Panthers’ Baker Mayfield replaces PJ Walker, tosses 2 TDs in loss

CINCINNATI — Baker Mayfield puzzled earlier within the week whether or not he would get one other shot to play quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.

Dealing with the most important halftime deficit in group historical past, down 35-0 to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paycor Stadium, interim coach Steve Wilks lastly turned to the primary choose of the 2018 draft and benched a struggling PJ Walker.

And it occurred within the state of Ohio, the place Mayfield started his profession with the Cleveland Browns.

“You either keep fighting and come out of this thing proud of what you put on tape or you don’t,” Mayfield said after the 42-21 loss. “Clearly, issues did not go our means at present. And that falls on all people. This was a full-blown loss.”

Mayfield, enjoying for the primary time since a Week 5 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, threw an 8-yard landing go to Tommy Tremble on his first drive to chop the result in 35-7. He completed having accomplished 14 of 20 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, his first scores since a Week 4 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

It was solely the fifth and sixth landing passes of the season for Mayfield in opposition to 4 interceptions. His 70% completion proportion was by far his highest of the 12 months, as was his 126.0 passer ranking, though Mayfield famous the Bengals had been enjoying again and enjoying softer coverages with the massive lead.

Was it sufficient to make Mayfield the starter for Thursday night time’s prime-time recreation in opposition to the Atlanta Falcons?

“I couldn’t tell you right now,” Wilks said after falling to 1-3 since replacing Matt Rhule, who was fired after a 1-4 start. “I am not going to get into hypotheticals. We have got to observe the tape and work out precisely the place we’re in all three phases and get guys to step up, in addition to coaches and myself.”

Mayfield would not get into hypotheticals, both.

“It’s not my decision,” he said. “I wish to win. No matter function that’s determined to be, I will do it and I will do it extraordinarily properly.”

Mayfield was changed by Walker in Week 6 after struggling a excessive ankle sprain within the loss to the 49ers. He remained the backup regardless of being wholesome sufficient to play the subsequent two video games and Sunday in opposition to the Bengals. This was partially as a result of Walker was enjoying properly and partially as a result of Mayfield’s 15.3 Complete QBR the primary 5 video games was final within the NFL and the worst for a quarterback since ESPN started monitoring the stat in 2006.

However Mayfield stored his head within the recreation and ready as if he would get one other shot. He spent the primary half Sunday taking notes on the sideline and learning video.

So when Wilks mentioned at halftime he would play, Mayfield was prepared — even for the boos from Cincinnati followers who booed him for years whereas he was with the Browns.

“I’ve been here a few times,” Mayfield quipped. “That is the state of Ohio. They’ve good soccer followers.”

Walker had a disastrous first half in opposition to the Bengals, finishing solely 3 of 10 go makes an attempt for 9 yards with two interceptions. The Panthers had been outgained 268 yards to 19 within the half, and the 35-point deficit was the most important for a primary half in group historical past.

The earlier report was a 32-point deficit to the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 29, 2019.

Mayfield talked earlier within the week in regards to the “looming question” of what his future would be at Carolina when 2021 starter Sam Darnold was activated from injured reserve with the Tuesday deadline coming up. That would leave the Panthers with three quarterbacks in Walker, Mayfield and Darnold, and teams seldom carry three quarterbacks with another on the practice squad.

Wilks also has said previously he wanted to get another look at Darnold before the season is over.

Getting Darnold ready for a rematch against Atlanta, which beat Carolina 37-34 in overtime last week, on a short week would be tough. So Wilks’ decision likely will come down to Mayfield or Walker.

The bigger question will come after the Atlanta game when the team may have to choose two of the three quarterbacks and cut one. Before Sunday, there was speculation that could be Mayfield.

Asked to state his case for remaining the starter, Walker said: “I will proceed to go on the market and work. I will proceed to place the time in, the work in, and let Coach Wilks make that call. That ain’t on me. That ain’t on Baker, both.”

That this was a full-blown loss was one thing everybody might agree on. The Panthers had been outgained 464 yards to 228, gave up 5 dashing touchdowns after giving up solely seven within the first eight video games and dedicated seven penalties for 50 yards, 4 by the protection for lining up offsides.

“It was flat out there today,” Walker said. “It was flat throughout. All three part. We have got to proceed to get higher, do not let this one recreation outline us.”