(East Los Angeles, CA) [From The Editor’s Desk]: On the heels of their immediate 12/7 acquisition of veteran QB/#17/Baker Mayfield, claimed off waivers from the Carolina Panthers, the Rams and Head Coach, Sean McVay were contemplating the right moment to insert him into their quarterback position, either first as a back-up, or as a proven big-time playmaker.
Coach McVay decided that one series with the hobbled starter, John Wolford, was long enough. With no time like this particular and present time, Coach went with his time proven professional instinct in making a critical decision. And with hindsight being a perfect 20-20, the newly acquired QB was inserted for his baptism by fire as a Ram.
And of course, it was only fitting that it came against the rapidly improving Las Vegas Raiders featured in the country’s long-established, and “Prime Time” Thursday Night Football game, this time presented on Amazon Prime.
[Pre-Game Team Record Stat]: The Rams, stuck in 4th place in the NFC West Division with a (3-9) record and skidding downward on a (6) game losing streak, were a team in search of big time, skilled-set, and healthy players. Unfortunately, none in any abundance were to be found at present.
On the other hand, the Las Vegas Raiders, after winning 3 of their last games, were sitting in the AFC West Division with a (5-7) record and were in the midst of making a strong move toward securing a playoff spot. So, let’s take a look and see what prevailed in their match-up.
[1st Qtr]: The Rams won the coin-toss and deferred to the Raiders who received the kick-off. Las Vegas QB/#4/Derek Carr used a solid Run-Pass-Option to launch their first drive attack and at the (9:17) mark, put up their first score of the game after marching 75 yards in (12) plays and used up (5:47) of game clock. Their reliable and versatile running back, #28/Josh Jacobs rushed for the 1 yard TD. To answer, the Rams were tenable on their first drive and punted after a quick “3 & Out.” The Raiders then capitalized again on their second possession and managed to score on a 52 yard field goal by their placekicker, #2/Daniel Carlson with (2:22) left. The score was now Raiders (10), Rams (0).
On the Rams second drive, Coach McVay inserted #17/Baker Mayfield for Wolford in order for him to get immediate “real” game-experience with the offensive unit. He showed quick positive results as he hooked up with #12/Van Jefferson for a 20 yard gain and a 1st down to their 45. Mayfield followed that with a nice scramble to maintain the synergy of the drive. He then moved the team into Raiders territory and when the drive stalled, Coach McVay sent in #8/Matt Gay to kick a 55 yard field goal with no time left. The scoring drive used 5 plays, covered 29 yards, and used up (2:16). The score after one period, Raiders 10 Rams 3
[2nd Qtr]: The Raiders started the period with the ball and controlled the line of scrimmage for the next (5:00) minutes as Carr kept up his mixture of runs and passes, and in a generalship-like fashion reached the Rams 13 yard line. The Rams defense stiffened and the Raiders bogged down there and settled for another Carlson field goal from 31 yards out. For the Rams, they countered with a very good ground game by running back, #3/Cam Akers and some timely completions to receivers #15/Tutu Atwell and #18/Ben Skowronek were on a big drive to the great delight of their fans. Next, at (4:46), and unfortunately due to an Akers fumble on the Raiders 23 yard line, the Rams turned the ball back over to Las Vegas.
But the fortunes were then reversed in the Rams good favor as LB/#53/Ernest jones intercepted Carr in the end zone with just (00:56) seconds left in the half, denying the Silver & Black a momentum building score going into their locker room. Although the Rams did not score in the quarter, with Mayfield now at the helm, they showed positive signs of a slow but sure offensive confidence. Many, “kudos” of course were loudly and strongly given to the defensive corps of: #45/Bobby Wagner, #5/Jalen Ramsey, #24/Taylor Rapp, #53/Ernest Jones, #97/Michael Hoecht, #93/Marquis Copeland and Co.
[HALFTIME SCORE]: Raiders 13 Rams 3
[3rd Qtr]: This period went back-and-forth with plain old good defense as the teams traded several “3 and Outs.” More than anything, it was a good time for Mayfield to take as many “Live” game reps as possible. The closest to a score that the Rams tried to muster was a 61 yard field goal attempt by Gay that failed wide-left. That came with (3:43) left to play. The score never changed.
[4th Qtr]: After the Silver & Black settled for a Carlson FG from 36 yards out at the (12:25) mark, this moved the score to (16-3), Raiders. For the Rams, this session was penalty plagued with holding and unsportsmanslike player conduct that thwarted their offense.
However, after a long 17 play, 75 yard drive that used (9:01) minutes of clock time, the Rams finally answered at (3:55) with a 1 yard scoring plunge by RB/Akers. This TD pulled the team to within six points at (16-10).
And then, when play resumed after the (2:00) minute warning, the Raiders drive which had bogged down on their subsequent possession, they punted from their own 34 yard line. To their fans delight, it traveled some 64 yards from the leg of punter, #6/AJ Cole and was grounded at the Rams 2 yard line.
At this time, the highest drama of the game came over SoFi as Baker Mayfield led his troops onto the field and began to direct them downfield with only (1:45) left in the game.
He started well with an 8 yard completion to Atwell. Next, with “No Huddle” and out of the shotgun formation, his intended pass to Jefferson was intercepted. But for a huge Pass interference penalty on the Raiders, the Rams continued to breathe with life and good field positioning. With major uncertainty still facing them, Mayfield was sacked at his 13 for a 9 yard loss. However, and once again, the yellow penalty flag made its appearance against the Raiders when#90 Jerry Tillery was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The ball was moved forward to the Rams 28. And here’s where the magic began. Next play, Mayfield found Skowronek open on a down & out for 32 yards up to the Raiders 40. After short passes to running back #41/Malcolm Brown and Skowronek, the ball was now at the Vegas 23. Mayfield then spiked the ball on the next snap stoping the clock with just (00:15) seconds left.
Then on a 2nd-and-10 call from Coach McVay, Mayfield dropped back in the pocket, his “O” line gave him enough time and he then launched a perfectly thrown side-line backside rainbow into the waiting arms of Van Jefferson who had beaten his defender badly. Result, they were the incredibly tying 6 points, at (16-16). Gay’s Point After attempt was the winning climax of the game and thus the Mayfield SoFi Miracle was officially recorded in the book. He was credited with a game-winning 98 yard scoring drive and the completion. Coach McVay emerged with a titanic assist!
At this point, there were only (00:10) seconds left, and after the ensuing Rams kick-off the Raiders had one last shot at a “Hail Mary” but it was intercepted by CB/Taylor Rapp. Game Over!!
As Head Coach, Sean McVay told the press in the “Post-Game” interview room, “it went just like I called it!” saying it with a huge laugh and a very big smile.
A script with an ending like this could only have happened here in the cities of Los Angeles, Inglewood, and not failing to add that other City of Dreams, Hollywood, CA. The Mayfield Miracle Touchdown Drive, executed in his first appearance in a Rams uniform, will last in the memories of the 74,738 who “had to see it to believe it!! Mayfield truly did the impossible in his first game as he asserted himself as the real deal.
[FINAL SCORE]: Rams 17 Raiders 16
[NEXT UP]: At Green Bay Packers, Monday Night Football, Dec. 19th. Kick-off is set for 5:15 PM | PT. To watch, go to ESPN/KABC. To listen, tune in to 710 AM/ESPN; Spanish Radio, Tu Liga 1330 AM; National Radio-Westwood One