CHARLOTTE – After his first game as the official starting quarterback in Carolina, Baker Mayfield said he feels confident in the offense he stepped into just over one month ago.
Mayfield led the Panthers in Friday's win over Buffalo, a 21-0 victory at Bank of America Stadium. He had a solid showing after he was announced as the starter earlier in the week – even without top targets Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson, who were inactive for the preseason finale.
Mayfield finished his day after four drives, going 9-of-15 passing for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
"I feel great about this team," Mayfield said. "I feel great about the guys up front and the weapons we have at the skill positions, and we haven't been out there as a complete unit yet. … We didn't have everybody playing tonight, but we can still learn from this tape and talk about it as a complete unit."
Head coach Matt Rhule liked how Mayfield moved the ball against the Bills and how quickly he has picked up the offense, but what he's most excited about is that his new starter is just getting started.
"He has a lot of room to grow," Rhule said. "We have a lot more weapons. I think the guys tonight did a great job, but (I'm) anxious to see him really develop that chemistry with Robbie, DJ (Moore), and Christian (McCaffrey), get Ian (Thomas) back. But I'm excited about what Baker's done."
Mayfield told reporters after the game that he saw "some good, some bad" from his play. He said he feels comfortable with his knowledge of the offense, and now it's about executing consistently.
And while he rated some of his own moments against the Bills as "sloppy," Mayfield heaped praise upon the Panthers' defense.
One of Mayfield's two touchdown drives, a three-play, 27-yard push to the end zone, was set up by a double-tipped pass, first by Yetur Gross-Matos and again by Matt Ioannidis, that fell into Jeremy Chinn's arms at the Bills' 27-yard line.
"Those are the good parts that we've been emphasizing," Mayfield said. "Playing as a full team, complimentary in all three phases. (I'm) happy about that, but (we've) just got to go back and fine-tune all the little details."
Mayfield capped off that drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Shi Smith, one of the Panthers' breakout stars of training camp and the preseason. Mayfield pointed to that play as his proudest connection of the night.
Two drives before that, Mayfield completed a 12-play, 53-yard touchdown drive with a 2-yard pass to D'Onta Foreman on fourth down. That throw was one Mayfield was less pleased about, since Foreman had to stretch to grab the ball with one hand.
"Those are the little things that you go back, and yeah, it's a touchdown, but if there's a defender actually chasing him, that's a terrible throw," Mayfield said. "Those are the little things that I'm going to be extremely critical about myself. That's just the way I work."
But another way Mayfield works is that he commands the offense – and the room of people around him.
"He's a guy that's come in, and since he's gotten here, he's just been working hard," Foreman said. "(He's) trying to take over that leadership role, put all the guys in the right position, and just do what he needs to do as a quarterback.
"I'm excited for him. We've just got to do everything that we can to help him. I think he definitely came in with a chip on his shoulder. He's got a lot to prove. I feel like a lot of us do. As a team, we've got a lot to prove. I'm definitely behind him and definitely want him to succeed."
Mayfield said he feels the support from his teammates, and as the Tuesday deadline to cut the roster down to 53 looms, he expressed his appreciation for the team that has accepted him.
"I'm 100 percent confident in this group that we have going forward," Mayfield said. "Obviously, right now is not the fun part of football, when you have to make the cuts, but (I've) been just feeling really, really grateful for this group that we've had that welcomed me in here."
View photos of Carolina's matchup against Buffalo at Bank of America Stadium in the final game of the preseason.