The Browns Offense looked tired, predictable, and limited with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback on Thursday Night. Taylor repeatedly missed throws, left plays on the field, and looked frenetic against the blitz. When Baker Mayfield replaced Taylor just before the first half due to injury, the offense’s energy seemed to pick up. This was not because the team suddenly wanted it more, or finally started believing like you probably heard in the media over the last couple of days. Maybe both those things are true, but desire and belief alone do not lead to success. The Browns Offense improved because they are better with Mayfield at quarterback, and he executed at a high level.
In the first meaningful action of Mayfield’s career, he delivered, plain and simple. The tempo of the entire offense picked up because Mayfield actually plays at a faster tempo than Tyrod Taylor does. He sets up quicker and is ready to throw immediately. He isn’t afraid to pull the trigger and fit the ball into tight windows, an area where Taylor has never excelled.
Mayfield’s first three passes of the night were right on the money. It wasn’t just the accuracy of the throws, but the ball placement. His understanding of where defenders were in relation to his receivers enabled him to put the ball in the spot where there was the highest chance for success. Mayfield stepped in and performed like he had been playing in the NFL for years. Very impressive.
Aside from one pass that should have been picked off in the end zone, Mayfield’s second half was tremendous (14-19, 154 yds, 3 scoring drives). He calmly worked through his progressions when his first read wasn’t there. More impressively, the blitz did not phase him like it did to Tyrod Taylor. He remained calm and firm in the pocket. We saw the Jets throw all types of blitzes at Mayfield – corner blitzes, slot blitzes, blitzes in his face. He handled them with ease.
Take this throw below on the Browns’ game-tying drive in the 3rd quarter. Mayfield connected with Jarvis Landry for 29 yards. Notice the blitzing defender coming right at Mayfield. He didn’t flinch.
What you can also see from this play is that Mayfield noticed that the defender running to cover Landry had his back turned. The good quarterbacks recognize this as open. Mayfield delivered a great ball, and Landry made an outstanding grab.
On Cleveland’s game-winning drive, we saw Mayfield exhibit more traits normally seen in a poised veteran. He handled a corner blitz, did a good job of holding the safety in the middle of the field on a seam ball, and made another accurate throw into a tight window to set up the game-winning touchdown (shown below).
On this play, Mayfield was quick in deciphering the defense, planted his back foot, threw with anticipation, and put the ball on the money.
What Mayfield did on Thursday night was no accident. He didn’t just run around the field and make a bunch of amazing physical plays, relying solely on his athleticism. He navigated the game and played with maturity. The Browns won for the first time in nearly 2 years as a result.
Mayfield has the skillset to be a consistent performer at the most important position on the field. He’s not infallible. He will make mistakes and go through growing pains like all rookies do. Regardless, it’s clear that this offense has a better chance of executing with Mayfield under center.