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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Baker Mayfield: Bucs' Offense Staying Positive

Baker Mayfield's first three starts as a Buccaneer have been more than a little encouraging, and even after the team's first loss on Monday night he knows what the offense needs to do to get right back on track

TAMPA, FL - September 17, 2023 - Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs won the game, 27-17. Photo By Doug DeFelice/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TAMPA, FL - September 17, 2023 - Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs won the game, 27-17. Photo By Doug DeFelice/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are three games into Baker Mayfield's tenure as their new starting quarterback, and there have been plenty of encouraging signs as to what the offense is going to develop into in 2023. If you hibernated through the first three weeks of the season and woke up to find the Bucs tied for first with a 2-1 record, Mayfield sporting a 96.0 passer rating and the team ranking second in the NFL in turnover differential, you – as a Buccaneers fan – would likely be satisfied.

However, since the "1" in that 2-1 record just happened two days ago, and the offense struggled through most of Monday night against an uber-talented Eagles defensive front, the most recent bit of evidence about that offense is the least palatable. The Bucs were held to 174 yards of total offense, Mayfield threw his first (and only) interception of the season and the run game was shut down.

Still, as the Bucs turn the page and begin preparing for their Week Four first-place showdown in New Orleans, Mayfield remains in a positive mood and thinks everyone around him should be feeling the same way.

"It's a short week, so yeah, you've got to move forward," he said. "My attitude is, there are a lot of things that we can control. The Eagles are a great team, and they made a lot of great plays – I'm not taking anything away from them – but there are a lot of things that we can control to get better. When you look at it on tape, we can fix those things. It's in our control. It's in our hands. That's why everybody needs to be positive – the world is not ending for us.

"It wasn't our best game on Monday night, but we've got to move on to the next one. There are a lot of important games, and especially with this being our first divisional one. We know what is at stake here, so all of the guys are pretty focused."

The Buccaneers put together an impressive, up-tempo, 75-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to pull within two scores with nine minutes left against Philadelphia, but they never got the ball back to see if they could sustain that momentum. It wasn't enough to get back into the game because they weren't able to get into that groove until they were too far behind.

"We have to start faster offensively," said Mayfield. "We have to be more aggressive. With a defense like ours, there's no reason we can't be aggressive, push the tempo and try and force the issue for a team to try and get aggressive against our guys, and let them make plays, as well. When it comes down to it, it's complementary football and offensively we have to do our job."

When Mayfield used the word 'aggressive' he wasn't referring to play-calling or the team's overall offensive philosophy. He cited his miss on the fourth play of the game when he attempted to get the ball to wide receiver Deven Thompkins on a deep crossing route and said the Bucs need to capitalize on those types of opportunities. He also referenced the Bucs' opponent on that evening, knowing the offense had to produce to keep up with the Eagles' always-productive offense.

"[It's] taking advantage of matchups," said Mayfield. "Going back to our first drive, I missed that shot to Deven Thompkins. Whether it comes down to actually hitting the shots or just taking the easy plays, taking the first, first down and getting into our groove. Just making sure we're not having a conservative mindset against a team like that."

Through three games, Mayfield is one of only six quarterbacks in the NFL who has thrown four or more touchdown passes and one or fewer interceptions. He's leading the league in passer rating and completion percentage on third downs and the Buccaneers rank seventh in the league in expected points added (EPA) per pass play. It has undeniably been a good start for Mayfield as he looks to reestablish himself as an upper-echelon starting quarterback after a nomadic 2022 season. Mayfield knows what he needs to do to remain on his current upward trajectory.

"Hitting the easy stuff," he said. "Like I mentioned earlier, hitting Deven Thompkins on that deep-crosser play. Taking some of those shots. And even the ball to Mike [Evans] in the end zone, it wasn't my best ball by any means. I could've made it easy on him. Just taking exactly what's there and making it easy on our guys because they're great playmakers, so there is no reason to make it harder. I think, obviously, taking care of the ball. I'd like to eliminate the interception, and then taking everything that's easy there for us."

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