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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Baker Mayfield: Motto for Bucs' Offense is "Resilience"

Tampa Bay's offense overcome a shaky start to get the job done in a Week One win at Minnesota, and new QB Baker Mayfield says the Bucs have the right mindset to continue improving on that side of the ball


Tampa Bay's offense overcome a shaky start to get the job done in a Week One win at Minnesota, and new QB Baker Mayfield says the Bucs have the right mindset to continue improving on that side of the ball//

Baker Mayfield surely knew it was coming. In his first start as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, he and the entire offense started slowly, with just one first down in their first five possessions at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. Mayfield himself completed just three of his first 11 passes for a total of 12 yards.

The Bucs' offense found something of a groove beginning late in the second quarter, however, and that coupled with strong efforts from the defense and special teams helped the Bucs leave Minnesota with a 20-17 win over the Vikings. Mayfield completed 18 of his next 23 passes, including touchdown throws to Mike Evans and Trey Palmer, did not commit a turnover and finished with a perfectly fine passer rating of 94.4.

Still, somebody was going to remind him of those early-game numbers. They were a notable part of the story about a game that saw astute adjustments make the difference for an offense that in the end was not only able to put the necessary points on the board but also put the game away at the end. When the inevitable happened at his weekly meeting with the media on Wednesday, Mayfield smirked and said, "Good stats, isn't it?"

The point of the question, though, was that Mayfield's NFL experience and his patience within the new offense being run by coordinator Dave Canales, allowed him to put together a winning effort, and to that he certainly agreed.

"Yeah, I think between experience and also just trusting the system that Dave brought in," he said. "Three-of-11? Talk about starting from the bottom right there. Just continuing to push forward and trust the system, not force it and let the game come to us. Knowing how [well] our defense was playing, as well – don't make mistakes, let the game come and good things will happen.

Notably, the Buccaneers punted or kicked a field goal after each of those first drives, rather than turning the ball over and making things harder on the defense. At the same time, that defense was making things just as tough for Kirk Cousins and the Vikings' offense, with the home team's first four drives ending in two punts and two fumbles. Even after Cousins finally broke through with a 39-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Jordan Addison, it was still only 7-3. A successful two-minute drill that ended in Mayfield's 28-yard touchdown pass to Evans meant the Bucs could head into halftime with a 10-10 tie.

"It was just trust," said Mayfield. "That's a big factor for our offense – if we're going to be a great team, we've got to trust the other side of the ball. Sometimes punting the ball is not bad. Ending a series with the ball in our hands, whether it's a touchdown, kick or punt is always good for us."

Some of the Bucs' early struggles on offense were the result of some unexpected counter-moves by the Vikings' new defensive coordinator, Brian Flores. As Mayfield pointed out, since this was Week One in a new system, the Buccaneers didn't really have any game tape to scout for what Minnesota might do against them. The Vikings deserve credit for coming in with a good scheme to stop the Buccaneers, but Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles gave credit to Mayfield for how he handled that situation.

"Baker is tough," said Bowles. We knew it was going to be a tough game, going in – that wasn't the problem. 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 one's he completed."

The particulars of the situations aren't necessarily similar, but there is a parallel to be drawn between where the Buccaneers' offense is right now and where it was at the start of the 2020 season. The Bucs had a new quarterback then in Tom Brady, and they had no preseason warmups before the real thing thanks to the COVID pandemic. The offense was a bit disjointed in the early going as Brady tried to find a connection with Evans and Chris Godwin. Eventually, that unit jelled into a very productive offense. Mayfield and the 2023 Buccaneers may need some time to fully kick Canales' offense into gear, but they believe they have the mental toughness to clear any hurdles.

"I mean, the motto for us is resilience right now," said Mayfield. "[We] just didn't start pretty at all. We left so much on the bone. Just being able to adapt, be resilient and not hitting the panic button by any means. Continuing with the plan, staying with it, not shying away from the run game at all. It wasn't going well early, but we ended the game with the ball in our hands and that was very important. That's a mentality. That's a mindset. A resilient, tough mentality is what I learned about this group. Hopefully we can continuing growing and just be better through four quarters."

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