It has been four years now, and a lot of water has passed under the respective bridges of 49ers star Nick Bosa and Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield. But Bosa still remembers the first time he saw Mayfield in an NFL game, in a home game on October 7, 2019.
Bosa had a score to settle with Mayfield that went beyond the meeting of the 49ers and the Browns, Mayfield’s team at the time. The root of Bosa’s bone that needed picking was the 2017 NCAA season, and a disrespectful slight delivered by Mayfield during a game against Bosa’s Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus. More on that later.
What’s more relevant for the Buccaneers and 49ers, who meet on Sunday, is the way Bosa’s eyes light up when he sees Mayfield. In their first NFL meeting in 2019, Bosa announced his arrival in the NFL with four tackles, five quarterback hits and 2.0 sacks.
Mayfield had what was—no question—the worst game of his NFL career. He was 8-for-22 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions. His 13.4 quarterback rating for the game stands as a career-low.
The normally reserved Bosa admits he was talking throughout that game.
“I was kinda trying to talk. I don’t usually talk,” he said. “But, this game, he had it coming. But he didn’t say one word back. … I was screaming his name, like, ‘Baaaakerrr … Baaaaakerrrr … You good? Come on, pick it up, we want a challenge.’ Stuff like that. He was just looking at me like …”
Nick Bosa vs. Baker Mayfield Had Roots in 2017 NCAA Season
College football fans will remember the source of Nick Bosa’s disdain for Mayfield that day. It went back to the 2017 collegiate season, when Mayfield was the brash quarterback for Oklahoma on his way to being the No. 1 overall pick that year. The Sooners went to Columbus and drubbed Ohio State, 31-16, and Mayfield took the postgame celebration a bit too far.
He carried an oversize OU flag to the middle of the field, surrounded by dancing teammates. And as ESPN broadcaster Chris Fowler said, almost with dread, “Oh no, he’s not. He’s not going to plant it at midfield in the O, is he? Wow. Yes, he is.”
He did. No one at Ohio State was happy. Certainly not Bosa.
Mayfield did apologize for the incident. Bosa did not much seem to care.
“After the game, I did not mean for it to be disrespectful toward any Ohio State people at all, especially not the team or the players, because they’re a great team and a great program,” Mayfield said during a press conference. “I didn’t mean it to be disrespectful at all. We do the flag thing at OU-Texas, so that’s just something I got caught up in an emotional win. It should have been something I did in the locker room, so I apologize for doing it in the middle of the field.”
Buccaneers-49ers 2023 a Long Way From OSU-OU 2017
At this point, 2017 is long gone. Nick Bosa had his fun with the incident in 2019, planting a mock flag after one of his sacks on Baker Mayfield.
The bigger issue for the Buccaneers will be how they handle the pass rush of the 49ers, which is among the best defensive fronts in football, and might be the best in the league now that Chase Young has been added.
The Buccaneers rank No. 2 in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, at pass-blocking this season (76.8 grade), aided by the savvy of Mayfield, who has a sack rate of 5.0% on the season. The 49ers, though are the No. 2 graded pass rush in the NFL, with a grade of 90.5.
For Baker Mayfield, that means the 49ers’ Nick Bosa will come calling yet again. But he should have a better answer this time.