The Las Vegas Raiders were on the brink of being on the wrong end of a massive upset in Week 13, but ultimately came through against the winless New York Jets.
Down four points with less than a minute left, Derek Carr was able to find a wide-open Henry Ruggs III along the left sideline for the game-winning touchdown. The Jets decided to blitz Carr on the last play, a poor decision that worked in the Raiders’ favor.
However, the true hero of the game was Darren Waller, who was unguardable throughout the day. Waller torched New York to the tune of 13 receptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns, proving that he belongs in the upper echelon of tight ends in today’s NFL.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had nothing but good things to say about Waller after his career performance, via Kyle Martin of Raiders.com:
“He’s special,” Head Coach Jon Gruden said following the Raiders’ 31-28 win. “If you look where he caught passes — he caught them at wide receiver playing split end, he caught them as a flanker, he caught them in the slot, he caught them everywhere. He ran all kinds of routes and a lot of guys can’t even dream of doing what Darren Waller can do, and I think he solidified himself today as clearly one of the top Pro Bowl tight ends in this league.”
Waller admitted that it was his best game as a pro, but emphasized he is still focused on being consistent and improving each day:
“I would say it’s easily the best game I’ve had statistically,” Waller told reporters postgame. “As far as consistency, I feel like I just try to live one day at a time and make one play at a time, and then stuff like that adds up. It’s just about showing up and being consistent as possible every each and every play, and the results can take care of themselves. But as long as I’m locked in and focused, and doing what I need to do to be of service to my teammates, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The tight end has been Carr’s most reliable weapon in the passing game this year and his blend of size, speed, and route running has been a boon for Gruden and the rest of the offense. Waller is able to line up everywhere along the formation, forcing opposing defenses to note where he is on the field at all times.
The win against the Jets helps keep the Raiders in the playoff hunt, but they get a tough test in Week 14 against the Indianapolis Colts at home.