The Cleveland Browns used some late heroics to down the Carolina Panthers in their opener on Sunday, using a 58-yard field goal from rookie kicker Cade York to seal the 26-24 victory.
The Browns put together a winning drive with less than two minutes on the clock and erased some late magic from their former quarterback Baker Mayfield, who had the Panthers in the position to win.
Mayfield had a tough go a year ago with the Browns in late-game situations, failing to capitalize on chances. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett didn’t sound particularly worried about Mayfield having the ball late.
“I have seen him put together winning drives — and I have seen the other side of it as well, so I had to imagine that and use it to my benefit,” Garrett told ESPN’s Kimberly Martin after the game.
Garrett was a force on the edge all day, making life hard for Mayfield and the Panthers’ offense. He finished with a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss, along with a pass batted down.
Garrett also said in his postgame presser that the tone for the matchup was set by “some of the guys on the other side.” He acknowledged Mayfield’s comments “had us a bit off the leash,” a reference to shirts Mayfield made taking a dig at the Browns.
Mayfield knows what kind of force Garrett is and wasn’t rattled over the sacks, which came on back-to-back plays.
“Flush it and move onto the next play,” Mayfield said after the game.
Mayfield started shakily against the Browns but found some rhythm late, finishing 16-of-17 for 235 yards, one touchdown and one interception — which the Browns flipped into a touchdown.
Garrett Used Mayfield’s Statement as Fuel
Leading up to the matchup, some alleged comments from Mayfield saying he wanted to “f–k them up” in reference to the Browns went viral. To be fair, it was a second-hand comment from a sideline reporter and Mayfield disputed that he said it.
Regardless, the Browns took the comments and ran with them, Garrett in particular.
“We’ll take it and we’ll use it, and I’m hoping for a great matchup,” Garrett told Cleveland.com. “I don’t think any less of him because he’s going out there and doing the same thing he did when he was with us. He’s the same guy personally, and maybe we’ll see a different Baker when we get on the field. Who knows?”
The relationship between Garrett and Mayfield was especially rocky, with the star pass-rusher souring on the outspoken QB over the years. Mayfield sent Garrett a parting text on his way out of Cleveland, but he didn’t respond.
“I read (the text) but you know, there were some disagreements we had at a base level and I’m not mad at the guy or feeling any way towards it, but I just didn’t know how to reply to that, so I didn’t,” Garrett told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com
Mayfield was Clear Game Had Extra Meaning
Mayfield didn’t shy away from saying the matchup against his former team had some extra meaning.
“I’m not going to sit here and be a robot and tell you that’s not one I’ve marked on the calendar already,” Mayfield said in an interview posted July 12 on the Panthers’ team website. “Obviously, this one has a little more history and personal meaning, but for me, it’s about winning and setting the tone for the rest of the year, and however I can help this team do that, I’m going to do.”
Mayfield showed some gratitude after the game for his time in Cleveland, sidestepping any controversy.
“A lot of ups and downs, but that was my first home, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart,” Mayfield told reporters.
Cleveland’s next matchup is against the Jets, while the Panthers will try to bounce back against the Giants.