The Carolina Panthers have recently given up two offensive stars, both of whom have gone on to perform above and beyond with their new teams. Probably the biggest surprise performance is with the second, QB Baker Mayfield, who turned up the heat for the L.A. Rams as they took down the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday Night Football.
The Rams went into the game as the pure underdog, with no strong offensive expectations in the absence of experienced team QBs. However, Mayfield quickly adapted to his new home, shining less than 48 hours after suiting up with the team for the first time.
The former number-one overall draft pick may have started slow, but he picked up the pace where it counted. Down 16-3 in the fourth quarter, Mayfield led two successful drives, intertwined with a powerful defensive stop, to overcome the deficit and give the Rams a stunning 17-16 win.
Up For the Challenge
Mayfield was relegated to backup QB with the Panthers, but couldn’t even find success there. His ability on the field dropped and he suddenly became the former first-round draft pick that would “no longer be an NFL starter,” according to several analysts.
He didn’t start last night, as John Wolford took the field first. However, his three-and-out on the Rams’ opening series was enough to invite change.
Mayfield came in and didn’t stop. The Heisman Trophy winner put up 230 yards and a TD, seriously outpacing Raiders QB Derek Carr and his 137 yards and two interceptions.
Joining the team on Tuesday and winning a game on Thursday at the quarterback position is absolutely incredible.
There are some positions that you can plug into a new team/system somewhat easily. QB has to be by far the hardest.
Damn impressive Baker.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) December 9, 2022
Mayfield’s go-to man in the air was wide receiver Ben Skowronek, who pulled down seven passes for 89 yards. Several were bullets that Mayfield had to thread through a needle, and the duo gave the NFL something to think about.
The Raiders started strong and controlled the game for more than three quarters. Then, reminiscent of how the New Orleans Saints blew it against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, the Rams took over.
Las Vegas had been successful in forcing Mayfield to move out of the pocket and even hit him with four sacks. However, with the number 17 barely dry after being added to his jersey, the new Rams QB dug in.
He had already shown signs of greatness on the night, but now proved his worth. Mayfield capped off a performance late in the fourth quarter with a 98-yard drive that tied the game with 10 seconds left.
The extra point was good for the Rams to move ahead, and the Raiders had just one shot. However, Carr had to scramble as the defense attacked, which resulted in a chaotic throw that ended in an interception.
Rams On the Edge
The other player the Panthers gave up on was running back Christian McCaffrey, who has also been on fire for the San Francisco 49ers – a team that could have almost taken Mayfield. Just like his former teammate, McCaffrey only had a few days to figure out a new playbook, but he has already proven that he can throw, run, catch and score.
McCaffrey has been able to keep San Francisco moving forward, and now Mayfield has a chance to do the same for the Rams. The defending Super Bowl champions have the worst start in NFL history, but, if he continues like he played last night, there’s an outside, and very weak, chance the Rams make it into the playoffs.
It’s not an easy task, and a lot of moving parts have to click into place for the Rams to have a postseason appearance. They have to win their remaining five games and the Seattle Seahawks need to lose.
Given that Seattle faces the Panthers, that isn’t very likely. DraftKings has the Rams at +4000 to make it to the playoffs.
At least Mayfield showed what he’s capable of for the Rams. He also showed that he’s still an NFL starter, despite the grumblings of a few analysts. L.A. now has something to look forward to next season.
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