Baker Mayfield has had a rough season. He was told by the Carolina Panthers on Monday that he'd be their third-string quarterback this week, and Mayfield asked to be released. The Panthers didn't have a problem letting him go. It's not like he'd played well at any point this season.
The Rams took a shot on Mayfield. During a low point in his career, he had a comeback for the ages on Thursday night.
Mayfield, claimed off waivers on Tuesday after the Carolina Panthers cut him, led a 98-yard drive for a game-winning 23-yard touchdown in the final seconds on Thursday night to lead the Los Angeles Rams to a wild 17-16 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Mayfield hit Van Jefferson with nine seconds left for the game-winning score.
Mayfield had done little before the final minutes of the fourth quarter. He was playing on an offense without top receivers Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson. He had almost no time to learn the playbook or practice with his new team. No matter what happens with Mayfield's Rams career after that, he'll have that moment. And maybe the Rams really did find something in claiming Mayfield.
The Raiders led 16-3 in the fourth quarter and the Rams had been bad on offense. But some horrible penalties in the fourth quarter by the Raiders opened the door, and Mayfield led the Rams through it.
For Mayfield to do that a little more than 48 hours after joining the Rams was simply unfathomable.
"Didn't think it was going to play out like this," Mayfield said on the Amazon Prime Video set after the game. "But I'm glad we went through the two-minute operation, my goodness."
Baker Mayfield comes in early
The Rams had some pregame shenanigans in relation to their starting quarterback. They didn't say if it would be John Wolford, Mayfield or even Bryce Perkins. All of them were active. All three warmed up before the game. Wolford eventually took the snaps with the first team before the game and got the start. But after the Rams went three-and-out on their first possession, Mayfield came in.
Mayfield started pretty well. He hit a 21-yard pass to Van Jefferson on his first play. He led the Rams to a field goal on his first possession. The Rams stuck with Mayfield, who was claimed on waivers Tuesday after he was cut by the Carolina Panthers. He was a respectable 3-of-6 for 65 yards in the first half.
Eventually he looked like a quarterback who was probably still learning his teammates' names, and definitely learning the playbook. The offense looked disjointed. Mayfield was indecisive and took sacks. To start the second half he was 1-of-6 for 5 yards through two Rams possessions.
The Rams were bad on offense, but the Raiders couldn't put them away. And Mayfield got hot again.
Raiders have trouble putting it away
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw an interception into the end zone when he was hit as he threw in the second quarter. Las Vegas punted twice to start the second half, including an inexplicable one on fourth-and-1 near midfield. The score was 13-3 for a long time.
A long pass-interference call got the Rams into field-goal position. Then the Rams had a holding penalty on what would have been a first down, and after a third-down pass was well short of the first-down marker Rams center Coleman Shelton took a personal foul penalty. That pushed the Rams back 15 yards and kicker Matt Gay had to attempt a field goal from 61 yards. He missed it wide left. The Raiders took possession in Rams territory and got a field goal to increase the lead to 16-3.
At that point the game looked over. Then the Raiders started giving the Rams chances.
An inconceivable offsides penalty by former first-round pick Clelin Ferrell on a fourth-and-three punt kept a Rams drive going. That drive ended with Cam Akers catching a pass for a first down on fourth-and-1, and then scoring on a 1-yard run. Mayfield heated back up on that drive, completing several key passes.
The Raiders had a chance to put the game away, but ran it three straight times with Josh Jacobs and punted after Jacobs was stuffed on third-and-1. A great punt put the Rams at their own 2-yard line with no timeouts and 1:45 left. It would take a miracle for Mayfield, but he provided one. An interception was wiped off the board due to a defensive pass interference penalty. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, for defensive tackle Jerry Tillery knocking the ball out of Mayfield's hands after a sack, cost the Raiders 15 more yards. Ferrell's penalty was inexcusable and Tillery's was way worse. A circus catch by Ben Skowronek got the Rams closer, and Mayfield's lofted pass to Jefferson put the Raiders away. Mayfield told Amazon Prime Video's crew he was shocked that the Raiders played press coverage in the final seconds, allowing Jefferson to get behind the defense for the winning touchdown.
The Rams have had a rough season and so has Mayfield. But Thursday night will be remembered for a long time.