“Just like we drew it up,” he mentioned, drily.
The Rams acquired fallen-from-football-grace quarterback Baker Mayfield off waivers on Tuesday afternoon. Two days later, Mayfield executed a 98-yard landing drive with 1:45 to play, which tied the Raiders at 16 factors with 15 seconds to play. Kicker Matt Gay hit the additional level, and security Taylor Rapp intercepted Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr as time expired to seal the game-winning effort.
It was, frankly, unbelievable contemplating the circumstances.
“I’m still kind of like, ‘what the hell is going on right now?’” McVay mentioned.
Mayfield arrived in Los Angeles on Tuesday night time, and it’s about an hour commute from the airport to the crew observe services in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
The Rams’ Wednesday observe (a “Friday” due to the quick week), was principally crimson zone work and throw-and-catch drills. Mayfield threw to a bunch of receivers that’s at the moment with out Nos. 1 and a couple of Cooper Kupp (ankle) and Allen Robinson (foot), and shook palms with a bunch of offensive linemen who’ve been by way of 12 completely different combos in 13 video games. McVay and his teaching employees put collectively two 10-play intervals for Mayfield, run and move, so he may not less than begin to get his ft moist of their offense. That’s it. They additionally needed to get him a crash course of their silent rely, as a result of not solely was Mayfield dropping into their plan mid-week, the Rams additionally knew they’d be host to a loud and heavily-populated Raiders crowd of their residence stadium.
“What a quick study,” mentioned McVay, “I mean, he got here like five minutes ago. … I’m really happy for these players, these coaches. It’s a great testament to the resilience of this group. Man, you forget what winning is like (after six consecutive losses), and it sure is fun.”
All instructed, Mayfield perhaps, perhaps had about 50 throws in his first 40 hours along with his new crew earlier than he took the sector within the first quarter Thursday night time, a sequence after backup John Wolford (coping with a neck harm) began the sport and went three-and-out.
“I’ve kind of never seen anything like what Baker did,” mentioned proper deal with and crew captain Rob Havenstein. “He got here, what, Tuesday? Just unbelievable. The work and the effort and the mindset of the boys, the offense and defense and special teams actually putting together a complete performance there down the stretch. … Couldn’t be happier for my boys. No matter what was happening, everybody had each others’ backs.”
Most of the sport was ugly. The ending was pure insanity. But within the fourth quarter, the Rams performed a model of complementary soccer hardly seen from them this season.
The Rams protection allowed one landing all through, which was helped fairly a bit by a 32-yard explosive move play on that drive. Receiver Davante Adams made certainly one of two 30-plus-yard catches towards cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the primary a exceptional one-handed effort. Outside of these two performs, Adams (three catches, 71 yards, no touchdowns) was not in a position to break the sport open. Nor technically was working again Josh Jacobs, who has run throughout groups the final couple of weeks. Thursday, Jacobs did have 99 yards — however on 27 carries, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Inside linebacker Bobby Wagner mentioned the Rams protection didn’t need to permit fairly so many general yards (302), however have been stingy within the crimson zone and even took the ball away as soon as there, courtesy of an finish zone interception by second-year linebacker Ernest Jones.
After a Cam Akers landing run with 3:25 left to play, the Rams protection compelled a three-and-out on the opposite aspect. Wagner made the run cease on third-and-1 and completed with a team-high 14 tackles. That arrange Mayfield and the offense’s go-ahead effort.
“To be able to call on (the) defense, it came down to that third-and-1 stop — the defense did a hell of a job making that stop and getting us the ball back,” Mayfield mentioned.
Then, chaos. In a traditionally troubled Rams season, it was lastly the great type.
On third-and-2 with 1:37 to play, receiver Van Jefferson drew a move interference flag on a ball that may have in any other case been intercepted. Still alive. Mayfield was then sacked for a 9-yard loss, however Raiders defensive deal with Jerry Tillery drew an unsportsmanlike penalty and the Rams crept ahead. Then, Mayfield hit second-year receiver Ben Skowronek on a 32-yard ball over the center, which Skowronek stretched and (notably) hung onto as the opposite 11 gamers surged towards the brand new line of scrimmage with the clock ticking away. Mayfield hit Malcolm Brown (elevated from the observe squad) and Skowronek once more for a mixed 17 yards, then spiked the ball to cease the clock with 16 seconds left.
On the following snap, Mayfield unfurled a phenomenal throw to Jefferson, whose man was caught tight with him in press protection. Jefferson hauled within the landing catch, which had only a 30.4 p.c completion likelihood, based on Next Gen Stats — making it Mayfield’s lowest-probability completion of the night time.
Mayfield’s throw to Jefferson was additionally the third-year receiver’s first game-winning landing of his profession, at any degree. The 98-yard drive was the longest go-ahead landing drive in a two-minute state of affairs within the final 45 years, based on Elias Sports.
Why the hell not?
The Rams made a “why the hell not?” transfer once they acquired Mayfield this week, they usually performed a “why the hell not” sort of recreation. They let go, leaned into it. They ran a casual walk-through in Thousand Oaks, Calif., simply earlier than loading up on the crew buses Thursday early afternoon, particularly to undergo a two-minute state of affairs simply in case they may want it. They had a brief — Mayfield laughed, very quick — record of requires him that they knew he was comfy with in case he did enter the sport (he wasn’t completely positive he would till after it began). They threw it out (“we dipped out of that list and got into some other things,” Mayfield mentioned, chuckling). Center Brian Allen barked in Mayfield’s ear continuously — reminders of the language, the principles of the offense inside that language. McVay chattered at hyper-speed into Mayfield’s headset snap after snap. When I requested Havenstein what the communication was like in-game, he simply laughed.
“Some of it we were kinda learning on the fly,” he mentioned. “We’d give him a little synopsis, and he was like, ‘all right, f—- it.’”
— NFL (@NFL) December 9, 2022
But ultimately, throughout a hurry-up state of affairs with none remaining timeouts, working a clock-the-ball cadence solely beforehand taught in a coaching camp he wasn’t current for, when he fairly actually had nothing left to lose, Mayfield was at his most alive.
“Ball is ball,” added Mayfield. It didn’t harm, in fact, that the Raiders have been known as for 2 penalties on the drive, or that they aligned in a good protection in crunch time when a stop shell that contained the Rams inbounds would have killed the remainder of their clock and maybe suffocated a landing look.
“I was truly shocked they were pressing with like, 15 seconds left, knowing we didn’t have any timeouts left,” mentioned Mayfield. Add it to the record for him, this week.
As Mayfield walked out of his press convention and again by way of the locker room, he turned to the general public relations staffer subsequent to him.
“All right,” he mentioned, grinning. “Where the hell do I go?”
Next: Learn everyone’s names, a couple of extra pages within the playbook. A espresso spot on the way in which to work, the right method to flip when exiting the elevator, even what the schedule is for the remainder of the yr.
Mayfield has 4 extra weeks to place the very best tape he can on the market, as a result of he’ll be searching up a job in 2023. The Rams signed him with the hope that he’d do sufficient to show right into a compensatory choose for them, if he earned a brand new contract elsewhere. They gave little to no thought to what a future with Mayfield as a possible backup quarterback would appear to be for them, a number of folks with information of their discussions mentioned. They wished to keep away from being additional mortified on the sector by way of the tip of their season and it price solely $1.3 million to accumulate him. After this, who is aware of?
“To be honest with you, I’m just looking to be the best version of me possible,” Mayfield mentioned. “Learn, improve in this system, try to take away from a great group of guys (who) have had a lot of success … Just try to learn from everybody here. Take in as much as I can, and let the pieces fall where they may. I can’t control the future. I know I have the next four games here. I’m trying to build on that, and just be the best version of me.”
Mayfield doesn’t want that query answered proper now, and neither do the Rams. They must reside right here, on this most unbelievable of moments in an in any other case misplaced season on Thursday night time. Let them.
“I don’t know if you could write it any better than that,” mentioned Mayfield, with an exhale. “Obviously we’d like to be a little bit more stress-free, but it’s a pretty damn good story, I’ll be honest with you. It’s special.”
So I received’t attempt to write it higher, they usually received’t attempt to inform it higher. There’s time to determine the remainder out later. We’ll all go away this second right here the place it’s — frozen in all of its absurdly fantastical chaos, preserved so the gamers who by no means stop on one another, who wanted it most, can reside inside it just a bit longer.
(Top picture of Baker Mayfield and Brian Allen: Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire through Getty Images)