Baker Mayfield suspected the Rams would request his services after he was released by Carolina earlier this week. Mayfield was so sure that Los Angeles would sign him that he actually booked a flight to Los Angeles before he officially approved it.
In a performance befitting a Hollywood script, Mayfield led the Rams to an epic 17-16 victory Thursday night after throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Van Jefferson with 10 seconds left. The score capped a 98-yard drive in which Mayfield made several big passes as he helped 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 victory to other notable moments in his career. “Originally I was angry because I had to go through so many coaching changes and learn so many new things, but it definitely helped there. … They put in some good plays and put me in a good position to win.”
It took Sean McVay three running plays and one possession to make the move from John Wolford to Mayfield. Mayfield came into the game with 2:21 left in the first quarter and the Rams trailing 10-0.
“I knew I wasn’t going to start,” said Mayfield. “Honestly, we were just seeing how John would feel, how that would go and how it would go. I would be done either way.”
Mayfield went 22 of 35 for 230 yards in his Rams debut. Trailing 16–3 late, Mayfield developed 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, I was completely shocked that they lined up at the press conference with 15 seconds left,” Mayfield said of his game-winning touchdown pass. “I really thought they would try to jump out of the zone, but they just stuck with it. Their weak side safety stayed low. Van is a great go-ball runner. He won off the line and did well.”
On his first play as an Aries, the former Browns and Panthers quarterback rushed a 21-yard completion to Jefferson. Mayfield then had a 6-yard run that helped set up Matt Gay’s 55-yard field goal.
“For him to come here and just do what he just did, it just shows how determined and what kind of guy he is. I’m glad he’s here,” Jefferson told Amazon’s Kaylee Hartung. “He just came in and trained. He’s only been here for a day. … When he came in, we knew he was going to be executed.”
The Mayfield and the Rams offense didn’t do much in the second or third quarter, 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 only six passes during the first three months of the season.
Mayfield signed with the Rams a day after being released by the Panthers. Mayfield, who signed with Carolina last season, lost his starting spot after an injury in Week 5. His last Carolina start came in a Week 11 loss to the Browns, the team with whom he spent the first four years of his career.
“I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that the game on the pitch shouldn’t affect who you are day in and day out,” said Mayfield when asked about the biggest thing he’s done in his career so far learned. “Be the same man to your teammates, and that’s been the main thing this year I think I’ve tried to address overall. Just try to help where I can, don’t let all those other things affect me and roll with the punches Be who I am and be that leader.
“I love football. I love playing this game and love playing and competing. Just go and enjoy it.”
Mayfield did that and then some on Thursday night, and it resulted in a memorable finish that helped his new team avoid elimination in the playoffs.
“It speaks to the culture of the locker room,” Mayfield said of the Rams’ overall performance on Thursday night. “They come in here and still try to compete even though the record speaks for itself. They just welcome me, compete and fight to the end. That says everything you need to know about this place.”