With two video games left in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season, a handful of groups have unblemished data. A few of these groups — the Philadelphia Eagles, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Baltimore Ravens — we’d have anticipated.
Nonetheless, two of these groups are a shock: The Atlanta Falcons, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Time will inform if each of those groups are authentic, or propped up by the NFL scheduling gods. However relating to the Buccaneers, there may be actually fertile floor for storytelling.
And it begins with Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield was a soccer nomad over the previous 12 months, transferring from Cleveland to Carolina after which Los Angeles, earlier than signing with the Buccaneers to attempt to fill footwear vacated by Tom Brady. Whereas few regarded on the subsequent coaching camp battle between Mayfield and Kyle Trask with a lot curiosity, it was Mayfield who emerged the winner of that heavyweight bout, incomes the beginning job for Week 1.
Since then, Mayfield and the Buccaneers are 2-0, and Mayfield has accomplished 69.1% of his throws this season for 490 yards and three touchdowns, with out throwing an interception. His QBR of 66.4 via two video games is tenth within the league — simply behind the 66.7 mark posted by Patrick Mahomes — and Mayfield’s Adjusted Web Yards per Try of seven.91 is fifth-best within the league.
Once more, this might be extra a narrative woven by the NFL scheduling gods. Maybe Mayfield’s early-season success is extra a product of the defenses in Chicago and Minnesota, than it’s the offense down in Tampa Bay. However spinning via Mayfield’s first two video games it appears one issue specifically is working for the Buccaneers’ offense.
Mayfield appears comfy at occasions in Tampa Bay’s offense, and that was on show each in Week 1 at Minnesota, and in Week 2 towards the Bears. Timing, rhythm, and anticipation was not an indicator of Mayfield’s recreation popping out of Oklahoma, however the QB we’ve seen the previous two weeks appears like a passer who can depend on these traits when it issues.
Late within the first half towards Minnesota, the Buccaneers confronted a third and a pair of close to midfield. Tampa Bay sends Chris Godwin in movement from left-to-right earlier than the snap, and cornerback Byron Murphy trails the receiver. Seeing this, and a security in the midst of the sector presnap, Mayfield would possibly count on the Vikings to drop into Cowl 1.
However on the snap, Minnesota’s secondary spins right into a Tampa 2 look. Mayfield works via the rotation and rips a thin publish to Godwin with good timing and anticipation:
As you may see, Mayfield reads this completely. After the snap he will get his eyes to the center of the sector, pickup up the rotation and influencing Harrison Smith away from Godwin’s route. Mayfield then rips within the throw, getting the ball out simply as Godwin makes his break:
Arduous to do it significantly better than that.
Nonetheless, Mayfield got here shut a number of performs later, hitting Mike Evans on a deep publish route towards two-deep protection to tie the sport at ten:
Mayfield’s finest — or maybe largest — throw in Week 1 got here on the two-minute warning within the fourth quarter. With the Buccaneers holding a three-point lead, they confronted a third and 10 on the Minnesota 39-yard line. Another first down would seal the sport, however the rest would go away the door open for a Vikings’ miracle.
One other Minnesota Miracle must wait for one more day:
Mayfield obtained the Buccaneers nearer with an ideal timing-and-rhythm throw on an out path to Godwin alongside the proper sideline, sealing the win and guaranteeing a 1-0 begin for the Buccaneers.
Now take this Sunday towards the Bears. Tampa Bay obtained a area objective from McLaughlin on their opening drive of the sport, thanks largely to this third-down conversion from Mayfield to Evans. Once more, word the timing on this throw:
The timing right here is ideal from the quarterback. Evans runs a deep cease route, and Mayfield is already getting the ball out earlier than Evans has even made his break:
The timing from Mayfield makes this an unimaginable play to defend. The receiver turns to work again in direction of the quarterback, and the soccer is on him, making Evans’s job simpler and giving Tampa Bay a recent set of downs.
Mayfield’s timing was additionally pristine on this completion to Godwin from later within the first quarter. The Buccaneers dial up a Dagger idea, with rookie Trey Palmer operating the publish route out of the slot, and Godwin operating the dig route. Once more, Mayfield is letting this rip as Godwin begins his break, displaying command of the offense and excellent timing, rhythm, and anticipation:
However Mayfield’s finest learn and throw might need come late within the first half. With the sport tied at 10-10, the Buccaneers lined up for a third and three on the Chicago 43-yard line, with beneath a minute remaining within the half. They dialed up a spot/stick/wheel idea, with Godwin operating the spot route, Deven Thompkins operating the stick route, and Palmer operating the wheel.
Previous to the snap, the Bears present Mayfield single-high protection. Because the play begins, nonetheless, Chicago spins into two excessive.
Whereas man protection might need led Mayfield to throw both the spot route or the stick route simply to maneuver the chains, with the protection rotating into two excessive, Mayfield now is aware of that Palmer goes to seek out the outlet deep on the skin.
That’s the place his eyes go, adopted by the throw:
The massive throw and catch arrange a area objective earlier than halftime, giving the Buccaneers a three-point lead heading into the third quarter, the place they’d draw back.
Previous to the season our James Dator wrote that the NFC South was soccer’s “most chaotic” division. Two weeks of the NFL season have confirmed that appropriate, with the Falcons and Buccaneers undefeated, and the New Orleans Saints in line to hitch them with a win on Monday night time.
However that chaos would possibly make for the right timing for Tampa Bay to make a shocking playoff run. Sure, this 2-0 begin may be a mirage, and with video games towards the Eagles and Saints arising — adopted by a really early bye week — we might discover that is all a mirage.
But, with timing like this from Mayfield, the timing would possibly all add as much as a shocking season for the Buccaneers.