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Baker Mayfield Shines as Bucs Conclude Preseason with Win over Ravens

Recently anointed the Bucs' starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield was near perfect on two drives, helping the home team fashion an early lead over Baltimore and hold on late for a 26-20 victory

Ravens vs. Bucs
Ravens vs. Bucs

Baker Mayfield's last tuneup before he makes his regular-season debut as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting quarterback wasn't a long one, but it was a good one.

Mayfield started the game on Saturday night against the Baltimore Ravens but stayed in for just two possessions, the second of which was an impressive 59-yard touchdown drive that tied the game in an eventual 26-20 victory for the home team at Raymond James Stadium. Mayfield connected with WR Chris Godwin three times on that possession, ending in an 11-yard touchdown strike. The Bucs' offense generated 385 yards over the course of the evening and didn't turn the ball over once.

"I'm extremely comfortable with where we are offensively right now," said Mayfield after the game. "I think you guys saw the kind of groove that [Offensive Coordinator] Dave [Canales] got into playcalling-wise…and not just Dave but everybody understanding the flow of our game and what we're trying to accomplish. I think we could have run 20 play-action keepers but we wouldn't have gotten anything done in the run game. We did all the little things right today, on that second drive especially."

Though Head Coach Todd Bowles suggested during the week that all of the starters could stay in the game until halftime, he apparently saw enough from Mayfield after those two drives. The veteran starter was indeed sharp, completing all six of his passes for 38 yards, a touchdown and no interception. In two preseason games, Mayfield hit on 14 of 15 passes for 105 yards, two touchdowns, no picks and a 135.4 passer rating.

"I thought he was efficient," said Bowles of Mayfield. "I thought they ran plays well together. The symmetry and the chemistry was there, breaking in and out of the huddle, which is what we wanted to see. He was efficient in the passing game. He went down and got a score. We wanted to get some chemistry and some game action and we got what we wanted to get done."

Trask relieved Mayfield and was just as sharp on his first drive, completing six of seven passes for 67 yards to lead the Bucs on a 94-yard touchdown drive. After that possession, both teams pulled any remaining starters at the start of the second quarter. Trask finished the game with 19 completions on 31 attempts for 192 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

"I'll speak from my perspective but I think Kyle would agree: The growth he's had since OTAs is tremendous," said Mayfield. "I think he's truly grasped this offense and found how to really learn it. You saw the fun part about how when you understand the offense the passion and the energy, all that, comes out. You saw Kyle get excited a few times tonight. That's always good to see. That means he's playing free, he knows exactly what he's doing and he's able to execute."

The Bucs will trim their roster to 53 players and arrange their depth chart for the regular season at the start of last week, making Saturday's game a final audition for dozens of young players fighting for jobs. Rookie WR Trey Palmer, a sixth-round pick out of Nebraska, continued to impress with two catches for 25 yards. That included yet another acrobatic catch to set up a David Wells touchdown, after he scored on dazzling plays in each of the first two preseason games. Palmer also had a 29-yard punt return to set up a field goal just before halftime, though he did muff a subsequent punt before recovering the loose ball. David Moore, virtually the only experienced receiver behind Godwin and Mike Evans, also stood out with four grabs for 30 yards while undrafted rookie Rakim Jarrett led the team with 48 yards on four receptions. The Buccaneers need to reshuffle their receiver rotation after losing Russell Gage to a season-ending knee injury during a joint practice with the Jets in Week Two.

"It's obviously unfortunate that we lost Russell Gage when we went to New York to practice against the Jets, but I think you guys have seen that Rakim Jarrett have made a ton of plays for us and we're really, really happy about that," said Mayfield. "Just the more reps those young guys get the more confident they get. We're really happy about their grasp of the offense right now, too. Normally rookies' heads are kind of spinning, but that's not the case with them."

Tampa Bay's rushing attack also looked better in the preseason finale than in the previous two weeks, particularly while starting back Rachaad White was in the game. White gained 39 yards on seven carries, averaging 5.6 yards per tote and showing off a variety of hard cuts and spin moves. Overall, the Bucs ran for 158 yards on 33 carries, including 34 yards by undrafted rookie Sean Tucker, a good sign for an offense that is seeking more balance in 2023.

"I think the easiest way to put it is, you just put the defense on their heels. You make the run game look just like your play-action, and vice versa. It just keeps them off balance. We're not reinventing the wheel with our scheme. Just formationally and personnel-wise we're able to get in and out of the huddle and do a lot of things and be pretty versatile. Guys understand that we have to have both the run game and the pass game to succeed."

Given the deep dive into both team's depth charts on the night, the only real blemish on the outing for the Buccaneers was Baltimore's first drive, which pitted backup quarterback Josh Johnson against a defense mostly made up of starters. Johnson, coincidentally a fifth-round draft pick by the Buccaneers way back in 2008, completed four straight passes to move the Ravens 80 yards for a touchdown, ending in a 24-yard scoring strike to Laquon Treadwell. However, the team's defensive reserves came up big at the end of the game, preserving the victory with a stop inside Tampa Bay's 20-yard line in the last minute. OLB Charles Snowden capped the defensive stand with a four-yard sack of QB Anthony Brown.

The Buccaneers also made a decision at kicker earlier in the week, releasing Rodrigo Blankenship and giving the job to Chase McLaughlin. That decision looked good as McLaughlin hit on all four of his field goal attempts – from 47, 27, 38 and 48 yards – as well as both extra point tries.

The Bucs got the ball to start the game after a touchback but were unable to move the sticks. A four-yard run up the middle by White left the offense in a third-and-three and a checkdown to White on the next snap came up two yards short.

The Ravens started Johnson at quarterback and he got the ball into the end zone on four plays, all completions of 15 or more yards. His first pass was a 19-yard completion to TE Charlie Kolar. The next play got Baltimore into Bucs territory as WR Tylan Wallace made a 15-yard grab over the middle, and Johnson stayed hot on the next snap with a 22-yard floater over tight coverage from slot corner Christian Izien to WR James Proche. From the Bucs' 24, Johnson delivered a strike over the middle to Treadwell, who jogged into the end zone untouched.

The Bucs turned it up on their second drive after Thompkins provided good field position with a 38-yard kickoff return out to the 41. Mayfield started the drive with a 10-yard strike out to Godwin in the left flat and found Godwin again to move the sticks after a nine-yard run by White. A surprising end-around by TE Cade Otton was good for 12 more and a short pass left to WR Kaylon Geiger was good for 11 yards down to the Ravens' 11. Mayfield dropped back on first down and had time to zip a hard pass through traffic to Godwin in the left middle of the end zone. Chase McLaughlin's extra point tied the game with eight minutes left in the first quarter.

View the top photos of Tampa Bay's Preseason Week 3 matchup vs. the Baltimore Ravens.

A hands-to-the-face penalty on CB Carlton Davis gave the Ravens a quick first down on their next possession. OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka's quick penetration into the backfield two plays later turned a Johnson keeper into a four-yard loss, and DL Vita Vea chased the quarterback into a hurried sideline throw broken up by LB Devin White. Ravens punter Jordan Stout dropped an impressive 55-yard punt down at the Bucs' six.

Trask relieved Mayfield for the next drive and immediately directed a 94-yard touchdown march. White gave the Bucs some breathing yard with a powerful nine-yard run run up the middle, then moved the chains with another five-yard carry. Two plays later, Moore got open down the left sideline but couldn't quite pull in a pass a little over his head. Trask went back to Moore on the next play and a sharp slant was good for a first down at the Bucs' 34. Moore spun out of a tackle two snaps later to get 11 more and a first down at the 46. White pulled off a nifty spin move to turn a bad-look handoff into a seven-yard gain and Moore turned a short sideline pass into 14 more to the Ravens' 33. Two plays later, Palmer stunningly leaped horizontally over LB Del'Shawn Phillips to snare a 19-yard pass down to the six. A play-action floater to Wells got the ball into the end zone for a 14-7 Bucs lead.

The Ravens started the second quarter with the ball and the Bucs brought in a full unit of reserves on defense. After a pair of nine-yard plays earned Baltimore one first down, OLB Anthony Nelson got behind Johnson and swiped the quarterback's arm for a fumble that the Ravens recovered for a gain of one. Two plays later, Johnson tried to convert a third-and-nine with a deep pass down the left sideline to Wallace but rookie WR Keenan Isaac was there to break it up.

A penalty on the return of the ensuing punt forced the Bucs to start inside their 10 for a second time in a row and the Bucs took out all of their offensive starters for the night. Trask and Moore couldn't quite connect on a second-and-eight throw and Wells' catch on third down came up short of the sticks. Jake Camarda's punt went out of bounds at the Baltimore 40 with 12 minutes left in the first half.

The Ravens turned to Brown at quarterback for the next possession and he quickly led them into Bucs territory. However, after he took off on a scramble up the middle from the 30 he was pursued by Izien, who made a diving chop at his arm to force a fumble. S Kaevon Merriweather recovered for Tampa Bay at its own 13.

Two tough Vaughn runs picked up eight yards but a floater down the left numbers in Geiger's direction was well out of the receiver's reach. Camarda's next punt resulted in Baltimore getting it back at their own 41. On first down, Brown escaped what appeared to be a sure sack by Nelson and dashed up the middle for nine yards to midfield. A quick throw down the line to Proche moved the chains and got Baltimore into Bucs territory again. Two twisty runs by RB Owen Wright were good for a combined 19 yards to the Tampa Bay 25. Merriweather broke up a pass intended for Kolar inside the 10 two plays later to make it third-and-six, and rookie WR Sean Ryan dropped an easy touchdown pass on the next play, forcing the Ravens to settle for Justin Tucker's 39-yard field goal.

After a touchback, Trask was under pressure on a rollout right but he got the pass off to TE Dominique Dafney for 13 yards, then rolled out left on the next play for nine more to Jarrett. Vaughn moved the sticks off left guard but the drive stalled just across midfield when Trask's deep ball to Thompkins was incomplete. Camarda's punt was fair caught at the Baltimore 14.

An early ineligible-man-downfield-penalty backed up the Ravens and the Bucs called a timeout after stopping Gordon at the nine-yard line to make it second-and-15. Brown got eight yards on a keeper and the Bucs called another timeout before third down. After a false start, DL Greg Gaines hurried Brown into a short throw and the Ravens had to punt with 1:15 left in the half. Palmer gave the Bucs a good start to one last scoring opportunity before halftime by returning Stout's punt 29 yards to the Baltimore 29. A third-and-seven shotgun handoff to Vaughn worked for nine yards, then Trask let the clock run down to three seconds and spiked the ball to set up a field goal. McLaughlin nailed it from 47 yards out to restore the Bucs' seven-point lead heading into intermission.

The Ravens got the ball first to start the second half after a Camarda touchback but failed to gain a first down. Brown dropped back on third-and-nine but saw the pocket collapse on him quickly and took a six-yard sack by OLB Will Gholston. Palmer muffed the subsequent punt but fell on it at the Bucs' 45, with a facemask penalty moving the ball all the way up to the Ravens' 40.

The Bucs turned that field position into three points. Trask found Moore for 14 yards down to the Baltimore 19 then hooked up with rookie TE Payne Durham for an eight-yard play to make it first-and-goal at the seven. However, two penalties on the offense forced the Bucs to settle for McLaughlin's second field goal, a 27-yarder.

Baltimore responded with a field goal drive of its own to pull back within a touchdown. The big play on the drive was a 39-yard rollout pass by Brown that WR Dontay Demus somehow caught between two leaping Bucs defenders. Brown also hit Gordon for a gain of 16 but a second sack by Gholston helped force the Ravens to settle for Tucker's 44-yard field goal.

Trask started the next drive by finding a wide-open Jarrett for a gain of 22 to get near midfield. Three plays later, Trask took off on a nifty scramble to his right on third-and-seven, picking up eight yards a new first down in Baltimore territory. The Ravens threw the challenge flag on the spot but the ruling was upheld. The Bucs then faced a third-and-eight at the 40 but Dafney slipped through a tackle on the right sideline and was able to get his catch-and-run past the sticks and down to the 31. The Bucs kept it on the ground for the next three plays, with Tucker fighting through tacklers on third-and-three to get a new set of downs at the 15 as the third quarter came to an end. The drive then stalled, ending on a third-down sack of Trask, and McLaughlin came on to drill a 38-yard field goal, giving the Bucs a 10-point lead with 13 minutes to play.

Wright immediately got the Ravens into Bucs territory on the next drive, bursting up the middle for 38 yards, with only Isaac saving it from being a touchdown at the 37-yard line. A Wallace catch-and-run on third-and-three made it first down at the Bucs' 15, and two plays later Isaac broke up a pass intended for Wallace in the end zone. Brown had plenty of time to throw on third down and eventually found Wright over the middle for a first down at the two. Wright plunged it in on the next play to once again make it a one-score game with nine minutes to play.

Palmer picked up a bouncing kickoff inside the 10 and got it back out to the 31 to start the next drive. Two plays into the possession, RB Patrick Laird found a seam and dashed for 21 yards into Ravens territory, finishing the run with a hurdle over a defender. However, the drive stalled at the 44 and Camarda punted it into the end zone for a touchback.

Baltimore had seven minutes left as it took over on its own 20. Two runs made it third-and-four and CB Anthony Chesley sniffed out an outlet pass to Wright and upended the back two yards shy of a first down. Palmer fair caught the resulting punt at the Bucs' 23 with five minutes to go.

A short pass to rookie RB Ronnie Brown on third-and-two led to a 24-yard gain that got the ball across midfield. Trask then found a tightly-covered rookie TE Tanner Taula for 10 more down to the 35 and the Ravens used a timeout after a four-yard Brown run with 2:35 left. Trask had to pick up a bouncing snap to get it to Brown on the next play and the Ravens burned another timeout on third-and-five. The Bucs went for it all on third down but rookie WR Ryan Miller couldn't quite hold on to a pass that dropped into him by the right front pylon. McLaughlin pushed the Bucs' lead to six points with 2:19 to play on a 48-yard field goal.

Brown scrambled left and threw up a prayer on the first play of the Ravens' last drive, which was answered by Demus for a gain of 47 all the way to the Bucs' 28. A third-down grab by Ryan made it first-and-10 at the 14 with a minute to play but the Bucs' defense held there, helped by a second-down pass breakup by LB Ulysees Gilbert and ended by Snowden's fourth-down sack.

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