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Baker Mayfield an Action Hero with His Dazzling Debut, Leading LA Rams to Victory

Only in L.A.! Dumped two times in the span of a year—first by the team he had made significant (Cleveland Browns) and later by the pitiful Carolina Panthers—and with only two days of preparation with his new team and without even a single training session, Baker Mayfield led an undermanned and often overwhelmed Los Angeles Rams team to victory in Thursday night’s match against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Rams have endured an extremely difficult season since they won the Super Bowl in February 2022. The plethora of injuries that have affected players, gaining a lot of attention, and also less well-known but crucial elements of the team created a shaky offensive line. To top it off, the three most important players on the team—quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and defensive lineman Aaron Donald—missed several games. With Stafford's backup player, John Wolford, both playing poorly and suffering from a neck injury, it was not surprising to observe the Rams’ coach, Sean McVay, insert Mayfield when the Rams started their second possession of the game.

The game was in danger of ending early, with the Raiders winning on the field with a touchdown scored in the first play and completing an extra field goal in the following two drives. On his first drive, Mayfield led the Rams a sufficient distance downfield to score a field goal of their own. The following play was a success, as Los Angeles made it into the red zone. But a fumble by Cam Akers ended the drive. Las Vegas then marched downfield, but Ernest Jones managed an end-zone interception to keep the score at 13-3 heading into halftime.

Both teams had difficulty moving the ball during the third quarter. This was often because of self-inflicted wounds or silly penalties. The Raiders were able to score a field goal with just 12:20 left in the fourth quarter, making it 16-3. It appeared that Los Angeles was on its way to a seventh straight loss.

Then the script that no movie studio would ever dream of touching because of its outrageousness slammed into high gear.

In a 17-play drive that lasted over nine minutes, Mayfield made the most of a free first down from the Raiders due to an offsides penalty on fourth down. He then took the Rams into the end zone, completing 10 of 13 passes. Akers compensated for his earlier mishap with an uncharacteristic one-yard touchdown with 3:19 remaining. Score: 16-10.

Los Angeles needed to stop Las Vegas ASAP to have any chance of retrieving the ball in time to score. It appeared unlikely, considering that the Raiders are the only team to have a third and one featuring Josh Jacobs, who had been inflicting pain on the Rams throughout the night, in the backfield and ready to run for the first down. But he failed to succeed, thanks to a herculean effort from defensive linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive tackle Marquise Copeland. Fourth down.

The Raiders took a huge 64-yard punt, which pinned the Rams on their 2-yard line with just 1:45 remaining on the clock and no time-outs. It appeared as if the game was finished when, on the third down, Las Vegas picked off a Mayfield pass…with the exception of the tiny detail of an obvious pass-interference decision against them. On the next first down, the Raiders were able to sack Mayfield, but then they took a brain-dead, unsportsmanlike-conduct violation following the play, granting Los Angeles another first down. Even so, the ball was only at the Rams’ 28-yard line, with just 1:20 remaining. No way, is there? Uh, right?

After three passes, including an impressive catch made by Ben Skowronek, who wrestled the ball away from a defensive grasp, the Rams played a first and ten on the Raiders’ 23-yard line, with just 16 seconds remaining. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, on the following play, Mayfield found Van Jefferson in the end zone. Extra point, good. 17-16 Rams. The Raiders were able to get the ball back; however, Taylor Rapp’s interception was the final play of the game.

If Mayfield will decide to remain with the Rams after this season is unknown, since he would be second-in-command behind Stafford. But these decisions can be delayed for a couple of months at the very least. For one night, Baker Mayfield was the action hero that Hollywood can only dream of creating.

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