Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield decoded Minnesota's defense in Week 1 comeback win

Baker Mayfield's game turned almost instantly Sunday in Minneapolis. One of his teammates offered a good reason for the shift this week.

Running back Rachaad White told team reporters that Mayfield pulled off his best Enigma machine impression, decoding Minnesota's defensive signals in real time and using it to his advantage during Tampa Bay's comeback victory over the Vikings.

"We were paying attention the whole game to their signal calls," White recounted on Tuesday during an appearance on the team's weekly radio show. "And I just remember, Bake came into the locker room at halftime and he said 'I got it. We got all their signals.'

"We're in there talking as an offense and he's like, 'I know all these signals. If they do this, they're going into Cover 2. If they do this, they're going into Cover 3. Every time I alert this and they do this signal, they're dropping back to this.' And I'm like, 'Wow, that's amazing.' ... I was just listening to him and we were listening to him and we just kind of understood."

A number of explanations are possible for why Mayfield suddenly improved from a quarterback struggling to find targets beyond five yards amid defensive pressure, to one who was steadily picking apart Minnesota's defense. Mayfield credited Tampa Bay's faster tempo as helping the Buccaneers unlock Minnesota's defense, for one. Another exists in defensive coordinator Brian Flores' situational decisions.

After sending heat at Mayfield early in the game (and seeing positive results), Flores began to drop as many as eight defenders into coverage on multiple snaps late in the first half. Mayfield's first significant completion -- a 14-yard connection down the seam to Chris Godwin on third-and-2 -- came against a three-man rush at the two-minute warning. He delivered a 9-yard completion to Mike Evans moments later against a base, four-man rush.

But White likely isn't just crafting a narrative for fun. Mayfield's touchdown pass to Evans on that same drive stands as strong evidence that backs White's claims.

Mayfield received the second-and-10 snap, looked toward Evans and didn't allow his eyes to wander, following Evans' deep post while appearing to know his teammate would split Minnesota's inverted Cover 2 look -- which the Vikings disguised before the snap with three high safeties.

Often, this is just a product of film study. But it worked so well, it's difficult not to believe White.

Mayfield admitted the advantage helped tremendously, and the stats agree: After starting 3-of-11 for just 12 yards, Mayfield caught fire -- starting with the aforementioned completion to Godwin -- completing 18 of his final 23 attempts for 161 yards and two scores. He morphed from a slightly overwhelmed passer to one who was in full command, waiting for his selected target to break open throughout the final two quarters. His second touchdown pass (to rookie Trey Palmer) was a prime example of this.

Football is a game of edges. This is just another advantage, Mayfield said, one he deems perfectly fair.

"Listen, I know I'm in Tampa, but I'm a Texas Rangers fan, not a Houston Astros fan," Mayfield quipped Wednesday. "So we're not going to condone that."

Tampa isn't quite Bletchley Park, and the Buccaneers aren't interested in exploring new uses for trash cans. But their quarterback's savviness sure helped Sunday.

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