ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** The news that Terrelle Pryor would start at quarterback for the Raiders ahead of recent starter Matt McGloin was a bit of a surprise to everyone who was not wearing silver and black.
Although Pryor has continued to see spot duty since McGloin's ascension to the starting role in November, Sunday's game is set to represent Pryor's most extensive duty since Week 10 -- and perhaps a last chance to make a statement before the Raiders decide their draft direction, and whether they'll target one of the quarterbacks expected to be available.
The Broncos faced and defeated the Pryor-led Raiders in Week 3, but that does not represent much of an advantage in defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's mind.
"That was Week 3, it was a long time ago," he said. "We've taken a good look at the Raiders and what they've been doing, including both quarterbacks. And so a lot of tape has been looked at."
What they see are two young quarterbacks who share a Big Ten pedigree but play their position in sharply contrasting styles -- with results that are different enough to draw attention.
1. PRYOR IS MORE LIKELY TO RUN.
The only thing more obvious on this trip will be the beauty of a sunset over the San Francisco Bay.
Pryor's mobility represents the wild card in this game. Pryor's work out of the zone-read option is what first jumped out when he made his debut earlier this season, and it remains his most consistent threat. When Pryor keeps the football, he runs 21.26 percent of time. McGloin runs it 3.13 percent of the time.
Pryor is more efficient at moving the chains when he runs, reaching the line to gain once every 3.08 times he carries the football. When he stays in the backfield for a pass play, that rate drops to one first down every 3.65 plays.
Pryor is arguably the league's best rushing quarterback, leading all at his position in rushing yards (527) and ranking second among quarterbacks with at least 20 carries, averaging 7.1 yards a rush.
The key to maintaining focus on a mobile quarterback?
"Eye progression," said safety Mike Adams. "You have to be more conscious of (Terelle) Pryor because he can just tuck it and run it at any time. You don't want to have your back turned and he's running up the sideline.
"He's not just going to sit in the pocket and pass the ball."
2. McGLOIN IS A BIT MORE EFFECTIVE AT MOVING THE BALL AND PRODUCING POINTS.
With McGloin at the helm, the Raiders averaged 1.90 points per possession -- a half-point more than the 1.40 points per possession averaged under Pryor. (This average includes a touchdown drive against the Chiefs in Week 15 that the two quarterbacks split; the seven points were divided equally to each.) In games that these two quarterbacks have played, the Raiders have averaged 11.8 possessions, so that difference calculates to an average 5.9-point gap per game in production.
Further, the Raiders averaged 3.2 more yards per series with McGloin (29.6 to 26.4), and slightly more first downs per possession (1.49 to 1.45). Oakland also averaged 5.21 yards per play with Pryor, a pace that was 5.52 percent below what the defenses he faced had surrendered. The Raiders' average of 5.89 yards per play with McGloin was 4.03 percent above the season-long average of the defenses that he faced.
Some of this is due to the increased reliance on Rashad Jennings in place of Darren McFadden in recent weeks; Jennings leads the Raiders with 724 rushing yards, 1,008 yards from scrimmage and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 5.2 yards per touch of the football. But McGloin has also produced a per-pass-play average of 6.88 yards, of 6.00 percent above what the defense he's faced have allowed. The average with Pryor of 5.38 yards per pass play is 15.93 percent below the average of the defenses that he's faced.
3. PRYOR IS SLIGHTLY LESS PRONE TO TURNOVERS -- BY ONE MEASUREMENT.
This is somewhat surprising, given that Pryor has a higher interception rate. But what saves Pryor's numbers are his reliance on the run; he's only lost one fumble on the 103 times he's taken off or been sacked this year. Pryor averages one giveaway every 28.03 touches; McGloin's rate is one every 25.56 touches.
But on a per-possession basis, the two quarterbacks are close to equal: Pryor has accounted for one giveaway every 7.79 series; McGloin one every 7.94. Each has fumbled once, and Pryor's ball security when carrying the football makes putting him in positions where he must pass the defense's best play.