ATL: What We Learned  

 

What we learned Monday: Terrelle Pryor plays well

The Oakland Raiders have to hope the concussion that knocked Terrelle Pryor out of Monday night's 37-21 loss to the Denver Broncos doesn't jeopardize his status for Week 4. The difference between Pryor and Peyton Manning was stark, as the latter identified blitzes, made the correct adjustments, got rid of the ball quickly and essentially conducted the Broncos' offense as a maestro.

It's unfair to compare a developing quarterback such as Pryor to a veteran of Peyton Manning's stature, however. A more valid comparison is the one NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell made between Pryor and Bills rookie EJ Manuel back in late August.

Both are size-movement quarterbacks who fit the NFL's new paradigm with read-option capabilities and a coaching staff willing to define their reads with easier throws. Manuel is viewed as a better passer, but he's yet to put forth a performance on par with Pryor's 112.4 passer rating and 10.0 yards per attempt Monday night.

Although Denver's pass rush consistently flushed Pryor from the pocket, he remained composed, kept his eyes downfield and continued to show phenomenal athleticism. In short, he saved the Raiders from an embarrassing showing on offense.

That's been the Pryor theme through three starts this season. While it's premature to break out the anointing oils to tap Pryor as the Raiders' quarterback of the future, he certainly has exceeded expectations by breathing life into what was expected to be a moribund offense.

Here's what else we learned on Monday night:

1. The Broncos' chase of the 2007 Patriots' scoring record is on cruise control. Before the blowout devolved into garbage time, Denver had run twice as many plays as Oakland while Manning had twice as many completions as Pryor had pass attempts. At one point, Manning completed 15 consecutive passes. He racked up 298 yards before tossing his first incompletion to a wide receiver.

Manning broke Tom Brady's record with 12 touchdowns through three weeks. No other NFL team has more than 12 touchdowns total this season. Manning's 86.5 completion rate Monday night was the highest single-game percentage of his career. The Broncos' 127 points through three games is the highest total since the 1970 merger.

2. After gashing the Raiders throughout the second half, this young backfield's ball security concerns resurfaced with a late-game fumble by rookie Montee Ball. Before that muff, Ball and Ronnie Hillman showed their best form since the start of the preseason, combining for 125 yards on 20 carries.

3. Manning's blindside watch: With left tackle Ryan Clady out for the season, replacement Chris Clark allowed one sack and was charged with a holding penalty. The loss of Clady obviously isn't slowing down the Broncos' high-flying attack. All things considered, Clark held his own.

4. Manning's pick-your-poison watch: After Manning made heroes of Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker in Week 1, Eric Decker now has led the Broncos in receiving yards in back-to-back games. His eight catches and 133 yards Monday night are the second-most of his career.

5. Aside from a sweet 16-yard touchdown pass out of what appeared to be the old Arkansas "Wild Hog" formation, Raiders running back Darren McFadden would have been better off not suiting up. He routinely was contacted before taking a step in the backfield. The Broncos' run defense has been a shutdown unit thus far, allowing just 1.9 yards per carry this season. McFadden might be best served going the Reggie Bush route as a free agent next offseason, gambling on a one-year contract in an offense suited to his strengths.

6. Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore showed signs of life for the first time since multiple reports out of training camp questioned his attitude and consistency. Rod Streater and Brice Butler both showed flashes of playmaking ability as well. This wide receiver corps is short on consistency and fundamentals, but not on potential.

7. Like most rookie cornerbacks against Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Raiders first-round draft pick DJ Hayden appeared to be in over his head. The Broncos had wide receivers running free on several occasions throughout the game.

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