ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As he adds his name to the long list of quarterbacks who have etched their place in the Broncos vs. Raiders rivalry over the years, Terrelle Pryor enters Monday night’s AFC West showdown with three NFL starts under his belt.
His Broncos counterpart,
But while Pryor paid respect to Manning’s quarterbacking legacy on a conference call with the Denver media on Tuesday, he noted that Monday’s game isn’t about matching Manning throw-for-throw, but rather playing his own respective game and making adjustments according to how the Broncos’ defense plays.
“I will say this. As I watched the game, the other quarterbacks who looked like they were pressing to match Peyton Manning – when you do that, you’ll come up short because Peyton is a great quarterback,” Pryor said. “It reminds me of Tiger Woods, when his competitors are going against him and they kind of fold because they press, they try to press the ball and not take what the defense is giving. I’ve just got to stay away from doing that.”
Pryor notched his first career NFL victory as a starter in last week’s 19-9 win over the Jaguars, completing 15 of 24 passes for 126 yards and adding another 50 yards on the ground.
He also took care of the football – Pryor did not throw an interception in the game – something he noted would be critical to the final outcome against the Broncos.
“I think what will decide the game is who takes care of the ball,” Pryor said. “Obviously, you’ve got to make plays, but a full team effort. That’s what I think is going to win the game. It depends upon who has a whole team effort and whoever doesn’t turn the ball over.”
Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen said that Pryor’s demonstrated ability to spark the Raiders offense played an important factor in his selection as the team’s starting quarterback – and Allen spoke highly of the improvements that Pryor has made in his game.
“It really was one of those decisions where the more you sat back and watched it, you just saw that when he was in the game he moved the offense down the field,” Allen said. “And we were able to score some points and he gave some energy to the whole football team.
“I think this kid has improved a lot over the last year since I’ve been here,” he added. “And I’ve continued to see improvement as we’ve put him in the starting role.”
Meanwhile, Allen was quick to point out that defending the dynamic Manning – who has thrown for 769 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception so far this season – presents a number of challenges that inhibit defenses from playing overly aggressive.
“Well listen, you’ve got to be careful with anything that you do with Peyton Manning,” Allen said. “He’s a guy that sees the field as well as anybody that I’ve ever had the opportunity to go against. I mean it’s hard to fool him, it’s hard to trick him, it’s hard to get guys free.”
Still, Allen noted that manufacturing pressure is a critical component to flustering Manning – and it’s something the Raiders defense has successfully achieved so far, tying for the league-lead with 9.0 sacks.
“You have to find ways that you can sack him and disrupt him a little bit in the pocket,” Allen said. “We’ll have a game plan that we feel like gives us an opportunity to have some success against him. I think we all understand what a great offense we’re going up against and understand the challenges that we face.”
In contending with an up-tempo Broncos’ offense that has erupted for an NFL-leading 45.0 points per game – scoring nearly 30 total points more than the league’s next-most potent offense – Allen said that the greatest difficulty in slowing the Broncos down is
“I think the biggest challenge is the mental aspect,” he said. “Obviously physically you’ve got to be ready for in shape and ready for the up-tempo play, but I think the biggest thing is mentally. I think mentally you’ve got to be sharp and you’ve got to be able to see the picture come at you real fast.”
Allen also circled the caliber of talent throughout the Broncos offense – and Manning’s ability to maximize the efficiency of the players around him – as reasons why the Broncos have been so successful.
“They’ve got weapons all over the field. And the thing about Peyton is he does a great job of understanding what the defense does, taking what the defense gives him so all those guys get an opportunity to make plays,” Allen said. “They make plays in the running game. They make plays in the passing game. I think there is a lot of talent on that football team.”
On the subject of one of his own weapons, running back Darren McFadden – who has rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown this season – Allen noted that the Raiders have tried to utilize McFadden in ways that maximize his physical abilities on the field.
“We realized that that was something that we had to figure out how we were going to get him the ball and get him in space and give him opportunities to create some explosive plays for us,” Allen said. “I think the biggest thing is, from his mindset, is that he’s comfortable in the things that we’re asking him to do. That he’s comfortable in the scheme and we’ve had some success in doing that.”
“He’s a horse. He’s ready to go,” Pryor added.
And while the rivalry between the Broncos and Raiders has been anything but fuzzy over the years, Allen noted that his friendship with Broncos Head Coach John Fox – who he coached under as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator in 2011 – will always remain strong.
“Foxy was great to me in my time there. He gave me my first opportunity to be a defensive coordinator in this league,” he said. “I learned a lot from him. He’s been very instrumental in my development as a football coach. He’s a great guy, he’s a great football coach. He and I will always be friends.”
Meanwhile, the lore of the old AFC West rivalry left Pryor unfazed – as he remains focused solely on trying to push the Raiders to 2-1 on the season.
“I’ve always been in rivalries. No matter who we’re playing, hopefully the Raider nation doesn’t get mad at me for this, but it’s just another opportunity and another opponent. I don’t really look into all that stuff. I just want to get a win.”