Panthers QB Baker Mayfield takes blame for offense's struggles amid 1-3 start

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield says the boos and criticism he's received while leading the NFL's worst-ranked offense during a 1-3 start is "completely fair.''

"I pride myself on being a guy that elevates the guys around him and being able to lead at an extremely high level,'' Mayfield said Wednesday. "And obviously, that has not happened yet.

"So I'm working really hard on that. And it starts with me just doing my job the very best I can and going from there. Yeah, I take a lot of blame for that and I consistently will.''

Mayfield's 15.3 Total QBR is the second worst by a quarterback in his first four games of a season since ESPN began tracking the statistic in 2006.

And now he faces the league's No. 1 defense in the San Francisco 49ers, who had seven sacks and 17 quarterback pressures against the Los Angeles Rams' Matthew Stafford on Monday.

"I've been here before,'' said Mayfield, who went from a walk-on at Texas Tech, to the Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, to the first pick of the 2018 draft by the Cleveland Browns. "I'm pretty comfortable in this position.

"So I have experience at being able to bounce back, being able to handle things the right way and to lead. For me, we'll be just fine.''

The Carolina offense has been anything but fine, averaging a league-worst 263.3 yards per game and an NFL-low 25.53 conversion percentage on third down.

Mayfield is headed toward career worsts in almost every statistical category, including a 54.7 completion percentage that ranks among the worst among qualified starters.

His 11 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage is six more than any other quarterback this season and gives him 54 since he entered the league in 2018, more than any quarterback. He had five in Sunday's 26-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Asked about the batted passes on Wednesday, Mayfield responded, "If you have a drill for me, let me know."

Running back Christian McCaffrey remains confident in the offense, noting the staff isn't "coaching bad football.'' He reminded that the offense is leaving a lot of plays on the field.

Mayfield agreed.

"It's more frustrating than anything,'' he said. "There's plays to be made, but we have to make them. It's on us. It's on me as the quarterback.''

Coach Matt Rhule meets with Mayfield every Tuesday to discuss football and life. He believes his quarterback can turn things around.

That may be essential for Rhule to keep his job with 10 losses in 11 games and a 11-26 overall record for the Panthers.

"He's elitely resilient,'' Rhule said of Mayfield. "You don't go from unrecruited out of college to Heisman Trophy to first pick of the draft without having tremendous self-confidence.

"Baker, he's been through a lot already as a player. I have no concerns about his resilience.''

Baker understands there's a lot of pressure on him to perform after the Panthers traded for him in July.

"I can't do it myself. I'll say that,'' he said. "I can't try to handle all the pressure myself. I can't try to act like I have it all figured out. I have to go behind the scenes and make sure we're talking and communicating consistently.

"Handling the next punch is how adversity goes for me.''