The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have managed to overcome a bottom-three pass defense all season thanks in large part to Mayfield’s steady hand under center. “Steady” isn’t the adjective you’d typically use to describe the former No. 1 overall pick, who had an ugly split with the Browns and a disastrous spell with the Panthers before getting his career back on track.
Baker is a fiery dude who hasn’t always done a great job of keeping his emotions in check. No question that has changed in 2023, because let’s face it, his livelihood as an NFL starter is on the line. It has been every single week.
Thanks to the futility of the NFC South, every team in that division — yeah, even the two-win Panthers with reigning top draft pick Bryce Young — are in serious “wait and see” mode when it comes to their QBs. At least in Tampa, New Orleans, and Atlanta, the current starters are not guaranteed the job next year at all. So Baker is under more scrutiny than he otherwise would be if he was, say, just a bridge QB for a rookie who’s already on the roster.
One thing we’ve come to know about Baker is he’s at his best when his back is against the wall. Damn did he ever deliver on Sunday. We’re talking about a Packers team whose defense played well enough to win their last home game against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. It’s not like Baker was playing against a bunch of scrubs.
No chance that Baker didn’t wake up feeling dangerous on Sunday. Tampa Bay’s secondary was a sieve again, as Jordan Love put up 284 yards and two TDs with a slew of inexperienced pass-catchers and no Christian Watson. We’ve seen peaks like this performance from Baker before, but he’s struggled to sustain that momentum, be it due to injuries or just inconsistency. The Bucs have to believe they can keep rallying around their new QB to at least host a playoff game.
Given how old Tampa’s roster is, and how Todd Bowles isn’t an offensive head coach in a profession filled with them, the deck was stacked against Baker coming in. He also had to compete with Kyle Trask for the starting job. Took away some valuable reps early on. Again, the defense isn’t what it once was when Tom Brady was on the team. But here Baker and the Bucs are, rocking out in first place with three games to go.
And don’t get it twisted: Fiery Baker was still in full effect this week.
Baker Mayfield escapes a horse collar tackle, then complains about the lack of call. ref says it wasn't a tackle, so no flag. Baker explains it's only no tackle because he's so strong (illustrated by flexing) and moves on.