The Raiders’ impressive win on Monday Night Football exposed a looming matchup nightmare for the Patriots in Week 3.
The Patriots’ defense was absolutely torched against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on Sunday night as it surrendered 35 points, all of which came from passing touchdowns, en route to a gutting loss after the offense failed to score on the goal line in the final seconds.
New England’s front seven struggled to muster any semblance of a pass rush, which in turn made life all the more difficult for the secondary. Even the most formidable of cornerbacks and safeties have a hard time slowing down star quarterbacks if they have all day to throw, and that was exactly the case with Wilson in Week 2.
Fortunately for the Patriots, things will get a little easier next time out (theoretically), as they will square off against Las Vegas in Foxborough, a team that doesn’t boast nearly as daunting of a gunslinger or perimeter weapons as Seattle does.
However, the sheer mismatch that Raiders tight end Darren Waller presented during their Monday Night Football win over New Orleans should be giving head coach Bill Belichick nightmares all week leading up to the game.
The Saints clearly game planned to stymie Josh Jacobs and the Raiders’ elite running game, and credit to them, because they limited the second-year stud to 88 yards on 27 carries. However, in doing so, they didn’t give Waller (and Derek Carr) nearly enough respect.
For the game, 11 Raiders were on the receiving end of Carr passes. Only one of them managed more than three receptions and 42 yards. That was Waller, who tallied 12 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets (!) against the Saints’ supposed elite defense.
Those numbers could have been even more bloated had Malcolm Jenkins not broke up a crossing route in the middle of the field in the second half, because there was nobody behind him, and the 28-year-old would have scampered into the end zone for a long touchdown.
We get that Jacobs is one of the shiftiest bruising running backs the NFL has to offer, but this game proved that the Patriots should game plan to contain Waller, who is too fast for linebackers, and, at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, is too tall/strong for defensive backs.
Belichick will probably hate the thought of double-teaming a tight end, but Waller will have a literal field day against his defense if he doesn’t. It seems like our head coach was acutely aware of this potential weakness this offseason — after all, he called Aqib Talib pre-retirement and pitched him on covering tight ends, knowing it was a hole in the defense. The Patriots should live with one of Las Vegas’ other receivers, none of whom had more than three targets on Monday night, winning one-on-one matchups.
They simply cannot let Waller beat them after his demolition of the Saints on MNF.