by Chris Gorman
Oct. 14, 2018
CLEVELAND, Ohio—Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield passed and passed a lot. But he completed less than half of his throws, going 22-of-46 for 238 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.
The Browns lost by a wide margin to the Chargers, 38-14, dropping them down to a 2-3-1 record.
Mayfield was constantly at a loss per play, showing that even after some truly remarkable appearances—he’s still a rookie. Add in the fact that Mayfield was pressured and sacked 5 times, and that will tell you that Mayfield’s orange helmet wasn’t the only one unfocused.
Cleveland gave up 449 total yards, 7.7 yards per play and a 31:37 time of possession to the Chargers. The Browns also allowed 3-of-4 attempts in the Red Zone to go for scores. Offensively, they gained a total of 317 yards and committed 2 turnovers.
The talk around Cleveland, before this outing, was leaning towards a possible playoff appearance. Before Week Six, the AFC North hadn’t exactly separated from one another; there was no clear-cut front-runner. After the smoked of this week cleared, the Browns now reside at a familiar place: the bottom.
Legions of bandwagon jumpers came aboard the Cleveland Express as Tyrod Taylor went down with an injury and the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft took the reins in Week Three. From there, Baker Mayfield led the Browns to their first victory since December of 2016.
More like reverence. The Dawg Pound was back and Cleveland was rocking.
The Baker Mayfield show continued to build a strong following, even with an overtime loss to the Oakland Raiders the following week. Then, Cleveland bested Baltimore with a low score of 12-9, but that did nothing to deter the viewers. And those viewers were not just located in and around Cleveland, either.
To be honest, I hadn’t watched a game Cleveland’s played since the days of Bernie Kosar and Eric Metcalfe. That dates me a bit. So, once I’d heard that the Browns actually were operating at a professional level, I had to give them a chance.
There’s something entirely exciting about a number one overall draft pick making good on being a legitimate NFL ball player. Throughout history, most of them have been over-hyped busts. Even more enticing, is tuning into games featuring rookie quarterbacks leading bad teams, intent on fixing their pessimistic culture.
À la Baker Mayfield.
For a brief shining moment, the 23-year-old had people boarding the Cleveland Express. But in the span of one week, the bandwagon jumpers are hopping off by the droves and complaining as they go.
Fair or not, most everything in football rides on the play and attitude of quarterbacks.
Perhaps the fickle masses of casual viewers are misinformed about how much talent is being brought out of their city’s football team. Or, maybe they are sick of watching season after season of Cleveland Browns football roll lifelessly into the ditches.
Near the end of the Chargers’ game, cameras caught Mayfield sitting on the bench sporting an all-too-familiar thousand-yard stare. The rookie found himself at a loss for words as he became yet another signal-caller in a long line of quarterbacks who have shown that exact look for Cleveland.
Some of Mayfield’s passes were good, some went awry, some sailed over heads and hands, and he consistently held onto the ball too long on most passing plays. Plus, he didn’t get much help from his teammates either.
Baker Mayfield looked lost on both the field and the sidelines. He looked like what he is—a rookie. I wish people would remember that, instead of rushing to dismiss him as another Brown’s first-round pick that’s heading down the drain.
There is no doubt that the Cleveland curse swept through FirstEnergy Stadium, striking venom into the Browns veins.
By halftime, the Chargers—and self-sabotage—stole the wind from Cleveland’s sails.
It took the Browns almost three and a half minutes into the fourth quarter to score their only touchdown. As valiant an effort as that was to go for the two-point conversion and complete it, the Chargers were already in full control.
Cleveland played lackluster at best. But, there are still 10 games remaining in the regular season. Cincinnati is 4-2, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are 3-2 and Cleveland is 2-3-1. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility, including the Browns getting their act together and placing first or second in the AFC North.
The Browns could certainly be 8-7-1 by the end of 2018.
This campaign has produced two wins thus far.
That’s two more than all of last season.
The Browns have talent on both sides of the ball, they’re young, they’re hungry and coachable. Cleveland has every opportunity to crawl further towards becoming a respectable foe in the AFC. And a viable threat for the playoffs.
They cannot be allowed to sink back into the familiar hole of incompetence and failure that’s haunted this team for decades. Head coach Hue Jackson must work tirelessly not to let his players hang their heads and go cellar-dwelling in morale and the standings.
There is no question a load of talent is prevalent on Cleveland’s roster; they cannot waste this season’s opportunity to capitalize on it.
Every coin has two sides; all of Cleveland is waiting to see which side faces up.