Not great, but not bad, either.
There weren’t any absolute truths to be gleaned from the Raiders 19-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys Friday night in their preseason opener, but there were signs the team could be an improvement over last season’s 4-12 disaster.
No reason to schedule a parade, perhaps, but considering many preseason prognosticators consider the Raiders to be one of the least-talented teams in the NFL, it was at least baby steps in the right direction.
Sebastian Janikowski and Eddy Carmona each kicked a pair of field goals and Brice Butler caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Matt McGloin to account for the Raiders’ scoring.
Dallas, 1-1 in the preseason, had a 38-yard field goal by Dan Bailey, a 15-yard pass from Kyle Orton to Cole Beasley and a 1-yard run by Joseph Dunbar.
Starting quarterback Matt Flynn and backup Terrelle Pryor each had a turnover and led the team to a field goal in the first half, with Sebastian Janikowski converting from 51 and 40 yards. Both also showed their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Carmona had field goals of 32 and 23 yards, the latter following a fumbled Marquette King punt by D.W. Webb was recovered by Eric Harper at the 13-yard line to put the Raiders up 19-17.
Defensively, the Raiders put 10 new starters on the field with the first team and kept Dallas out of the end zone following their first turnover _ a sack-fumble lost by Flynn.
Only coach Dennis Allen knows who did and who did not enhance their chances of being a major player in 2013, but one thing is for sure _Butler gave himself a chance to be the outside playmaker the offense desperately needs.
Butler caught a 40-yard pass from third-string quarterback Matt McGloin, then later made a diving catch in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown while being tightly guarded by Sterling Moore.
Flynn for the most part did what Allen and offensive coordinator want him to do _ manage the team, keep drives alive, use some clock and make the safe play. He finished 4 of 5 for 37 yards.
He couldn’t be faulted for the lone turnover _ a blindside sack by Sean Lee that Jason Hatcher recovered at the Oakland 16-yard line.
Flynn’s second series resulted on a 12-play, 49-yard drive that included a 17-yard strike to Denarius Moore on third-and-6 and a 4-yard scramble up the middle on second-and-6 that set up a 4-yard first-down pass to Rod Streater.
The Raiders got as far as the Dallas 33 before Flynn threw incomplete and short of the stake on third-and-3, with Janikowski coming in to covert a 51-yard field goal off the infield dirt.
“Practice is one thing, but it’s a whole different ballgame when you come out here to play a game,’’ Flynn said.
Pryor demonstrated in his second-quarter performance the kind of running-passing threat currently in vogue in the NFL, rushing three times for 31 yards and hitting 6 of 10 passes for 88 yards.
The Raiders also got strong running from Rashad Jennings, who ran well in short-yardage, also had a 16-yard run and finished with nine carries for 39 yards.
The third-year quarterback also made the kind of error that makes him a risk. After an athletic and creative drive that opened at the Oakland 10 and faced with third-and-4 from the Dallas 6, Pryor’s inexperience showed.
Rolling to his right, Pryor threw late and over the middle, with J.J. Wilcox intercepting the pass and ending the drive.
Pryor later drove the Raiders for their own 24 to the Dallas 22 before Janikowski connected from 40 yards to put the Raiders within 10-6.
The Raiders first-team defense, playing without tackles Vance Walker and Pat Sims, allowed only a Cowboys field goal after Flynn’s lost fumble.
One problem was pass rush _ the Raiders had almost none, and on one play Romo had a full seven seconds to throw before winging it out of the back of the end zone.
With little pressure, Romo had sliced through the Oakland secondary with no problem on the drive, completing 4 of 5 passes for 65 yards, including a 26-yard pass to Dez Bryant.
“I think after the fumble, for us to keep them out of the end zone was good,’’ Allen said. “They moved the ball a little but on us on the second drive but we were able to bow our backs and keep them out of the end zone. We did some good things but need to be more consistent.’’
Still, the Cowboys never crossed the goal line, and early in the second quarter came up empty after advancing to the Oakland 8 when Tyvon Branch blocked a Dan Bailey field goal attempt.
“On their first field goal, Tracy Porter got really close to blocking it so I think the wing tried to overextend to get him and I just shot the gap,’’ Branch said.
The Raiders got within 10-9 on a 32-yard field goal by Carmona in the third quarter when Usama Young intercepted an overthrown pass from third-string quarterback Nate Stephens and returned it deep into Dallas territory.