NEW ORLEANS — Baker Mayfield was scared.
After flipping a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cade Otton in the first half, he was bent backward by Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata. With his legs trapped underneath him, he was hit late by defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd.
“It was pretty scary, to be honest with you,” Mayfield said after throwing three touchdowns in the Bucs’ 26-9 win over the Saints. “Just getting pinned down was a scary moment and then the late hit on top of that. Luckily it wasn’t worse than it was. Cade presented a good little checkdown right there for me and he was able to make a play after that.”
Fortunately, Mayfield avoided a serious injury to his legs and he used them to escape pressure all day from the Saints defense.
Mayfield extended several plays, including his 5-yard touchdown strike to Deven Thompkins in the fourth quarter.
He also rushed eight times for 31 yards.
“Baker is a dawg,” left tackle Tristan Wirfs said. “We know we can’t have a clock with him. He’s always going to do everything he can to keep the play alive and fight for yards. It’s great having him back there. He’s an incredible teammate. I love him. He balled out today.”
Mayfield finished 25 of 32 passing for 246 yards with three touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 116.9.
“He’s tough. He made some throws,” coach Todd Bowles said of Mayfield. “Long ones and short ones. He made some throws, he stayed away from sacks for the most part. He almost gave away (another) pick but it became incomplete so we didn’t count that one. He played a heck of a ballgame. Bake is tough. He fits in here. He understands the offense very well. The guys love to play for him and he works for us.”
Bowles admitted he was a little scared watching his quarterback get hit in an awkward position.
“You’re always concerned when your quarterback gets hit,” Bowles said. “But he’s tough. He got up and fought it out. We have two weeks. Hopefully he can heal up and a lot of other guys, too.”
Bucs receiver Chris Godwin, who had a season-high eight catches for 114 yards, credited Mayfield for his leadership.
“He’s a fighter. A ton of resilience,” Godwin said. “He’s been a great fit for us. You see him make some plays for us scrambling. He takes some tough shots for us and pops back up. He’s a leader. I think he loves ball. I think that kind of permeates through the team. It makes the offensive line block more, it makes us want to run our routes a little harder and give him a chance.”
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
The Bucs defense held New Orleans to just 197 yards of offense, the lowest total allowed by Tampa Bay in 63 all-time meetings with the Saints. In addition, the 127 net passing yards allowed by Tampa Bay were the team’s fewest since last Nov. 9 vs. Atlanta. Saints receiver Chris Olave was held to one catch for 4 yards, a career low.
“Credit to Coach Bowles for putting together a great game plan and for us just sticking together and chipping away at it, watching film together, talking about it on the sidelines,” cornerback Zyon McCollum said. “Then when we’re out there, we’re always talking. We’re always communicating. So as long as we stick together as a group, it doesn’t matter who’s out there on offense, we think we can contain them.”
Another long field goal
Bucs kicker Chase McLaughlin hit a 51-yard field goal, bringing his career total to 19-of-23 on 50-plus-yard attempts. He finished 2-of-2 on field goals and 2-of-2 on extra-point attempts Sunday (the Bucs opted for a two-point conversion try on one TD).
Credit Mayfield for scrambling twice for yardage with runs to get McLaughlin back in field goal range so the Bucs could take a 17-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“There were a couple there,” Mayfield said. “Early on in the game, (quarterbacks coach) Thad Lewis was pointing out they’re not accounting for me. And just that last third down right before Chase hit the long field goal, (offensive coordinator) Dave (Canales) is telling me we just need 5 yards here. We’re looking to convert the first down but just getting Chase into range.”
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.