Mayfield throws for 283 yards, 2 TDs as surging Bucs beat reeling Jaguars 30-12 for 4th straight win



Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing their best when the stakes are highest.

Mayfield threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, pacing a 30-12 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars that propelled the Bucs (8-7) into position to clinch a third consecutive NFC South title next week.

Tampa Bay has won four straight games on the heels of a stretch that saw the team lose six of seven.

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Mayfield has been one of the keys to the turnaround, minimizing mistakes while taking advantage of opponents’ miscues. On Sunday, he converted three turnovers by Trevor Lawrence into touchdowns that helped the Bucs to a 30-0 lead.

“We’re getting hot at the right time,” said Mayfield, who tossed TD passes of 3 and 22 yards to Mike Evans to finish drives after Lawrence — cleared to play after spending all week in the NFL’s concussion protocol — was intercepted on two of Jacksonville’s first three possessions.

“He’s been outstanding in December. That’s what you want from your quarterback,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles said.

“We’re piecing it together. Everybody’s playing for each other. Everybody’s locked in, and we’re trying to get in,” Bowles added of his team’s push for a fourth straight playoff berth. “We’re clawing, we’re scratching, doing everything we can.”

The Jaguars (8-7) lost their fourth game in a row, this time with Lawrence starting but struggling to find a rhythm after exiting the protocol on Saturday. The third-year quarterback threw a second-half TD pass to Calvin Ridley before spending the fourth quarter on the bench with what the Jaguars announced was a shoulder injury.

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“It’s frustrating. It’s really embarrassing,” Lawrence said, adding that he hurt his shoulder on a fourth-down dive that extended the drive he finished with an 18-yard scoring pass to Ridley.

“You put a lot of work in to (prepare for the game) and to look like you don’t even practice. … You’ve just got to call it like you see it sometimes. It’s bad all the way around,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got to find ways to get better. We’ve got to get out of our own way.”

A week after having a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in a road win at Green Bay, Mayfield helped Tampa Bay build a 20-0 halftime lead.

Evans finished with seven receptions for 86 yards. The touchdown catches were his 12th and 13th of the season, and the 10th-year pro joined Hall of Famers Jerry Rice (eight), Terrell Owens (seven), Marvin Harrison (six) and Randy Moss (six) as the only players in NFL history to have at least 12 TD receptions in a season five or more times.

The victory, combined with New Orleans’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams last Thursday night, left the Bucs alone atop the NFC South with two weeks left in the season. The Saints (7-8) visit Raymond James Stadium next Sunday.

Despite losing four straight, the Jaguars remain tied for first place in the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, who also lost on Sunday.

Devin White and Antoine Winfield Jr. had the interceptions that led to Mayfield’s scoring passes to Evans. Rookie Yaya Diaby sacked Lawrence early in the third quarter, forcing a fumble by the quarterback to set up Rachaad White’s 2-yard TD run that put the Bucs up 27-0.

The Jaguars believe Lawrence, who has not missed a game in his three-year career, sustained a head injury while scrambling up the middle on the team’s final drive during the previous week’s 23-7 loss to Baltimore.

The No. 1 overall pick from the 2021 draft practiced for the first time all week on Friday. He was cleared to play by team doctors and the league’s independent neurological consultant before traveling with the team to Tampa on Saturday.

Lawrence finished 17 of 29 passing for 211 yards. In addition to three turnovers, he was sacked three times.

Backup C.J. Beathard played the fourth quarter and had a 1-yard TD pass to Ridley in the closing minutes.

“You can’t pin this all on the quarterback, right? Everybody else practiced and as a team it wasn’t good,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. “The sense of urgency wasn’t there. We didn’t execute very well on offense. The turnovers keep piling up. The run game, all that kind of stuff, and it just affects the whole process. It’s not one guy. We’re all in this together.”

Jaguars: Played without two of their top three receivers, Christian Kirk (groin) and Zay Jones (hamstring/knee). … RT Anton Harrison (back) and S Daniel Thomas (forearm) left the game in the second half.

Buccaneers: LB Devin White (foot) returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games. … CB Carlton Davis (concussion) left the game early in the second quarter and did not return. … Winfield left the game in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion.

Jaguars: Return home to try to break their skid against the Carolina Panthers, who have the worst record in the NFL.

Buccaneers: Can clinch a third consecutive NFC South title with a win at home against the Saints.

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