CLEVELAND — On Sunday afternoon, against the Minnesota Vikings, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield had a bad performance. In fact, bad may be sugarcoating it—something Mayfield wouldn't even do himself.
"I need to pick it up. A piss-poor performance isn't going to cut it," Mayfield said after the win.
Completing just 15 of his 33 passes for 155 yards and being sacked three times, Mayfield's day was tough to watch. He missed Odell Beckham Jr. on a would-be, runaway touchdown, overlooked Demetric Felton on a wide open first down and threw off-target passes to Kareem Hunt and Harrison Bryant.
Mayfield was off. Underthrowing the ball, overthrowing the ball, missing open receivers. He couldn't find a rhythm.
"Just getting into rhythm. I don't know, there's a lot of easy throws there that I think I missed. And then, you know, situationally, getting into running the ball and you don't have a couple throws for a while, you just get out of that rhythm. So I need to do a good job of taking advantage of my opportunities and staying on track," Mayfield said. "I pride myself on being extremely accurate. And today, I don't know what the hell that was."
But his bad performance isn't the end of the world and doesn't spell imminent disaster for the Browns.
Mayfield isn't one for excuses. He took full accountability Sunday after the game for his performance. But it's hard to forget about that left shoulder injury -- the one that "popped in and out" against the Texans in Week 2, even with head coach Kevin Stefanski, like Mayfield, saying he doesn't think the shoulder is throwing off his accuracy.
The Browns have a tough quarterback, one who will play through soreness and pain. But he's human, and injury, even if it's not to his throwing arm, will play a role in the game.
We saw it last year against the Steelers. After sustaining a rib injury the week prior against the Colts, Mayfield played through the soreness, but not well. Completing 10 of his 18 passes for 119 yards, two interceptions and a dismal 5.9 quarterback rating before being replaced by Case Keenum, Mayfield's performance drew in the critics who questioned his future in Cleveland as a franchise quarterback.
But Mayfield built on that performance and helped lead the Browns to their first playoff appearance in 17 seasons and their first playoff win in 26 years.
Quarterbacks can have bad games and still be good—can still be great, even.
Take Aaron Rodgers, for example. His Week 1 performance saw the Packers offense put three points on the board through four quarters, completing 15 of his 28 passes for 133 yards and two interceptions with a quarterback rating of 13.6. He's since led Green Bay to three straight wins, one with seconds on the clock and no timeouts, bouncing back to the Aaron Rodgers we all know.
This is not to compare Mayfield to Rodgers, but rather to say, no quarterback is perfect. Some will have days that they wish they could scrub from the stat books. There is a way to bounce back.
"I got to do better. It's just flat-out simple. And there's not much else I can say," Mayfield said.
Mayfield wants to bounce back, and as he continues healing the shoulder (even if he says its fine now), there's hardly a reason to doubt he'll put the work in to correct the mistakes, learn from them and move past the "ugly" win, which looks the same on a record as a pretty win.
"We know we want to be better in the pass game, we want to be more explosive in the pass game and there will be opportunities for us to improve, and that's what this week is for, really," Stefanski said.
If there is a silver lining, it's this: last year, the Vikings game would have been a Browns loss. This year, the defense showed it can win one when needed. When Mayfield gets back on track, having a defense that can be counted on every week will give the Browns something truly special.
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