CINCINNATI, OH – In a prime case of proving that it’s not how you start, but how you finish, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield went out in style by capping a wild 37-34 comeback win over the in-state rival Cincinnati Bengals.
Mayfield, the former 2017 Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma and the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, had recently been coming under fire by both national media and local-area fans for his bad performance in a 38-7 drubbing in Pittsburgh, got off to a bad start down in the Queen City in going 0-5 and throwing an interception.
Thanks to an already auspicious start like that sans RB Nick Chubb, OT Wyatt Teller, a bruised WR in Jarvis Landry, and the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. to a possible season-ending knee injury, it looked bleak down on the north bank of the Ohio River.
And then, the light switch went off in Mayfield.
Mayfield would go on to complete 22-23 passes for five touchdowns, two to rookie TE Harrison Bryant, one to TE David Njoku, one to RB Kareem Hunt and the game-winner to rookie WR Donovan Peoples-Jones with 11 seconds remaining to cap off a thrilling QB duel with 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and No.1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft in Joe Burrow.
I what could be the beginning of the next Buckeye State quarterback rivalry, Mayfield finished 22-28 for 297 yards and five touchdowns and Burrow finished 35-47 for 406 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
For any old-school Browns or Bengals fan, the future Baker vs. Burrow rivalry, evokes the classic Battle of Ohio clashes between Bernie Kosar and Boomer Esiason.
For Mayfield, who always seems to play better with a chip on his shoulder, he also seemed to play better without having to force-feed Beckham Jr. and looked like the Baker from his rookie season in slinging the ball around to six different players, as well as rekindling his connection with his favorite target in Rashard Higgins, who caught a team high six passes for 110 yards.
Not to say that the Browns may be better off without OBJ, but in seeing how confident and free Mayfield looked in Cincinnati, don’t be shocked if the Browns take that into consideration in possibly moving OBJ in the off-season.
THIS was Baker circa 2018, when he took the league by storm and helped the Browns become relevant again. While it was against the lowly one-win Bengals, a win is a win in the NFL.
As they say, any given Sunday.
For those who want to try and pour cold water on the fact that it was just the Bengals and not Pittsburgh or Baltimore are ignoring the fact that the Colts are also a AFC contender and that the Cowboys—before the horrific season-ending ankle injury suffered by Dak Prescott—were contending for the division in the NFC Least.
This isn’t college, you play who is on your schedule, and if one can’t appreciate that the Browns are now 5-2, need to have their proverbial head examined and their Browns fan card revoked.
As the Browns can turn the page on the Bengals and prepare for the 3-3 Las Vegas Raiders, both Mayfield and the Browns can quietly build on the confidence of playing free and loose as well as enjoy the sweet silence of those who wanted him gone, benched and out of Cleveland.
Victory is sweet, but silence is golden.
Thankfully, both Mayfield and the Browns get to enjoy both.