Only in L.A.
Dumped twice in a year, first by the team he had made relevant (Cleveland Browns) and then by the woeful Carolina Panthers, and with only two days to prepare with his new team, and without a single practice session, Baker Mayfield led an undermanned and ofttimes overwhelmed Los Angeles Rams team to victory in a Thursday night game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Rams have suffered through an utterly miserable season after winning the Super Bowl in February 2022. A slew of injuries to both high-profile names and lesser-known but vital parts of the team has led to a patchwork offensive line, plus the team’s key players — quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and defensive lineman Aaron Donald — missing multiple games. With Stafford’s backup, John Wolford, both playing poorly and nursing a neck injury, it was unsurprising to see Rams coach Sean McVay insert Mayfield when the Rams started their second possession of the game.
The game threatened to be over early, with the Raiders dominating on the ground, scoring a touchdown on the opening possession and adding a field goal on each of the subsequent two drives. For his part, on his first drive, Mayfield led the Rams far enough downfield for a field goal of their own. The next possession saw Los Angeles make it into the red zone, but a Cam Akers fumble ended the drive. Las Vegas then marched downfield, but Ernest Jones managed an end zone interception to keep the score at 13-3 going into halftime.
Both teams had trouble moving the ball in the third quarter, often due to self-inflicted wounds, otherwise known as foolish penalties. The Raiders managed a field goal with 12:20 left in the fourth quarter, making the score 16-3. It looked like Los Angeles was on its way to its seventh straight loss.
Then the script no movie studio would dare touch for its sheer outrageousness kicked into gear.
In a 17-play drive that took over nine minutes, Mayfield took full advantage of a gift first down by the Raiders courtesy of an offsides penalty on fourth down to lead the Rams into the end zone, completing 10 of 13 passes. Akers atoned for his earlier fumble by completing a one-yard touchdown run with 3:19 left. 16-10.
Los Angeles needed to stop Las Vegas ASAP to have any hope of getting the ball back with sufficient time to score. This looked doubtful, as the Raiders have a third and one with Josh Jacobs, who had been torturing the Rams all night, in the backfield ready to run for the first down. Except he didn’t make it, courtesy of a Herculean effort by linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive tackle Marquise Copeland. Fourth down.
The Raiders ripped off a massive 64-yard punt, pinning the Rams on their two-yard line with 1:45 left on the clock and no time-outs. It looked to be over when on third down, Las Vegas picked off a Mayfield pass … except for the minor detail of an embarrassingly obvious pass interference call against them. On the subsequent first down, the Raiders sacked Mayfield … and then committed an absolute brain-dead unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play, giving Los Angeles another first down. Still, the ball was only at the Rams 28-yard line with 1:20 left to play. No way, right? Uh, right?
Three passes later, one being a superb catch by Ben Skowronek, who wrestled the ball from a defender’s grasp, the Rams had a first and ten at the Raiders’ 23-yard line with 16 seconds left. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, on the subsequent play, Mayfield found Van Jefferson in the end zone. Extra point good. 17-16 Rams. The Raiders got the ball back, but a Taylor Rapp interception ended the game.
Whether Mayfield opts to stay with the Rams after this season is unknown, as he would be the backup behind Stafford. However, such decisions can wait for a couple of months at least. For one night, Baker Mayfield was the action hero whom Hollywood can only dream of creating.