Baker Mayfield 'lights out' as Browns offense coasts to win over Giants
Baker Mayfield has built several memorable performances in 2020 that have helped the Browns offense ascend into one of the best units in the NFL.
In Week 7, he threw five touchdown passes to help push the Browns to a last-minute win over the Bengals. In Week 13, he threw four touchdowns in the first half to give the Browns a massive lead in a statement win over the Titans. Last week on Monday Night Football, he threw for over 340 yards and nearly pushed the Browns to a win over the Ravens.
Mayfield added another gem to his 2020 collection Sunday night in New York.
This performance — 27-of-32 with two touchdowns, 297 yards and a 126.2 quarterback rating — might be the smoothest of them all. It gave the Browns a 20-6 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium and was a result of Mayfield being in control for four quarters against a defense that was ranked top 10 in the league.
He played mistake-free football. He made it look easy. He looked his best.
"Baker was outstanding tonight," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He was dialed in. It is really what I expect from him, and it is what he expects from himself. I really thought he was sharp."
"Outstanding" might be an understatement.
The only errors Mayfield made Sunday night were his five incompletions, which came at mostly inconsequential times and never cost the Browns on the scoreboard. They won with no surprises from the offense, which has made these performances feel routine after 14 games, and that's because Mayfield was moving the Browns downfield at a smooth, poetic pace.
His completion percentage Sunday (84.3 percent) is the third-best in franchise history. The leader is Vinny Testaverde, who holds the record at 91.3 percent.
Second? Mayfield. He hit 84.3 percent in 2018 against the Atlanta Falcons. 2018, of course, has been remembered for the magic Mayfield orchestrated as a rookie. He broke the rookie touchdown record and electrified the city of Cleveland with the kind of quarterback play the Browns had fought so hard to find.
Now, he might be playing even better than that. Over the last four weeks, Mayfield has thrown for over 1,200 yards and recorded 10 touchdowns and just one interception. He was 3 yards away from back-to-back games of over 300 passing yards, and he's had a quarterback rating over 110 in three of the last four games.
When Mayfield is in control, so is the rest of the offense. That was on display for 60 minutes on a primetime stage against the Giants.
"He plays at a high level," wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. "I keep on saying that for us to get where we want to go, and win these games, it all starts there. He's a big part of everything we're trying to do. He's playing lights out."
Mayfield's most important throws Sunday were a 2-yard lob pass to tight end Austin Hooper and another 2-yard pass to Landry — both were caught in the end zone for his 24th and 25th touchdown passes of the season, which eclipsed his total from last year.
But the other throws that put them close to the goal line were the same crisp passes Mayfield has been delivering for the last month.
It didn't matter if defenders were in the area. It didn't matter if it was third down. It didn't matter if Mayfield was under pressure. He found a way to get the ball to its intended target. On Sunday, he used eight of them — yes, eight Browns receivers caught a pass. Mayfield was clearly comfortable through all of his progressions. When he found an open receiver, he hit them.
That's how a confident quarterback should play. Right now, no one is questioning Mayfield's confidence.
"(I'm) trusting these guys around me, trusting the guys up front, going through my progressions and just delivering the ball and letting them make the plays," he said. "Our guys are making a ton of plays. Our protection continues to be great, and these guys continue to make plays for us. That is why the confidence is so high. I don't have to do anything else. It's these guys doing their job."
Mayfield looked at ease Sunday. His chemistry with his receivers has only grown each week as the Browns near a spot in the playoffs, which is now even more realistic.
The postseason hasn't been in Cleveland since 2002. Now, it's closer than ever.
Mayfield is doing his part to help make it a reality. He's pulled through with plenty of big performances that have made this season his best. He added another game to that list Sunday.
He believes he has more big performances to come.
And if he's right, the next one could come with even bigger historical implications.
"We are of the mentality right now that we control our own destiny," Mayfield said. "(It's) a notch on the belt, and then move on. We're not done yet."