The Cleveland Browns are in must-win mode the final two weeks of the season and they need quarterback Baker Mayfield to bounce back from his four-interception performance against the Packers to have a shot at the postseason.
Mayfield admitted he hurt the team in the 24-22 loss to the Packers with his four picks but Browns skipper Kevin Stefanski expects him to be better going forward.
“It’s not fun going through the interception reel with quarterbacks, but you’ve got to learn from those,” Stefanski told reporters on Monday, December 27. “He didn’t play up to his standard, and we expect him to play at a high level. Confidence-wise with the quarterback position, you get too much credit, you get too much blame and that’s just how it is. He’ll bounce back, and I think he’ll be better for it.”
Both Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry said that they expected a banged up Mayfield to play his best football following the team’s bye week. In two games he’s tossed five interceptions to four touchdowns, averaging just over 200 yards per game.
The excuses were there for the taking for Mayfield following the matchup, seeing as he had not practiced in nearly two weeks, sidelined on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The quarterback didn’t shy away from taking the blame.
“I don’t think it was anything preparation wise or mentally. It was just missed throws, uncharacteristic and I hurt this team. So that’s the most frustrating thing for me because I thought our defense played tremendous against a really, really good offense,” Mayfield said. “But when you turn the ball over on your own territory, in the red zone and around midfield and give them extra opportunities, they’re going to take advantage of it. That’s just who they are.”
Stefanski Explains End of Game Situtation
Trailing by two against the NFC-leading Packers, the Browns just needed a field goal for the win. The problem was that the team was missing their normal kicker Chase McLaughlin, who went on the virus reserve list late in the week.
The argument from Browns critics was that the ball should have never been in Mayfield’s hands late, resulting in the game-sealing interception. Instead, the ball could have been in the arms of Nick Chubb, who had his way with the Packers defense for most of the afternoon. But with Chris Naggar booting the ball instead of McLaughlin — who has had his own struggles this season — Stefanski felt they needed to gain more than just 10-15 yards to feel good about the kick.
“Certainly, if it came down to a field goal, he’s our kicker, we have confidence in him, but our mentality wasn’t just to get the ball to the 35 or the 40 and attempt a long field goal,” Stefanski said.
Naggar missed an extra point earlier in the game but did hit a 37-yard field goal.
Browns Still Have Shot at AFC North Title
Despite their stumbles the last two weeks, the Browns are not only still alive for the postseason but for the AFC North crown. But they’ll need some help.
Next week the Browns need the Bengals to lose to the Chiefs and the Ravens to lose to the Rams. Meanwhile, the Browns have to beat the Steelers next week and then close out with a victory against Joe Burrow’s Bengals.
ESPN gives the Browns a 13.5 percent chance to make the playoffs and a 12.7 percent chance to win the AFC North.