Originally published on Silver & Black Report on Oct. 27, 2013
The Raiders hadn't been victorious coming off of a bye week since 2002, while the Pittsburgh Steelers hadn't won a game in Oakland since 1995. But come Sunday, one of those streaks had to come to an end.
Fortunately for Oakland, the Raiders were able to shake their post-bye week streak as they defeated the Steelers 21-18 on Sunday at O.Co Coliseum, keeping the Steelers losing streak in Oakland intact.
In what seems to have become the Raiders recipe for winning thus far, the offense was able to get off to a quick start but it was the defense that held the lead for the Raiders as the offense began to sputter as the game continued.
It took all but one play for quarterback Terrelle Pryor to get the Raiders on the scoreboard, meanwhile etching his name in the franchise record books, as well as the NFL record books. On the first play from scrimmage, the athletic quarterback kept the ball on a zone-read option and scampered downfield 93 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play from the line of scrimmage. A key block by wide receiver Rod Streater helped break Pryor free as he rushed himself into the record books. Pryor's 93-yard run was the longest-running touchdown in Oakland Raiders franchise history as well as the longest touchdown run in NFL quarterback history. The previous Raiders franchise record was 92 yards by running back Bo Jackson, while the previous quarterback record was former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart, who had an 80-yard rushing touchdown in 1996.
Pryor knew that he needed Streater to block the one man that stood in his way.
"When I gashed out I was like alright, he has to block (Troy) Polamalu; I was saying that in my head, like Polamalu has to get blocked," Pryor said about the play following the game. "When I was coming around the corner I saw Ryan Clark flying over with Darren on the fake, so if he gets this block on Polamalu, I’m going straight up and going to the house. Rod (Streater) did a god job of not holding or anything, no penalty, and it was a great play."
The Raiders would not give up the lead from there on out, nor would the game be tied.
Oakland's defense set the tone defensively right from their first series, forcing Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense to two consecutive three-and-outs to start the game.
Following the second three-and-out, backup running back Rashad Jennings was able to get into the backfield and get to the punt, partially deflecting it resulting in just a three-yard punt by Zoltan Mesko.
The Raiders offense would capitalize by punching the ball into the endzone with a seven-yard run by running back Darren McFadden.
McFadden was able to double his rushing-touchdown total on the day as he took the ball out of the wildcat later in the game and rolled out to his right as if to throw the ball, but then tucked the ball and ran into the endzone for the touchdown to put the Raiders up 21-3.
Not everything was smooth for the offense in the first half though as Pryor threw two more interceptions, making it a total of seven now through eight games. Pryor's first interception came as he rolled out left and looked for rookie Brice Butler deep, but Pryor appeared to not set his feet and the ball soared over Butler as it fell right into Polamalu's hands.
"I have to see it on film, I also think the wind just took it off of me," Pryor said of his first interception. "I was trying to touch it and the wind just kind of took it and it just blew up. The wind was kind of going today. I was trying to fit it in there beecause he was pretty much wide open after he left the guy. There's stuff I need to work on and can't have that, can't have turnovers, and I know that, but got the win."
Pryor's second interception of the day came late in the final minutes of the first half when he threw a perfect ball to Butler on a short-crossing route but Butler had the ball clank off his hands and into a defenders arms. Luckily for the Raiders, the turnover wasn't costly as Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham missed the 34-yard field goal wide right, giving the Raiders the 21-3 lead at the half. Suisham would miss a 32-yard field goal attempt on the first drive of the second half as well, proving to be very costly in the eventual three-point loss.
It would be up to the Raiders defense to secure the win as the offense would sputter into the finish line, adding no more points to their lead. In fact, the Raiders would only gain 35 yards in the second half.
The Raiders went ultra conservative in the play calling in the second half and continued to run the ball in an attempt to run the clock out and not give the Steelers enough time for a comeback victory, even if Pryor wanted to try and do it all and end the game himself.
"We're up 21 and our defense is playing great," Pryor said of the decision to try and run the clock out. "With Darren, one of the best backs I believe in the NFL, we just got to -- our coach, we thought we could run the time out. It didn't work the way we thought. We weren't staying on the field. We were getting in third down and long. It's very tough to throw the ball third down and long. I believe they're No. 1 in the NFL in third and long. It's hard to run on first and second and do that, throw on third. But I think strategically the coaches thought, hey, if we run the ball and pick up some first downs and keep the clock running, I believe that's what the strategy was. At the end of the day we won."
Pryor wasn't the only one making costly mistakes. Wide receiver Jacoby Ford almost had a crucial muffed punt, but then later fumbled the ball on a reception, giving the Steelers a short field on the Raiders 11-yard line. Allen knows that his team can't afford to give the ball away like that.
"We all feel good about winning a game, but we have to understand is you put the ball on the ground in a game like that, you’re giving them an opportunity to get back in the game and you can’t do that. Good football teams, they don’t do that," Allen said. "And part of it is I think they make some plays, but part of it is just our ability to focus in. Right before the half, we have a pass that hits Brice right in the hands and pops up and they get an interception. Jacoby’s play on the punt return that could have been a huge play in the game, luckily we got the call in our favor. What I’m going to visit with our guys about is you have to understand what wins and loses in this game. When you’re in these games like this, the only way they have a chance to get back in the game is for you to turn the ball over and make mistakes and we can’t do that."
The team won because of the defense's ability to get pressure on Big Ben while coming away with a crucial turnovers late in the game. Early in the fourth quarter, cornerback Mike Jenkins played Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders' "go route" perfectly and came away with a long interception.
Just a couple of drives later, Jenkins hit Sanders hard and jarred the ball loose for fellow corner Tracy Porter to make a remarkable fingertip catch, plucking the ball away from the ground for the interception.
"I just wrapped my keys," Jenkins said of his interception. "Just pretty much doing what I needed to do. I was in the right spot at the right time and I made a play."
The Raiders also made the Steelers one-dimensional as the defense was able to hold the Steelers rushing attack to just 35 yards on the ground. In addition, Roethlisberger was constantly under pressure and the Raiders were able to bring him down to record five sacks. Rookie linebacker Sio Moore had two of them.
"We made it our job to make sure we harassed the quarterback throughout the day and stop the run and we were able to do that," Moore said of the philosophy coming into the game. "And the biggest thing is we were able to do that when it came down to the fourth quarter and were able to finish.
"You have to hold on for dear life a little bit with Ben Roethlisberger. He’s a good quarterback and he knows how to escape guys; half the time you think he’s sacked. The biggest thing we were saying throughout the week was when he’s down, he’s not down, so keep going."
Despite the two fourth-quarter interceptions, the Steelers were able to score 15 points in the fourth quarter to bring the Raiders lead to just a field goal. The Steelers final points came on a third and eight play when Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston whiffed on a sack and Roethlisberger escaped to find Sanders for the eight-yard touchdown reception. Sanders would then score on the two-point conversion to cut the lead to just three.
With just 1:24 remaining in the game, the Steelers were forced to attempt an onside kick. The kick was recovered by none other than the special teams standout Jennings, who had deflected the punt earlier.
"That’s what you expect out of a guy that’s been around, been a pro," Allen said of Jennings. "That’s what these guys get paid to do; they get paid to make the plays that they’re supposed to make. I thought he did a great job. He’s been great for us in special teams. He’s done a nice job of coming in and filling in for Darren when Darren goes out. He’s obviously been a valued asset for our football team."
From there, the Raiders were able to run the clock out down to just 28 seconds, giving the Steelers time for one more shot. But Roethlisberger found Sanders over the middle but the Steelers were forced to watch time run out with no timeouts, as the Raiders secured their 21-18 victory.