Darren Waller doesn’t see much of a gap between Raiders and Chiefs: ‘Our best is right there with theirs’

The Kansas City Chiefs are licking their wounds after a tough Super Bowl LV appearance, as they were defeated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-9. Despite all of the arm talent Patrick Mahomes possesses, he was unable to make up for not having his two starting offensive tackles against the Buccaneers’ tenacious pass rush. The Buccaneers are just the second team to defeat Mahomes since last November, with the other being the Las Vegas Raiders.

While the Raiders finished with an 8-8 record this past season, they got the best of the Chiefs in Week 5, defeating them by a score of 40-32. Some may point to that Chiefs’ loss as a strange outlier, but Raiders tight end Darren Waller doesn’t believe there is a large gap between his team and the Chiefs.

“I really don’t think there’s much because the first game we won, the second game they score at the end and if you ask people on defense, they say we can’t happen but those are two games that we feel like we should have won,” Waller told NBC Sports Bay Area about how big the Raiders-Chiefs gap is. “We don’t feel like the gap is that big, honestly. It’s easy to show up and play them because they are so good and so talented that you naturally want to play your best. We feel like our best is right there with theirs.”

Divisional rivals usually play each other closely since they are familiar with one another, but the Raiders almost defeated the Chiefs again when they rematched in Week 11. Kansas City ended up winning, 35-31, but Las Vegas held a three-point halftime lead. The Chiefs scored touchdowns on three of their first four second-half possessions to escape Sin City with a victory. 

It was impressive that the Raiders were able to keep things close with the Chiefs when they faced off this past season, but Las Vegas simply doesn’t have the dominance Kansas City does against the rest of the league. Mahomes has a regular-season record of 38-8, and has never lost to a team more than once in the regular season in his career. Consistency for the Raiders is going to be important moving forward. They have the talent to compete with the best teams in the NFL, but need to take it a step further by not dropping games they probably shouldn’t. 

“I feel like it’s just holding each other accountable,” Waller said. “Not waiting on a coach to hold us accountable and knowing that the depth of knowledge of what we have, the depth of preparation of taking care of ourselves, that each and every step that we take on that field is important and it’s got to be a mental thing and then it translates to a physical thing. Because if your mind can think of it, you can make your body do it. It’s just looking at each week, each day playing like it’s your last. Like you aren’t promised anything else and allowing that sense of urgency to transfer through the way that you play.”

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