BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield bravely stood in the pocket last week, held the ball — sometimes for too long — and took some punishing shots from the Los Angeles Chargers.
He hasn’t recovered.
Physically, he’s fine. Mentally, Cleveland’s quarterback hasn’t healed.
“That is the worst loss that I have ever had,” Mayfield said Wednesday.
For the first time this season, the Browns (2-3-1) weren’t competitive in Sunday’s 38-14 loss to the Chargers, and Mayfield looked like what he is: a rookie who is going to make mistakes and take some lumps from time to time.
But as he and his teammates prepare to play at Tampa Bay on Sunday, the No. 1 overall pick is showing leadership and a resolve not to let it happen again. The Browns may soon find out how far they’ve come — or how far they’ve got to go.
“Any loss like that hurts,” Mayfield said. “You have to push forward and just have to do your job, and you will find out what this team is made of. It is never about the week before or if you win or lose — it is how you react from it. Coming off of a loss, we will really see what this team is made of.”
Mayfield’s third career pro start was one of the worst of his football life. He completed just 22 of 46 passes (48 percent) for 238 yards with two interceptions.
For a player who completed 71 percent of his passes last season at Oklahoma and 69 percent over four years (the first at Texas Tech), Mayfield’s inaccuracy against the Chargers was an anomaly.
It was the first time his completion rate was under 50 percent since Nov. 21, 2015, when he went 9 of 20 against TCU. However, he only played the first half of that game because of a concussion.
Mayfield only twice completed less than 50 percent of his passes in 48 college games, which is why he was so despondent about his performance last week.
“Mathematically, which I think goes hand in hand with emotionally,” he said when asked why he called it his worst loss. “Just did not play well, plain and simple. No way around it. It was not fun.”
Cleveland’s offensive line struggled to protect Mayfield, whose mobility was impacted when he slipped and tweaked his ankle while running out of bounds in the first quarter. The Chargers were able to keep Mayfield from rolling out and making plays.
But perhaps more problematic was Mayfield missed open receivers, misread coverages and didn’t release the ball quickly enough. There were plays when a simple dump-off throw to a running back would have been a better option.
“Kudos to them for doing their job,” Mayfield said of the Chargers. “They did it well. At the same time, if I get the ball out of my hands, then none of that really matters. It just comes down to me not doing my job to the best of my ability, plain and simple. There is no way around it. I have to be better for this team and be that for our offense.”
Browns coach Hue Jackson was pleased to hear that Mayfield was accountable. However, it wasn’t entirely his fault as Cleveland’s receivers weren’t getting open and rookies Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley didn’t make plays on deep balls that could have been touchdowns.
Mayfield took the blame.
Jackson spread it around.
“We have to make sure that we are in the right spots for him all of the time,” Jackson said. “I think there were some opportunities there. As I said to our line coaches, we have to make sure that we give up ground grudgingly for this young man. I do not want people hitting our quarterback. He has been hit way too much in my mind and then he has to get the ball out of his hand.
“I have seen some things where he can improve, but I have seen some things where the unit can improve more than anything.”
NOTES: QB Tyrod Taylor, who lost his job to Mayfield when he suffered a concussion in Week 3, believes he can still be a winning NFL starter. The 29-year-old said he has not considered asking for a trade. “My mindset is to continue to keep helping this team,” Taylor said in his first extensive interview since getting hurt. “It’s a new role for me.” Taylor will be a free agent after the season, and Jackson expects him to finish it with the Browns. “Until someone tells me something differently,” Jackson said. “He is our backup quarterback.” … Starting C JC Tretter (ankle) did not practice, but Jackson thinks he’ll be ready for Sunday. If not, rookie Austin Corbett will start.