Matt McGloin had a nice little NFL coming-out party last week.
The undrafted rookie from Penn State, pressed into service because of an injury to Terrelle Pryor, started at quarterback against the Houston Texans and threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-23 Raiders victory.
After several weeks of struggle, the Raiders offense suddenly had some life to it in Houston under the direction of a new quarterback.
Now, McGloin has been anointed the starter again for Sunday’s matchup with the Tennessee Titans at O.co Coliseum. The question is, was McGloin a one-hit wonder who caught the Texans by surprise? Or is he the real deal and ready to shred the Titans secondary in a second straight victory?
That’s what the Raiders – and their fans – are eager to learn.
And, by giving McGloin the starting nod and letting Pryor sit another week to heal his sprained knee, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen is giving the rookie a chance to prove himself.
“Matt McGloin earned the right to get another opportunity to start,” Allen told the media this week.
Oddsmakers have made the 4-6 Raiders 1½-point favorites over the 4-6 Titans.
McGloin is usually the underdog. He was a walk-on quarterback in college who rose to successful starter. Then he was bypassed in the draft, brought into Raiders camp as just an extra summer training camp arm and yet rose through the ranks – climbing over drafted QB Tyler Wilson, veteran Matt Flynn and Pryor -- to become a starter (at least for now). Since joining the Raiders he’s showed a confidence the coaching staff likes, not to mention a strong and accurate arm.
McGloin knows that just because he had a nice debut in Houston he’s now the entrenched starter. Pryor still looms on the bench if he falters.
“It’s a performance-based business and, at the end of the day, you have to perform to play,” McGloin told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group this week. “We did play well last week. Coach is doing the right thing sticking with what we had and seeing what happens.”
Wide receiver Rod Streater told Corkran that he and his teammates have faith in McGloin.
“He came out very poised, made a lot of plays for us and helped us win the game,” said Streater. “We just got to go with the changes.”
This is an important game for both the Raiders and Titans, who are trying to stay relevant in the race for a wild-card spot. The teams are among six in the AFC that at two games below .500 are only a game game behind the Jets and Dolphins for the last wild-card berth.
The Raiders’ most effective strategy against the Titans may be to run the ball, rather than rely on McGloin’s arm, however. The Titans run defense has been suspect. Over the past six games, Tennessee has allowed 129.2 yards per game on the ground, and it’s given up 15 TDs on the ground, the most in the NFL. The Raiders last week ran the ball very well against the Texans, with Rashad Jennings busting loose for 150 yards. Oakland is No. 1 in the AFC in rushing and has averaged 160.7 yards over the past three games.
Titans safety Bernard Pollard said this week that Sunday’s matchup likely comes down to the Tennessee defense doing its job.
“We as a defense, we got to get off the field,” he said. “We had guys in gaps, missed tackles. … No matter what’s going on, we have to find a way to get off the field.”