Mayfield rallies Rams past Vegas 17-16
Published 12:00 am Friday, December 9, 2022
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Baker Mayfield threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Van Jefferson with 10 seconds to play to cap a 98-yard drive, and the Rams’ brand-new quarterback led two TD drives late in the fourth quarter to propel Los Angeles to a shocking 17-16 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday night.
Just two days after the Rams (4-9) claimed Mayfield off waivers from Carolina, the former No. 1 pick went 22 of 35 for 230 yards and snapped the defending Super Bowl champions’ six-game losing streak in dramatic fashion.
Mayfield said he had “a lot of emotions” after an improbable end to a frantic four-day period which he began as a third-stringer for the Panthers and ended in celebration on the West Coast.
“It’s a pretty damn good story,” Mayfield said. “I’ll be honest with you. It’s pretty special. … I love to compete. I love this game.”
Los Angeles trailed 16-3 after Daniel Carlson’s third field goal with 12:20 to play, but Mayfield coolly engineered a 75-yard drive. Cam Akers made a short TD run with 3:19 left, one play after he fought for a first down at the Vegas 1 on a gritty fourth-down catch.
The Los Angeles defense stopped Derek Carr and the Raiders at the 2-minute warning, but AJ Cole dropped a 64-yard punt at the Rams 2. Undaunted and with no timeouts, Mayfield led the Rams downfield again — with ample help from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Raiders’ Jerry Tillery for knocking the ball out of the quarterback’s hands after a play.
The drive included a contested 32-yard reception by Ben Skowronek, who finished with career highs of seven catches for 89 yards. The Rams reached the Vegas 23 with 15 seconds left, and Mayfield promptly found Jefferson behind rookie Sam Webb in the end zone, setting off a frenzied celebration in the SoFi Stadium stands.
“Man, you forget what winning is like, and it sure is fun,” coach Sean McVay said after the Rams’ first victory since Oct. 16.
The 98-yard march was the longest go-ahead TD drive in the final 2 minutes of a game over the past 45 NFL seasons.
Josh Jacobs rushed for 99 yards and the only touchdown for the Raiders (5-8), whose three-game winning streak ended in humiliating fashion. Less than four weeks after Las Vegas lost in former ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday’s NFL coaching debut with Indianapolis, the Raiders lost to a quarterback who joined his new team less than 48 hours before the game and had just one brief walkthrough practice.
Carr passed for 137 yards with no TDs and two interceptions, including a game-icing pick at midfield. Davante Adams had no catches in the second half on three targets, and Las Vegas’ offense managed only 67 yards after halftime. The Raiders also dropped to 0-4 this season when leading by double digits at halftime — the most losses in that situation by any team since at least 1930.
John Wolford ran the opening series for the Rams’ offense, but McVay then turned it over to Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner and a player McVay has long admired. Wolford, who has been battling a neck injury, and third-stringer Bryce Perkins have both been ineffective in place of injured Matthew Stafford in recent weeks.
Mayfield was having a terrible season for the Panthers, but he improbably injected a spark into the Rams with a handful of big plays and decent drives despite minimal knowledge of the playbook.
With McVay apparently giving detailed instructions into his helmet before each huddle, Mayfield immediately got the Rams moving with three completions of at least 20 yards in his first two series. Los Angeles had only 26 such completions in its first 12 games — third-fewest in the NFL.
And once he was warmed up, Mayfield completed 15 of his 20 passes in the fourth quarter, flawlessly directing his new teammates downfield for two scores.
Jacobs punched it in to cap the Raiders’ opening drive, and the running back got a whopping 18 carries in the first half while Vegas attempted to grind down the Rams. Adams got only four targets in the first half, but he made twojaw-dropping catches.
Akers short-circuited Mayfield’s solid second drive with a fumble in the red zone, but Rams linebacker Ernest Jones made an end-zone interception with 49 seconds left in the first half to limit Las Vegas’ lead to 13-3.
Los Angeles only reached the red zone for the first time with 5 1/2 minutes to play, but Mayfield was just getting warmed up.
Jacobs injured his hand early in the second half and briefly went to the locker room, but kept playing. … Aaron Donald (high ankle sprain) missed his second game due to injury in his nine-year NFL career. … Raiders RG Alex Bars injured his knee on the opening drive and didn’t return. … Rams WR Jacob Harris injured his shoulder playing special teams in the second half.
Raiders: Host New England on Sunday, Dec. 18.
Rams: At Green Bay on Monday, Dec. 19.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL