TAMPA — Baker Mayfield took off running with the football, planting his left hand into the sternum of Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy. It was first down on the Minnesota 33-yard line in the fourth quarter with the game knotted at 17-all.
The blow sent the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Murphy flying. Popping up off the ground, Mayfield then landed something that hurt more than that stiff-arm Sunday.
“Get that weight up, little boy!” Mayfield screamed through his mouthpiece at Murphy.
The Bucs’ sideline exploded at the sight of Mayfield putting everything on the line. The play led to the eventual game-winning 57-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin.
On Monday, Mayfield was awarded the Angry Run of the week by Good Morning Football’s Kyle Brandt.
“I think I won it because I was the new guy in the conversation,” Mayfield said. “I had some family members send me the clip. I’ll take it. I appreciate Kyle for awarding me with that. I’ve definitely been given a hard time around the building for that one.”
Mayfield’s run was instinctive. It was inspiring. Also, maybe a bit ill-advised.
Sure, it helped win the game. But too many angry runs like that could render him lost for the season.
In fact, we may already be seeing the effects of Mayfield’s eight carries for 11 yards in Sunday’s 20-17 win.
On Wednesday, Mayfield appeared on the injury report with a sore right throwing shoulder, though he was a full participant in practice. Did it occur during one of his forays from the pocket?
Who knows? But if the Bucs are going to have their best chance of returning to the playoffs, Mayfield may need to avoid getting splattered near the sidelines.
“He’s a quarterback with an offensive lineman’s mentality,” coach Todd Bowles said. “You don’t want your quarterback doing it too much, but he’ll make the yards when he has to make the yards — when the game is on the line.”
Mayfield’s closest buddies since arriving to Tampa Bay are the offensive linemen. Just shy of 6-foot-1, he nonetheless doesn’t mind throwing his beer belly around for a first down.
“I love football,” Mayfield said. “I mean, it’s the game of football, it’s a physical game. Always loved it. Love contact. Can’t shy away from it, I think that’s how you get hurt. ... (But) playing quarterback is a little bit different story. You definitely have to protect yourself.
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“But I just always wanted to be part of the guys. There’s something about that. Just being involved, showing them I like to get down and dirty with them as well.”
One of the things that attracted Bowles to Mayfield when he was coming out of Oklahoma was Mayfield’s “moxie.”
“Baker is tough,” Bowles said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game going in. That wasn’t the problem. (Brian) Flores is a good (defensive coordinator). They had some wrinkles for us in the first half that were pretty good for us. We got off to a shaky start, but we settled in. Nobody flinched. Baker’s toughness, obviously, by the way he played, the throws that he threw away and didn’t turn over — were just as impressive as the ones he completed.”
Statistically, it wasn’t a masterpiece for Mayfield. He heated up in the second half after deciphering the Vikings’ hand signals on defense. He finished 21-of-34 for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
“The headlines should read that ‘Chris Godwin makes a great catch on third and 10 to close the game out,’ ” Mayfield said. “That guy was in the trenches blocking (Vikings safety) Harrison Smith over and over again, and then makes the play with his fingertips to close out the game. It’s a mentality, like I said. It’s a tough mindset.
“Those guys, they were able to (be relied) on late in the game. When they had been doing dirty work for a while, they got rewarded. Those guys are special for a reason.”
Bucs left tackle Tristan Wirfs, who has been Mayfield’s wingman since he arrived in March, also believes he may have to find better ways to protect Mayfield from himself.
“He’s always got a lot of juice to him, a lot of fire to him,” Wirfs said. “Seeing him go do that, put his shoulder down, kind of gets you going a little bit. I’ve got to go make sure he’s not getting in too much trouble over there — talking (trash) to people. I’ll have to get him out of stuff.”
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