Patriots

Gruden has interesting take on Waller's quiet game vs. Pats

Patriots

Darren Waller put up historic numbers against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 and has become the Las Vegas Raiders' No. 1 threat in the passing game.

So, why was Waller a virtual bystander Sunday, catching just two passes for nine yards on four targets in the Raiders' 36-20 loss to the Patriots?

One explanation could be that New England loaded up to stop the explosive Raiders tight end, blanketing him with a rotation of versatile safeties and cornerbacks that included reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore.

Perry: How the Pats' versatile secondary silenced Waller 

When asked about Waller's lack of production after the game, though, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden didn't seem convinced that New England's defense was primarily to blame. 

"We have a lot of good receivers," Gruden told reporters. "We didn't come here to target Waller every play. Credit New England, they had a nice game plan. They got pressure on our quarterback a few times.

"We had Waller open. The film is out there for everybody to look at. But New England did a nice job. They did a better job than we did today."

According to NFL.com's Next Gen Stats, Waller had an average of 3.02 yards of separation on his four targets Sunday, slightly above the league average of 2.84 yards.

Hitting a wall

The last time Waller was held under 10 receiving yards in a game before Sunday
Dec. 24, 2018

If Waller found more open spaces in New England's defense, though, Gruden's comments are an indictment of quarterback Derek Carr, who had a statistically strong game by completing 24 of 32 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns.

 

The Patriots also sacked Carr twice and recorded five QB hits on the 29-year-old, so that combination of front-seven pressure and secondary focus on containing Waller is likely to blame for the tight end's quiet day.