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

ByGuillermo Garcia

Sep 13, 2023
Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield decoded Minnesota's defense in Week 1 comeback win

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.