By Mike McLain | Photo by: Dave Spano
What is ugly to some eyes can be a thing of beauty in the eyes of another.
For those that admire great defensive efforts and aren’t convinced that football centers around explosive offenses, the Cleveland Browns 14-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings was a beautiful sight. For the second straight week the defense excelled in limiting the Vikings to 255 yards. After allowing a lengthy scoring drive on the Vikings’ first possession, the Browns rarely allowed a first down for the remainder of the game.
If the suffocating defensive performance a week earlier in a win over the Chicago Bears was eye-opening, the showing on the road against the Vikings went a step further. It began to solidify the reality that all the offseason maneuvering by the front office to rebuild the defense is working as planned.
Now comes the other side of the equation for fans that want it all. As much as the defensive showing was admired, you can bet most of the conversations around water coolers this week will have to do with quarterback Baker Mayfield, who had one of his worst performances in recent memory, completing 15-of-33 passes for 155 yards and a sub-prime rating of 59.5.
Mayfield owned up for his play, saying it’s not going to get it done in the future. Coach Kevin Stefanski took blame for not making calls that will help Mayfield find open receivers, but the problems went beyond play-calling.
Mayfield seemed rushed in his decision-making, often bailing out of the pocket seemingly too early. He missed open receivers at critical times that would have kept alive drives that could have made the win less stressful.
The good news is that we know what Mayfield is capable of when playing up to his abilities. There was a time early last season when there were questions about his worthiness, but he regrouped and went on to have a successful season.
Clearly, defenses are geared to take away his bootleg game, which he enjoyed success at in earlier games. Mayfield needs to have more success throwing out the pocket, which leads to success in the rollout game.
The good news is that the Browns will take a 3-1 record into Los Angeles next Sunday for a game against the improving Chargers. The defense is improving each week and is near the top of the NFL for its ability to control the run and the pass.
Teams with strong defenses travel well, which is to say they will play as well on the road as they do at home. As long as the defense plays close to what was seen the last two games, the Browns will be in every game.
Next Sunday, October 10th the Browns will travel to Los Angeles to play the Chargers, game time 4:05pm eastern standard time.