- READ: Raiders tumble to 12th seed in AFC after collapse
- READ: Mayfield's magical win: 'I don't know if you could write it any better'
- READ: Maxx Crosby on latest collapse: 'I just feel bad for the fans'
- Imagine running a two-minute drill for a team you’ve been on for two days. That was the scenario that unfolded when Baker Mayfield and the Rams got the ball back with 1:45 left in the game, down six points and fresh out of timeouts. Oh, and the ball was on the 2-yard line. But Mayfield looked more comfortable than he ever did in Carolina, which just ditched him out of the blue, and as cool as he had at certain promising points in Cleveland. But did anyone actually expect what we just witnessed? After an incompletion, Mayfield ripped a dime from his own end zone to Tutu Atwell to get the Rams some breathing room. After a sack, Mayfield uncorked a beauty to Ben Skowronek for 32 yards, and suddenly anything was possible. Two quick completions and a spike gave them 14 seconds to pull off a miracle -- from cut to claimed to hero, all in a four-day span. Then Mayfield did it, hitting Van Jefferson with a teardrop fade for the game-tying touchdown (with the extra point providing the winning margin). This was either the flukiest game we’ve seen this season or it’s the start of the Baker comeback tour. The Rams, through this miserable post-Super Bowl hangover, have something to smile about again.
- Mayfield didn’t start (weird) but he sure did finish. Whatever expectations there were in Thursday night’s game for Mayfield, he probably surpassed them well in advance of the final drive. For a guy who has had Sean McVay’s playbook for less time than most people rent cars, Mayfield didn’t embarrass himself a bit early on. He didn’t start (John Wolford did) but played every snap after the Rams’ first-series three-and-out. It was as if McVay said, the heck with this, and put his boy in. There were a few early slip-ups -- expected for someone who arrived less than 48 hours ago -- but a few eye-opening throws, too, such as the third-and-13 dime Mayfield delivered to Skowronek. It was as good a throw as I’d seen Mayfield make since Cleveland (until the fourth quarter, that is) and well worth the timeout the Rams used before that play to get everything straight. Mayfield’s first three completions were all 21 yards or longer. He’d finish the game with 230 yards -- only five fewer than his season high in Carolina, in the opener against his former Browns team. How strangely coincidental. That game was supposed to be Baker’s reckoning after his summertime trade. But it took Mayfield being waived, claimed and thrust into the lineup in a week’s time for him to have his 2022 moment.
- Right when the Raiders pulled us back in, they broke our hearts. Up 16-3 midway through the fourth quarter, it appeared the Raiders were about to win their fourth straight game and suddenly make the Week 15 matchup against Bill Belichick and the Patriots look a lot spicier as a possible elimination game between mentor and mentee Josh McDaniels. But just as the Saints did Monday night against the Buccaneers, the Raiders took their feet off the gas. On their first possession of the fourth quarter up 10 points, they were conservative, settling for a field goal. Up six with three minutes left, they were predictable, handing off three times to an overworked Josh Jacobs. Even a depleted Rams defense can stop that. But what was most wild was how utterly aggressive they were against Mayfield on the final drive, continuing to stick with press-man coverage and not shifting to a zone (or at least bail technique). Yeah, the dude just got off the bus. But he was the former No. 1 overall pick, yeah? The Raiders showed him zero respect on that final drive and paid badly for it -- possibly with the playoffs gone now. And right when we were about to show some respect to the Raiders’ Jerry Tillery, who had flashed a few times in two games, he committed a really boneheaded penalty to extend the Rams’ game-winning drive. Maybe Tillery is who we thought he was and the Raiders are who we thought they were before the win streak.
- There’s a clear opportunity for Mayfield to thrive with McVay. The expectation is that Matthew Stafford will return from his spinal cord contusion at some point in the coming offseason, reclaim his starting job and continue on with McVay, his partner in crime. We hope it happens. Stafford had his moment in the sun with the Super Bowl victory, but the afterglow has been pretty short. So we’re not advocating for McVay -- after one ridiculous start -- to kick homeboy to the curb in favor of Mayfield. But we’re saying that this could be a place where Mayfield thrives. After the game, he joked with the Prime Video postgame show about all the coaching changes he’s endured in recent seasons, but it’s funny because it’s true. Mayfield has been a vagabond this year, but he went through major changes in Cleveland, too. Watching Stafford and Mayfield talking on the sideline between plays made me think Mayfield returning as QB2 in L.A. next year might not be the worst thing in the world. That is, if Mayfield doesn’t tear up the league too badly over the next four games and earn himself an eight-digit contract. Hey, stranger things have happened. Remember Matt Flynn?
- Josh Jacobs’ toughness is admirable, but are the Raiders running him into the ground? Through 13 games now, Jacobs has carried the ball 269 times and caught 44, for a grand total of a league-high 313 touches. In the previous five NFL seasons, that number has been reached only 21 times by running backs. Jacobs has never reached it. He’s already set his career high in touches -- and there are four games left. He carried the ball a whopping 18 times in the first half Thursday against the Rams, four days after he had 14 second-half carries against the Chargers. Jacobs left the game with a hand injury briefly, and when he came back, Jacobs shook his right hand in pain after catching a pass and attempting to stiff-arm with said hand. Ahead of Jacobs hitting free agency, are the Raiders grinding this guy into sawdust? It sure feels that way, but they’ve needed him to and he’s played well. Let’s hope he can stay healthy down the stretch.
Next Gen stat of the game: In his Rams debut, Baker Mayfield led a 98-yard game-winning TD drive that included three tight-window completions that all traveled over 30 yards in the air.
NFL Research: Mayfield playing quarterback for the Rams on Thursday, two days after joining the team, is the shortest amount of time spent with a new team before playing QB since at least 1995. The game ended with his eighth game-winning drive.