Paul Gutierrez ESPN Staff Writer Close Covered Oakland Raiders for CSNBayArea.com and Sacramento Bee for eight years Member of Pro Football Writers Association Previously worked at Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Sports Illustrated Follow on Twitter LAS VEGAS — How impressive was Darren Waller’s breakout performance in the Las Vegas Raiders’ 34-24 defeat of the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football? It even got the notoriously stingy-with-his-words Hoodie talking. A lot. Well, a lot for him. “Yeah, he’s going to be a, yeah, he’s a big challenge,” New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the Raiders tight end on a conference call Tuesday morning. “Really impressed
“Yeah, he’s going to be a, yeah, he’s a big challenge,” New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the Raiders tight end on a conference call Tuesday morning.
“Really impressed with everything he does. You know, he’s a very competitive blocker, got great size, got great quickness for his size, catches the ball very well. You know, he can really, he can run all the routes. Is really a very versatile player, talented, that shows good toughness and very competitive guy. So, yeah, he’ll definitely be a problem for us. There’s not any one thing you can take away from him. He does a lot of things, does a lot of things well.”
For those counting at home, that’s 96 words and 40 seconds that Belichick used to praise Waller. Or, eight words for every catch Waller had against the Saints.
With his 12 catches — one off his career high set last season at Minnesota — for 103 yards and a 1-yard touchdown to give the Raiders a third-quarter lead they would not relinquish, Waller served notice that he will no longer sneak up on anybody. Least of all the Patriots, who, at 1-1, play host to the 2-0 Raiders on Sunday.
Now, after catching 90 passes for 1,145 yards and three TDs and being a Pro Bowl alternate a season ago, Waller is no unknown. It’s just that there are so many high-profile players at the position throughout the league.
“Darren’s a great player,” said Raiders coach Jon Gruden. “Our job is to get him the ball.
“I’ve said this before — I’d take him out of any tight ends, and I know [George] Kittle and [Travis] Kelce are as good as they get, but Waller is right up there with them. This is his second year playing the position. It’s astonishing what this man can do.”
Indeed, Waller is a converted receiver whose fight against addiction and aspiration for sobriety are as chilling as they are inspiring.
Especially with Waller nearly setting a Monday Night Football record for most catches by a tight end on the evening the show celebrated its 50th birthday. Waller’s 12 receptions were one behind the 13 new teammate Jason Witten had for the Dallas Cowboys against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 1, 2012, and one ahead of Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, who had 11 catches for the Kansas City Chiefs against the New England Patriots on Dec. 4, 2000.
Even with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr spreading the ball around against the Saints — 11 different players caught a pass — Waller was his guy with a career-high 16 targets.
“I think you know how much I love him,” Carr said of Waller. “He did an exceptional job. I hope everyone gets to see everything about Darren Waller that we know him to be. He’s not only one of the best players in the NFL — he’s one of the best humans. Love that guy. Love that player. I’m glad to be his quarterback. I’m honored.”
Carr shares heartfelt reflection of Waller and his journey
Raiders QB Derek Carr expresses how proud he is of TE Darren Waller and his recovery from addiction following a stellar performance on Monday night.
Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton have both been fined $100,000 by the NFL for not wearing masks on the sideline during Monday night’s game, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Raiders and Saints also have each been fined $250,000, the source said.
The fines are the same as what the NFL levied Monday against the Denver Broncos and Vic Fangio, the Seattle Seahawks and Pete Carroll, and the San Francisco 49ers and Kyle Shanahan for similar violations this past Sunday of the league’s COVID-19 game-day protocols.
Gruden, who revealed after Monday night’s 34-24 victory over the Saints that he had previously contracted COVID-19, said Tuesday that he did not want to get into specifics about how he dealt with the virus.
“It wasn’t pleasant,” he said, “and it was reported that I made up that I had the virus, and it really ticked me off because I would never do something like that.
“But it’s a very serious matter and, you know, obviously, I’m sensitive about it. But yeah, it was a tough ordeal, that’s for sure. Just like everybody else that had it.”
Payton also battled COVID-19 over the summer.
Carroll, speaking to the Seahawks’ website on Tuesday, vowed to do better about adhering to the NFL’s requirement that coaches wear coverings over their mouths and noses at all times on the sidelines during games.
“I had a coach who was reminding me about it throughout the game, [running backs coach] Chad Morton was on my ass the whole night. He was reminding me the whole time,” Carroll said. “I even changed masks at halftime to find one that worked better. Sometimes you’ve got to get coached up. Sometimes you have to admit that you screwed up and have got to do better.
“We wear masks all day at practice, we wear them around the building,” he added. “I know it’s extremely important to wear masks. Sometimes you’ve just got to be reminded.”
Gruden was asked after Monday night’s game about being mask-less on the sideline.
“I’m doing my best,” he said at the time. “I’ve had the virus. I’m doing my best. I’m very sensitive about it. … I’m calling plays. I just want to communicate in these situations, and if I get fined, I’ll have to pay the fine. But I’m very sensitive about that and I apologize.”
LAS VEGAS — As Mike Tyson infamously said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. And in a town that has seen so many of his world championship fights, it seemed only fitting that the Las Vegas Raiders in general — Derek Carr, in particular — had to come off the canvas Monday night.
Indeed, the Raiders, in the first regular-season NFL game in Las Vegas, recovered from their early standing-eight count to upset the New Orleans Saints 34-24. Carr, in complete control of Jon Gruden’s offense in this, their third year together, outdueled NFL all-time passing leader Drew Brees at Allegiant Stadium to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2017.
Carr was crisp and efficient — after the first quarter, when he took three sacks in an opening quarter for the first time in his seven-year career. His three TD passes gave him 147 for his career, getting him closer to Ken Stabler (150) and Daryle Lamonica (148) for the franchise lead.
Carr completed 28 of 38 passes for 282 yards. Carr led the Raiders to 24 unanswered points to take a 31-17 lead. Tight end Darren Waller was his security blanket with 12 catches, on a career-high 16 targets, for 103 yards and a TD for a 120.7 passer rating. Brees’ rating: 91.1.
Describe the game in two words: Welcome home. Raiders owner Mark Davis deemed Allegiant Stadium the Death Star, “Where our opponents’ dreams come to die.” After a quick start in which New Orleans jumped to a 17-7 lead, the Saints’ hopes for a victory in the first regular-season NFL game in Las Vegas were summarily snuffed out by the Dark Side, er, the Raiders.
Troubling trend: Yes, the Raiders’ defense stiffened up enough to allow the offense to score 24 unanswered points. But in allowing 6.6 yards per rush in the first quarter, when New Orleans ran a mind-numbing 22 plays, the Raiders’ defense provided a blueprint for the Patriots next week in New England. Plus, the defense had only one sack last week and was shut out on that front by the Saints. But like in Carolina, the defense made plays when it needed to.
Pivotal play: Rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III, on a deep ball down the right sideline, pulled a veteran move in getting a pass interference flag thrown on Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins. It was third-and-5 with 2:08 to play, the Saints had just pulled to within a touchdown but the penalty allowed the Raiders to maintain possession and eat more clock. Daniel Carlson’s 54-yard field goal a few snaps later, with 65 seconds to play, iced it for Las Vegas.