Baker Mayfield had an inkling that the Rams would request his services after he was released by Carolina earlier this week. Mayfield was so certain that Los Angeles would sign him that he actually booked a flight for Los Angeles before he had officially cleared waivers.
In a performance befitting a Hollywood script, Mayfield led the Rams to an epic 17-16 victory on Thursday night after throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Van Jefferson with 10 seconds left. The score capped off a 98-yard drive that saw Mayfield complete several big passes while helping the Rams snap their six-game losing streak.
“This is up there,” Mayfield told Amazon’s postgame crew when asked to compare Thursday night’s win to other notable moments in his career. “Originally, I was angry about having to go through so many coaching changes and learn so many new things, but it sure helped right there. … They put some good plays out there and put me in a good position to win.”
It took three running plays and one possession for Sean McVay to make the switch from John Wolford to Mayfield. Mayfield entered the game with 2:21 left in the first quarter and the Rams trailing 10-0.
“I knew I wasn’t going to start,” Mayfield. “Honestly, we were just seeing how John was going to feel, just how that was going to go and just going to play it out. I was going to be ready no matter what.”
Mayfield went 22 of 35 for 230 yards in his Rams debut. Trailing 16-3 late, Mayfield engineered a 17-play drive that ended with Cam Akers‘ 1-yard touchdown run. After the Rams defense forced a quick punt, Mayfield’s 32-yard completion to Ben Skowronek on Los Angeles’ final drive helped set up his game-winning pass to Jefferson.
“To be honest with you, I was completely shocked they lined up in press coverage with 15 seconds left,” Mayfield said of his game-winning touchdown pass. “I really thought they’re going to try to pop out and play zone but they just stayed with it. Their weak side safety stayed down. Van’s a great go ball runner. He won off the line and did a good job.”
“For him to get here and just do he just did, it just shows how determined and what kind of a guy he is. I’m glad he’s here,” Jefferson told Amazon’s Kaylee Hartung. “He just came in and worked out. He’s only been here for a day. … When he came in we knew he was going to execute.”
Mayfield and the Rams offense didn’t do much in the second or third quarters, but turned it on in the fourth quarter. He had considerable success throwing the ball to Skowronek and Tutu Atwell. Skowronek caught seven passes for 89 yards. Atwell caught five passes for 50 yards after catching just six passes during the season’s first three months.
Mayfield signed with the Rams a day after he was released by the Panthers. Mayfield, who signed with Carolina this past offseason, lost his starting spot after sustaining an injury in Week 5. His last start in Carolina occurred during a Week 11 loss to the Browns, the team he spent the first four years of his career with.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is don’t let the on the field play affect who you are day in and day out,” Mayfield said when asked about the biggest thing he’s learned during his career up to this point. “Be the same guy for your teammates, and that’s been the biggest thing this year that I think I’ve tried to just handle overall. Just try to help out where I can, not letting all that other stuff affect me and roll with the punches. Be who I am and kind of be that leader.
“I love football. I love playing this game and love playing and competing. Just go enjoy it.”
Mayfield did that and then some on Thursday night, and it resulted in a memorable finish that helped his new team stave off playoff elimination.
“It speaks to the culture of the locker room,” Mayfield said of the Rams’ overall performance on Thursday night. “Them coming in here and still trying to compete, even though the record speaks for itself. Just welcoming me in, competing and fighting to the very finish. That says everything you need to know about this place.”