An unexpected season took another wonderful turn for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night. The team that was picked to be one of the worst in the league this season destroyed the defneding NFC Champions 32-9 and punched a ticket to the Divisional Round next weekend.
Had experts been right, the Bucs would be thinking about the Draft right now but instead, they're playing on into the second weekend of the playoffs. A date with the Detroit Lions is not an easy task to wrestle with, but the Buccaneers showed in more ways than one that they can hang with the big boys of the NFC on Monday night.
Baker Mayfield has been a huge part of the Bucs success this season, as he's added an earned quality to the year. Having Tom Brady under center essentially gave the Bucs a free pass to the playoffs each year, something the team put to the test last season by clinching with a losing record.
This year the grit that Baker brought to Tampa has not only won over the fans and his locker room, it's created a winning culture that almost nobody saw coming. That continued in stride after the Bucs huge win in the Wild Card on Monday night.
Baker Mayfield sends perfect message to Bucs after 32-9 win in Wild Card
After the game, Baker spoke with the media and had the kind of message that goes to show why he's won over the locker room the way he has this season.
"Just proud of our guys and everyone in the building, to stick together the way that we did through the second half of the year," Baker said. "Don't listen to the outside noise. Just trust the people next to you.
Baker also touched on the Bucs embracing the underdog narrative, something that has been a chip on not only the shoulders of players in the locker room but the fans as well. Tampa Bay was predicted to tank and be the second-worst team in the league and even heading into their home playoff game were not picked as favorites.
It's something that will again be the case next week when they head to Detroit to take on the Lions.
"There's something about whether you're an underdog or it's a road game, and having your backs against the wall knowing it's your team versus everyone else and you're counted out. It's always fun to be in that role," Baker said. "Our team has completely embraced that throughout the year."
He topped it off with the perfect cherry of a rallying cry.
"Job isn't finished," he said.
It's been a season of truly unexpected success, and that all begins with Baker. He came to Tampa Bay as an outcast, someone who most NFL pundits had chalked up to being a bust. He responded by having a career year and has now led a team that was given zero chance to succeed on a deep playoff run.
His play on the field is one thing, but his command of the locker room -- something that was on display during his postgame press conference -- is another reason why it feels like he's the quarterback of the future in Tampa Bay.