It has been two years and a few days since Al Davis died and much longer than that since the Raiders had real momentum and direction.

It has been a long time since this franchise was powered by a reliable core engine, and in the NFL that boils down to three essential things:

A coach who can put things in order, a quarterback who can consistently produce points and a belief that both of them are in it for the long haul.

So where do the Raiders find themselves now, other than facing a tremendous test against the 5-0 Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday?

With Dennis Allen, who has started to put his imprint on this team in his second coaching season after a fitful first year.

And with Terrelle Pryor, Davis' final draft pick, giving evidence this season that he's the Raiders' best QB acquisition since signing Rich Gannon in 1999.

That's something tangible for general manager Reggie McKenzie to build on, and he gets credit for this stable moment, too.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that the Raiders have it all fixed or can avoid an implosion at Arrowhead on Sunday.

It has happened before, could easily happen again, and maybe a rough day in Kansas City starts a little tumble after their solid 2-3 start to 2013.

Yes, the Raiders still have many puzzle pieces left to fill in after all these lost seasons.

But if they have a coach and a QB who can win games, that's a hugely significant beginning.


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It puts the current Raiders ahead of any day in the coaching reigns of Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable or Hue Jackson -- who, under the auspices of Davis, all were unprepared and unable to put the Raiders back on the rails long-term.

And it lifts them above the QB tenures of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter, Josh McCown, JaMarcus Russell, Jason Campbell and Carson Palmer.

By the way, I'm not saying Allen is for sure the next Bill Belichick or Jon Gruden.

Or that Pryor doesn't need to keep improving to keep himself firmly established as the Raiders' No. 1 QB.

I'm just saying that Allen and Pryor are a duo that you can picture growing together for a long time in a way that you could not quite think of Shell and Walter.

And interestingly, Allen and Pryor didn't choose each other, they just got thrown together this season and have flourished.

A couple of big-picture stats:

  • It's very early in the season and in his career, but Pryor's passer rating in his four 2013 games is 97.6, ranking him eighth among qualifying QBs.

    Last year's Raiders starter, Carson Palmer, had an 85.3 rating; this year for Arizona, Palmer's currently at 67.0.

    If Pryor can maintain this level, he would record the Raiders' best full-season passer rating since Kenny Stabler's 103.4 in 1976 -- the Raiders' first Super Bowl title season.

    Until now, the Raiders' best full-season passer rating since then has been Gannon's 97.3 rating in the 2002 season -- when the Raiders lost in the Super Bowl.

    There is so much room for Pryor to grow, but he's doing it right now, too.

  • Allen's background is on the defensive side, so the Raiders' defensive capitulation last season was the biggest blotch on his record.

    If he can't fix the defense, what can Allen fix?

    But this season, after dispatching veterans such as Rolando McClain, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly -- and adding Charles Woodson -- the Raiders' defensive fortunes have swiveled.

    There aren't as many big contracts and big names in the Raiders defense now, but there is more enthusiasm and definitely a tougher mindset.

    And there are results, too.

    So far this year, the Raiders have given up 21.6 points per game, which ranks them 13th in the NFL.

    Last year, the Raiders gave up 27.7 points per game, and ranked 28th in that category.

    Again, this all could blow apart starting Sunday. But if things get out of control in Kansas City, the Raiders can rally around a stable coach and an ascending young QB.

    You can't build anything until you have those two things, the way they had Gruden and Gannon starting out together in the late 1990s.

    You have to keep moving forward. You can still screw it up. But nothing starts until the coach and the QB are lined up, and the Raiders finally are taking those first real steps.

    Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.

    SUNDAY'S GAME
    Raiders (2-3)
    at Kansas City
    (5-0), 10 a.m. CBS

    INSIDE
    Raiders aim to extend winning streak in Kansas City to seven consecutive games. PAGE 5


    SUNDAY'S GAME
    Arizona (3-2)
    at 49ers (3-2),
    1:25 p.m. FOX

    INSIDE
    Dan Skuta is filling in nicely
    for Aldon Smith. PAGE 4