The Raiders were missing star Darren Waller for the NFL’s annual recognition of National Tight End Day on Sunday.
Foster Moreau made sure the group could still celebrate.
The backup stepped in admirably after Waller was a late scratch with an ankle injury, setting career highs with six catches on six targets for 60 yards and a touchdown in a 33-22 victory over the Eagles at Allegiant Stadium.
Waller suffered the injury late in Friday’s practice and tested it on the field before the game and decided he couldn’t play. He went directly to Moreau to tell him it was time to step up.
“We worked our butt off with Darren the last 48 hours to try to get him ready to go,” Moreau said. “He sets the standard. He’s our guy; he’s our offense. He’s a big, big leader on this team. Obviously, I have a lot of reverence for the guy. … I’m really thankful for Darren.”
The Raiders are thankful for Moreau, who also excelled as a blocker and recovered a late onside kick to help seal the win. He entered the game with just six targets and four catches this season before the breakout performance.
“We believe Foster is a starting tight end,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “So when he has to play, it’s not like, ‘Oh, man, Darren is out.’ It’s, ‘Oh, Foster gets to play.’ That’s the mindset.”
It was a perfect time for a breakout performance at the position.
“Shout out to Foster Moreau stepping up for Darren Waller on National Tight End Day,” running back Kenyan Drake said. “I know that’s big for him.”
The day was first referenced as a joke by 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after Garrett Celek scored a touchdown in Week 2 of the 2018 season. Star tight end George Kittle picked up the torch and ran with it publicly, and the league started recognizing it on the fourth Sunday of October the following season.
Moreau made the most of it Sunday, including a highlight-reel touchdown as he pinned a throw from Carr to the helmet of safety Marcus Epps in the end zone.
The former Louisiana State standout said he noted a coverage presnap only to see the defense change tactics at the snap.
“I just ran for 5 yards like the Tasmanian devil and had no idea what I was doing,” Moreau said. “Thank god for Derek just giving me a chance. I just kind of blacked out on the catch. I still haven’t really seen it. Just happy to get in.”
Fortunately for him, the highlight will be shown plenty. Fortunately for the Raiders, who have a bye week on deck, Waller shouldn’t be out long.
On Sunday, Waller could only mentor Moreau from the sideline. Turns out, he’s pretty good at that, too.
“He just preached confidence and gave me a lot of wisdom,” Moreau said. “He told me it was going to be a dogfight. He takes 95 percent of all snaps. The guy is a warrior.”
Moreau proved he’s not too bad himself.
“We have good players,” Carr said. “This isn’t only (Waller’s) team. Did we miss him? Absolutely. Darren knows how I feel about him, and I think you guys do, too. I think the targets speak for how I feel about him.
“Foster proved how good he is and how valuable he is to this organization. What an opportunity for him, and he stepped up and made some outstanding plays for us.”