Unexpected playoff victory for the underdog Bucs is led by Baker Mayfield

Despite being 3.5-point home underdogs Monday night, Tampa Bay quarterback Baker Mayfield overcame rib and ankle injuries to throw for 337 yards and three touchdowns as the Buccaneers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 32-9 in the wild-card round. This was the Buccaneers’ biggest playoff victory since their 27-point victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.

The first Buccaneer to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a postseason game, Mayfield said, “there’s something about whether you’re an underdog or [on] a road game, just having your backs against the wall and knowing it’s just your team versus everybody else when you’re counted out.” Not even his predecessor, Tom Brady, “It’s always fun to be in that role. Obviously I’m pretty comfortable in it, but our team has completely embraced that throughout the year.”

In addition, he was recovering from an ankle injury he had last week in Carolina and a rib ailment he had two weeks ago during a loss to the New Orleans Saints. Mayfield’s practice time was limited this week as he had to fly in his personal physiotherapist twice to assist him work through the injury.

Todd Bowles, the Bucs coach, remarked, “I mean, if you looked at him during the week — he was limping around, he wasn’t practicing, he was getting a little better each day — hopefully they didn’t hit him too much. I know they got some shots on him and they got what, four sacks? So he came back from that, he stayed with the plan, he never flinched, and he made play after play after play, and that says a whole lot about him.”

Even though his receiving targets missed six passes in the first half alone, three of which came from tight end Cade Otton, Mayfield managed to maintain a happy and upbeat vibe on the sidelines.

“He was sharp. I mean, the whole game he was sharp. … They dropped some passes, but he kept coming back, he kept going to them,” Bowles remarked.

With 89 receiving yards, Otton led the Bucs. “He’s always encouraging,” Otton said. “I feel like we as a team just take on his character. Just always competing, always has that fire. We’re seeing it come together, we’re getting better as far as executing. We’re never out of the fight. We’re always going to compete just like he does.”

Following a 28-yard ( goal by Bucs kicker Chase McLaughlin on the opening drive, Mayfield connected with wide receiver David Moore, who was not often used, on a crossing pass for a 44-yard touchdown to take a 10-0 lead. In the second quarter, McLaughlin followed with field goals from 54 and 48 yards. Anthony Nelson’s safety in the third quarter gave the offense much-needed momentum, and two plays later, Mayfield connected with freshman Trey Palmer for a 56-yard score. In the fourth quarter, he then connected with wide receiver Chris Godwin down the middle for a 23-yard touchdown.

Shaquil Barrett, an outside linebacker, remarked, “I love playing with Baker.” “I knew Baker was going to be special for us once he won the job. I saw it from when he first got into the league. He just needed to be healthy and a good opportunity. And I think he got that with us, and he’s showing what he can do with it and I love what I’m seeing from him.”

Shortly after sprinting off the field at Raymond James Stadium, shouting “Let’s go!” in triumph. When asked to draw comparisons between the triumph and his 2020 Cleveland Browns playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers (48–37), Mayfield responded in the affirmative.

Mayfield paused for a moment before shrugging his shoulders. He smiled and remarked, “Pretty good,” then flashed a cheeky grin.

Was it even more delicious in light of the year-long adventure he’d taken? After being cut by the Panthers in December 2022 and traded away by the Browns in July 2022, he signed a five-game contract with the Los Angeles Rams before being signed by the Bucs this offseason to a one-year contract worth $4 million.

Mayfield responded, “Yeah, I mean, I don’t like to directly compare.” “But yeah, obviously the ups and downs that I’ve been through the last few years, this one’s great … but our sights are set for bigger goals, so on to the next one.”

The Bucs are again the underdogs in this one, and it will take place in the divisional round on the road against the Detroit Lions. The Lions defeated the Los Angeles Rams 24-23 on Sunday night, and they are now 6-point favorites.

In Week 6, the Bucs hosted the Lions and lost to them 20–6.

“We don’t really think or care about what the outside says,” Otton stated. “We know the quality of players we have in the locker room, the quality of people, the coaches, the whole entire organization.”

Devin White, an inside linebacker, said, “It’s a revenge tour.””Everybody in this locker room, we believe in one another, and that’s all that matters. People are going to talk on TV, they’re going to make their predictions. But at the end of the day, the ball has to be placed and we have to go out there and play. What people say doesn’t determine the outcome.”

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