Missed calls and penalties have plagued the Browns this season. On Wednesday, frustrations were bleeding throughout the locker room. Even so, the Browns appeared to understand that a victim mentality doesn't translate to success on the field.
“It is easy to point and blame certain calls during the game, but if we are scoring points, we can take the refs out of the game,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said.
The conversation about the officials buzzed throughout the locker room on Wednesday after reports surfaced that the league recognizes the referees missed a helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter on Baker Mayfield. The league has yet to release a statement, but Tampa Bay’s Jordan Whitehead could still receive a fine for the hit, which would confirm the officiating error.
“I was so fuming mad to hear the ref say he was allowed to be hit in the head. I thought that is why they put in the rule, but we will see,” Mayfield said.
The Browns finished that drive on the one where they failed to convert on fourth down, highlighting the fact that even when the football gods do not work in the Browns favor, the Browns fail to take control of their fate.
“We can do the things right to where none of that really matters,” said Mayfield.
Among the “little things” the team needs to correct are slow starts. The Browns have scored a total of eight first-quarter points, and two of those points came from a safety this past weekend.
“Have to eliminate the minus plays,” Mayfield said. “We have to feel the awareness. We have to score when we have a chance. We have to do that and be proud to do that.”
The team recognizes their inconsistencies and aims to play a full four, or even when needed, five quarters.
“Early on in the game when emotions are high, you have to settle in quickly and do your job. Late in the game when it really matters, you do not have to do too much. You just have to do your job,” Mayfield said.
The Browns are not only approaching an important divisional rivalry game against the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday, but also a pivotal point in their season where a win could help transform them from victims to victors. The added energy and physicality that comes with the rivalry could add emphasis to a loss or a win.
“We are excited. We want to get back out there,” said offensive lineman Joel Bitonio. “We want to get this bad taste of losing out of our mouth, try to get another division win and try to jumble it up a little bit more in the division.”
Many fans and players feel the refs cheated the Browns in a close game, but the Browns understand the recognition of bad calls doesn’t change a bad record. And while they are hoping for accurate officiating, the only way to guarantee a better record is by better play.