Mayfield’s day might have ended with a turnover but his performance overall was a sign that the Browns’ offense might heat up this year.
The Browns are faced with lofty expectations this season with a roster that can truly back it up. This is unfamiliar territory for a franchise that has been trying to just rise from the ashes. While last season was the moral victory fans have been clamoring for there were certainly hungry for more. Last Sunday was the chance to avenge the bitter end to the Browns season against the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. Unlike Browns fans, Chiefs fans know that their quarterback will be there for years to come and with Mayfield, the situation is still in limbo.
The game as a whole did not disappoint from an entertainment standpoint. The Browns came out early and punched the Super Bowl hangover out of the Chiefs’ mouths. Baker and the offense hit the ground running with three touchdowns in the first three drives. With the Browns up 22-10 at the half. The drives had the diversity of being long and methodical as seen with the first drive and quick six-play drives on the final two.
That is what Browns’ fans seem to have quickly forgotten about. Understandably, what followed was much more painful, therefore, more memorable. What Kansas City excels at is scoring often and quickly. Last Sunday was no exception to that as they came down and scored a touchdown on a drive that took up half of the third. Then after a costly Chubb fumble, scored a quick chip field goal to bring the score to Browns 22 Chiefs 20. The Chiefs took up 12 minutes and 57 seconds of that third quarter.
Have you wondered why three paragraphs in I haven’t brought up Mayfield’s mistakes? Maybe it’s because three quarters into the game he has played as well as anyone could have given the circumstances. I don’t have to explain to anyone reading this that the Browns are a run-first team. If Stefanski could have his way he would make the Browns run the ball on 90% of plays. Unfortunately, that would lead to loaded boxes and gaps in the defensive line. Mayfield will always be game scripted under Stefanski to simply game manage like Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. This results in the least sexy quarterback play anyone can bear to watch. However, it’s certainly effective as we saw through three quarters. Mayfield made all the throws to move the chains and take advantage of the looks play action gave him.
If a casual fan were to look at the box score of this game one would see two stats from Mayfield that stand out: one interception and zero touchdowns. This is very misleading from what was one of Bakers’ best performances against elite competition. One could argue while the running game provided the scoring, it was Baker that provided the biggest plays of the game. Whether it was the 41-yard passes to Anthony Schwartz or the 43-yarder to David Njoku, Mayfield was methodically carving the Chiefs’ pass defense.
The only reason anyone is giving Baker flack for this game is because of the interceptions that came with 1:09 left in the fourth. It was a first and 10 and it looked like Baker was creating a comeback drive to give the Browns hope. However, it isn’t always brought up on this play that Daniel Sorenson hit Baker on this pass attempt. When Mayfield is releasing the ball his legs are hit. Now, I am not going to sit here and be a quarterback whisperer but given the film, I watched it looks to me that Mayfield was looking to throw the ball out of bounds. The Browns only had one timeout left and that would have stopped the clock. Rather than burn the clock Mayfield was trying to scrounge up as much extra time as possible. Harrison Bryant was covered to the point where no one can argue it was a 50/50 ball.
Browns fans who like Mayfield will argue it was meant for the sidelines. Those who don’t like Mayfield will argue he was just risking it all for the praise. Baker Mayfield is a great quarterback who performs very well in the limited role of a game manager. Kevin Stefanski is a great offensive mind and gets a lot out of a stacked offensive roster in Cleveland. Mayfield is no Mahomes but that is simply because that is what the offense needs to run efficiently. This doesn’t make Baker bad or not the franchise guy. Baker doesn’t have the big sexy big plays that blow up social media. Instead, it’s his decision-making and methodical passing that allow this offense to be as potent as we saw on Sunday.