GREEN BAY, Wis. — Raiders tight end Darren Waller went out and bought Perrier to celebrate his new contract earlier this week. If not for the outcome, he may have been tempted to share a whole case with his fellow tight ends after their performance in a 42-24 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Waller had seven catches on eight targets for 126 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season as he continued his breakout year.
“We definitely want to win for sure, but it is cool to find the end zone,” Waller said. “I feel like there’s a lot of good things the offense did. We just have to finish. It’s good to get in the end zone, though.”
Waller and the Raiders’ other two tight ends were heavily involved in the success of an offense that posted 484 total yards, but came away with nothing on three separate trips into the red zone.
Their impact in the passing game was obvious. The tight ends scored all three Raiders touchdowns, with Foster Moreau also finding paydirt.
The group, which also includes Derek Carrier, drew 15 of the team’s 31 targets and accounted for 11 of the 24 completions. Waller, Moreau and Carrier combined for 172 yards through the air.
Their impact on the running game may have even been more significant. The Raiders opened with all three on the field for the first play of the game and ran Josh Jacobs for 9 yards.
It was a sign of things to come. The Raiders picked up 155 yards on the ground with the help of the tight ends blocking at the point of attack.
“I feel like we have a really good tight-end unit,” Waller said. “That opens up things for the running game. We can put all three tight ends in there and draw nickel personnel from the defense and that helps us run the ball. It helps out for the whole offense. We have receivers out there making plays, too. I feel our offense is trending in the right direction.”
Moreau helped cap off one scoring march with the second touchdown of his rookie season on a 10-yard pass from Derek Carr to give the Raiders a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
While each had his moment, the trio all had their moments, Waller is the unquestioned star. It’s no mistake he continues to be Carr’s go-to target and the focus of the offense.
“I’ve said it before, but I think Waller is the best tight end there is,” coach Jon Gruden said. “We’re going to try to throw it to him.”
Waller returned the praise to Gruden and the coaching staff for designing plays to get him open. He said the Packers’ preference for man coverage was also a factor in getting so many opportunities to make plays.
Waller’s success is also giving him more confidence, which may be a frightening thought for opponents.
“I don’t worry about who’s out there,” Waller said. “It’s to the point now of what are they going to do with me, our tight-end group and our offense?”
His performance Sunday only has to bolster his confidence. Waller now has 44 catches through six games, giving him more receptions at this point in the season than any previous Raider.
It was the fifth time this season Waller had at least five catches. He has led or tied for the team lead in receptions in every game.