find a receiver, and then decide better of it while under pressure, so he tried to get it out of bounds. Pryor’s throw was almost intercepted, but he worked very hard to get that incompletion so the offense had 3rd down at the 7-yard line, instead of ten yards back.
The 24-year-old Pryor’s process of decision-making was sound, he needs more reps to give him the judgment to know when his athleticism should be trusted, but taking the sack is not the right play here, especially for a dual-threat QB. The value of risking the throw to avoid a sack became clear on the very next play.
On third down Pryor again created something out of nothing by scrambling into the end zone with no one open, a run that would’ve been nearly impossible if he’d taken the sack. A questionable holding call that didn’t affect his run can’t negate the fact Pryor’s efforts should’ve been rewarded with four extra points, and the recognition that he had the guts to make the right decision on the incompletion, even after his awful interception in the end zone a week ago.
Pryor’s only completion made his run to pay dirt possible. On 3rd and 6 from the Saints’ 17-yard line Pryor threw a 9-yard pass that gave the Raiders 1st and goal inside the 10. Flynn threw for only one first down in his first 27 minutes behind center, and that was his ill-advised 24-yarder into triple coverage.
It was disappointing to see Pryor not get the opportunity to start the fourth quarter so he could attempt more than five passes, but it seems like the coaching staff is determined to ignore the abundant evidence that Flynn has always been destined for one position, backup quarterback.
Unfortunately for the Raiders and their fans, on opening day at Indianapolis, they’re going to need a starter.