The Cleveland Browns enter the fifth week of the season with a 3-1 record. This is no longer unfamiliar territory for them, however, as it is the same spot they were in a year ago. They even reached 4-1 before losing their second game, and ultimately finished 11-5, their first non-losing season since 2007.
But that doesn’t mean that everybody is firing on all cylinders, or that they are all happy with their play. Quarterback Baker Mayfield in particular expressed his frustration at himself following Sunday’s victory over the Minnesota Vikings, a low-scoring 14-7 affair.
“I have to pick it up”, he said following the game in assessing his own performance, “because if I think that piss poor performance is going to cut it, it’s not”. Mayfield has been nursing a shoulder injury, though not on his throwing side.
“There’s a lot of easy throws there that I think missed and situationally, get into running the ball and you don’t have a couple throws for a while, you just get out of that rhythm”, he added, “so I need to do a good job of taking advantage of my opportunities, staying on track. For me, I pride myself on being extremely accurate and today I don’t know what the hell that was”.
Mayfield completed just 15 of 33 pass attempts on the day, an incredibly erratic showing marking his third-worst single-game completion percentage of his entire career. He threw for just 155 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per pass attempt, without throwing a touchdown, though he avoided being intercepted.
As is often the case, the ground game controlled the day for Cleveland’s offense, with Nick Chubb rushing for an even 100 yards on 21 attempts, and Kareem Hunt chipping in a bonus 69 yards on 14 attempts, plus their only touchdown on the day. They went for a two-point conversion on the play in the second quarter to take an 8-7 lead at the time, adding two field goals before all was said and done.
Mayfield is still having his most efficient season yet overall, however. On the year, he has completed 74 of 113 pass attempts for a career-best completion percentage of 65.5. He has thrown for 935 yards, averaging a career-best 8.3 yards per pass attempt. But he’s only thrown two touchdowns.
Is Mayfield’s performance a concern for the Browns down the road? For now it’s not. The defense is stepping up in ways it never has before, and the offensive line combined with their running backs are enough to shoulder most of the load. But down the road, will he make the plays that need to be made?