Matt Flynn went from the spotlight to obscurity in a flash.
Now, with quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s status uncertain going into Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins at O.co Coliseum, the forgotten Flynn may finally get his chance to lead the Raiders offense in a regular-season game.
Pryor, who had to leave Monday night’s 37-21 loss to the Broncos in Denver after a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the game, will need to go through the NFL’s concussion protocol to determine if he has no lingering effects from the blow.
If he’s cleared, he’ll start Sunday against an 0-3 Washington team that is still trying to find the momentum it had 2012, when rookie QB Robert Griffin III took the team to the playoffs.
As Pryor showed Monday night in his third consecutive start this season, he can be an NFL playmaker. Against Denver he was 19-of-28 for 281 yards and a touchdown and had a quarterback rating of 112.4. And, for the second straight week, he didn’t commit a turnover.
So, if Pryor is healthy this week, the Raiders offense with a mobile, improving quarterback would give Oakland a fighting chance against the Redskins. With each game, Pryor is winning converts.
“The big stage doesn’t bother him at all,” wide receiver Denarius Moore said of Pryor, who connected with Moore on a 73-yard TD play in the second quarter. “It’s like he has been a starting quarterback for five years now.”
If Pryor is forced to sit out a game, however, the Raiders would turn to Flynn, who was the No. 1 quarterback going into training camp, but lost the job because of mediocre performance, an arm injury that reduced the zip on his throws and the emergence of Pryor, who consistently led the Raiders on scoring drives when he was in games.
Veteran safety Charles Woodson told ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez that losing Pryor for the Redskins game would be costly.
“It would be a big blow,” Woodson said. “It’s a guy that’s getting his chance, and with each week he’s getting a little bit more comfortable. He did some good things tonight, so it would be a tough blow, especially for him and his development as a player.”
After Pryor was forced to leave the game Monday night, Flynn took over. He completed one of two throws for 19 yards, leading Oakland to its final touchdown after the Raiders had collected a fumble at the Broncos 20-yard line with 2:19 to go in the game.
Afterward, he spoke to the media for the first time since losing out to Pryor in the summer competition.
“I’m always going to be ready,” Flynn told reporters. “I’m always going to prepare, and that’s one thing this team will never have to worry about, is me being ready.”
With Flynn in the lineup, however, the Raiders will be a different team. Pryor’s ability to extend plays with his legs and avoid sacks has been a huge factor in his success. During the preseason, meanwhile, Flynn was constantly under pressure and sacked often because of the ineffectiveness of the offensive line. That line has solidified somewhat over the past three weeks, but Flynn would still be more vulnerable than Pryor.
The good news is that no matter who plays quarterback this Sunday, Pryor or Flynn, he won’t have to face the Broncos. Denver lived up to its billing as one of the NFL’s elite teams and the highest-scoring offense in the NFL and the No. 1 run defense. The Raiders, who had defeated Jacksonville a week earlier, couldn’t stop Denver. The Redskins offense this season has been closer to the Jags’ than the Broncos’.
“Against Denver you don’t have any room for error,” Woodson told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Against Jacksonville, you do.”