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Baker Mayfield to make history vs. Packers on Sunday

Buccaneers QB visiting Lambeau Field for third straight year with third different team

QB Baker Mayfield
QB Baker Mayfield

GREEN BAY – Quarterbacks changing teams in the NFL is nothing new, and therefore neither is facing the same QB starting for different teams in a relatively short time span.

Heck, there already have been seven starting quarterbacks who have faced the Packers for different teams during Matt LaFleur's five seasons as head coach.

But Baker Mayfield's arrival as the starting QB of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Lambeau Field does indeed break new ground.

Mayfield will be starting against the Packers for a third team in a span of three years, after quarterbacking the Browns on Christmas Day 2021 and then leading the Rams on Monday Night Football last year in Week 15. Coincidentally, all three matchups have come at Lambeau in December.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Mayfield is the first starting QB to face the Packers for three different teams in three consecutive years – home or away – since at least 1950. And even though the NFL's official statistician doesn't have complete quarterbacking records prior to 1950, it's a good bet it didn't happen before then, either.

Mayfield is the first QB to start against the Packers for a third different team since 2018, when Alex Smith (49ers/Chiefs/Redskins) did so.

Going back roughly 35-40 years, there are 11 other QBs in addition to Smith who started games against the Packers for at least three different teams. This can't be confirmed as an exhaustive and complete list (I did the research myself), but if it's not, it's close. Here they are:

Dave Krieg (Seahawks/Chiefs/Lions/Bears), Jeff George (Colts/Falcons/Vikings/Redskins), Steve DeBerg (49ers/Buccaneers/Chiefs), Rodney Peete (Lions/Eagles/Panthers), Chris Chandler (Colts/Buccaneers/Falcons), Vinny Testaverde (Buccaneers/Jets/Cowboys/Panthers), Kerry Collins (Panthers/Giants/Titans), Kurt Warner (Rams+/Giants/Cardinals), Josh McCown (Raiders/Bears/Buccaneers), Kyle Orton (Bears/Broncos/Chiefs/Bills) and Carson Palmer (Bengals/Raiders/Cardinals). +Warner's start for the Rams was in the postseason.

One true anomaly in this bunch is with Orton, whose starts against the Packers for the Broncos and Chiefs occurred in the same season, 2011.

The only QB who came close to Mayfield's three different teams in three years was Krieg, a Wisconsin native, whose starts against the Packers for the Chiefs, Lions and Bears occurred in a span of just four years (1993, '94, '96).

Going back further, Earl Morrall did the same with three teams in four years, starting games against the Packers for the 49ers, Steelers and Lions in 1956, '57 and '59, respectively, and then adding a fourth team later in his career with a start for the Colts.

Back to Mayfield, he's 0-2 in those two most recent appearances in Green Bay, throwing five interceptions in all. But he's now coming off arguably Tampa Bay's biggest victory of the season, as he drove the Buccaneers 75 yards in the final three minutes for a comeback win in Atlanta.

That final drive featured a 32-yard completion to receiver Chris Godwin on third-and-10 and culminated in an 11-yard TD pass to tight end Cade Otton with 36 seconds left for a 29-25 triumph.

"He's still the same quarterback," defensive lineman Kenny Clark said of Mayfield. "He's doing a good job at getting the ball out. He's got some great weapons on that side of the ball. Everything starts with Mike Evans. We're going to have our hands full. We've got to take care of him."

Two weeks ago, Evans topped 1,000 yards in a season for the 10th time in his 10-year career. He's third on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list among active players with 11,445 yards, behind only Julio Jones (13,645) and DeAndre Hopkins (12,196).

Since Evans entered the league as the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2014, the Packers have held him in check fairly well over four previous meetings. His 51 yards in the 2020 NFC title game are his most against the Packers, and that game featured his only TD vs. Green Bay. Keeping the 6-5, 231-pound Evans relatively quiet again will be no easy task.

"I got to see him up close and personal at the Pro Bowl a couple of years ago," LaFleur said. "I love the way he competes. He is physical. He does a great job of opening up his stride. Obviously his catch radius is insane. There's not a catch he can't make, not a route he can't run."

Evans had just one catch for eight yards in Tampa Bay's win in Atlanta last week, which LaFleur called a "resilient win" for the Bucs, whose defense also came up big. Cornerback Carlton Davis' interception set up Mayfield inside the Atlanta 10-yard line for a short TD drive early in the game, and safety Antoine Winfield added a safety late in the first half.

The result created a three-way tie atop the NFC South with the Buccaneers, Falcons and Saints all 6-7, and an even bigger wild-card logjam with three other NFC playoff hopefuls owning the same record, including the Packers.

"We can't think playoffs," Clark said. "We're trying to get this one game and move on to the next. We got a tough opponent in the Buccaneers coming in, and we gotta handle business at home.

"At the end of the day, it's a huge game for both teams."

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