For as bad as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season has gone, it’s hard to argue that the Cleveland Browns’ year has gone much better, and arguably, they had even higher expectations, at least from the outside. And while the Steelers have the excuse of having lost their franchise quarterback early in the year, the Browns’ Baker Mayfield—who was listed as an early MVP favorite before the season started—hasn’t necessarily shown the second-year growth that was being counted upon.
That included last night’s showing against the San Francisco 49ers, who now at 4-0 are increasingly looking legitimate, even if two of their victories are against Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the latter coming in the first-career start of Mason Rudolph.
Mayfield completed just eight of his 22 pass attempts for 100 yards, failing to find the end zone but being picked off twice, posting a quarterback rating of 13.4. On the season, he now has a completion percentage of 55.9, completing 90 of 161 attempts for 1247 yards. He is still averaging a healthy 7.7 yards per attempt, but his thrown four touchdowns to eight interceptions. He also has zero rushing yards and has fumbled three times.
Admittedly, one of the issues has been his protection. While the offensive line that started this season is roughly the same as that which finished the 2018 season, and was playing well at the time, their performance has left much to be desired through five weeks. Kevin Zeitler is the only missing piece, yet Mayfield is getting hit much more frequently, taking 16 sacks on the year, on pace to be sacked over 50 times. He took 25 sacks last year.
Mayfield ordinarily has a boisterous personality, but according to 49ers rookie Nick Bosa, he was anything but on the field last night. Recalling the former’s flag-planting celebration during his college years against Bosa’s Ohio State a couple years ago, he mimicked that celebration, and as with everything else, Mayfield did nothing in response.
Bosa talked to reporters after the game about how he tried to get the quarterback’s attention during the game. “I don’t usually talk, but this game he had it coming. He didn’t say one word back”, he said.
He also made it clear that the flag-planting taunt was something that he had planned all along, even admitting that he practiced it a bit in his room during the week, again reiterating that Mayfield “had it coming”.
When you’re a brash person at the top of your game, and especially when you grow meek in the face of adversity, then you leave yourself open to these sorts of responses. Following an offseason of hype, the Browns are starting to look as though they are headed for more of the same. They have some tough games lined up next and can easily be well below .500 at that point.