CLEVELAND — No comeback. No magic. No win.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield wasn’t the same in his third start and fourth appearance, and the Browns played like a different team. For the first time in six games to open the season, they looked like the Browns of the previous two years.
The Los Angeles Chargers made the trip across country, woke up early and dominated the Browns for a 38-14 victory Sunday at sun-drenched FirstEnergy Stadium.
“We did not execute. We did not do our job. We were not detailed. We did not do the things that we talked about all week,” Mayfield said. “I am at fault for the majority of that. I am going to be very hard on myself.”
Browns players can press pause on the playoff talk. Coach Hue Jackson can stop worrying about people jumping on their bandwagon. Everyone can slow down on the Mayfield to the Hall of Fame discussion.
After five heart-pounding, optimism-building games, the Browns crashed back to earth. No overtime was needed this week, as the Browns still haven’t won consecutive games since 2014. They fell to 2-3-1, 2-1-1 at home and alone in last place in the AFC North.
“We have to be more prepared coming into the next week,” said Mayfield, who’s 1-2 as a starter. “It does not matter the buzz. You have to do your job each week or else. I will be the first to tell you that I am going to go to work and get this fixed.”
The No. 1 pick was hesitant in the pocket, didn’t see guys open underneath and was late throwing downfield. He also played hurt after tweaking his ankle when he slipped on the plastic, orange first-down marker on a first-quarter scramble.
He stayed in the game but wasn’t his elusive self, as he was sacked five times and wasn’t able to escape the pocket and make plays. The Chargers’ game plan had a lot to do with that, as they committed to staying in their rush lanes.
“When he leaves the pocket, he is pretty dangerous,” said coach Anthony Lynn, whose Chargers improved to 4-2. “We did a heckuva job of that today — containing him in the pocket and getting the sacks. Even when he got out of the pocket, we ran with the receivers and we gave them tight coverage. He had to throw a lot of balls away.”
Mayfield went 22-for-46 for 238 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 52.6 rating.
The first interception helped seal the outcome early in the third quarter.
Mayfield slid left on Cleveland’s first play of the half and floated a ball toward receiver Jarvis Landry (two catches, 11 yards on nine targets) on a crossing route. Cornerback Desmond King stepped in front for the pick and returned it 33 yards to the 10-yard line.
Melvin Gordon scored one of his three rushing touchdowns on the next play for a 28-6 lead. He finished with 132 yards and a 7.3 average.
King also got Mayfield’s second interception in the fourth quarter, standing in front of a pass over the middle intended for tight end David Njoku (seven catches, 55 yards, TD).
“We have to take care of the ball — we, as in I, do,” Mayfield said. “I have to put us in position to win. Coming out in the second half, we were not out of the game. Defense gets a good stop and then first play, I throw a pick. Can’t do it. Can’t happen.”
Mayfield said the Chargers played a lot of zone and did a good job in coverage. He said he needs to be better finding the checkdown, adjusting during the game and not taking sacks, which had been a priority during the week. He’s been sacked 13 times.
“It was not one of his better days,” Jackson said. “At the same time, I thought that there were some other things that he did well.
“Baker is going to bounce back and play well next week. We are going to play well next week.”
Mayfield was hurt by the Browns’ obvious issues at wide receiver.
They entered short-handed with injuries to Rashard Higgins (knee sprain) and Derrick Willies (broken collarbone), and things got worse when Rod Streater left early in the first quarter with a neck stinger suffered covering a punt.
They were down to Landry, Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley yet went with a ton of three-receiver sets, because that’s how the coaches thought they could best attack the Chargers.
Callaway and Ratley are rookies, and each should’ve had a touchdown in the half. Callaway missed on a 40-yard throw in the end zone in the first quarter, and Ratley had a ball go through his hands at the 1-yard line to open the second quarter on a flea flicker.
The Browns had at least five drops.
“I know if I would have left my feet, if I would have dove, I would have caught it,” said Callaway, who had two catches for 9 yards, two drops and a 2-point conversion catch.
“I should have had that ball,” said Ratley, who entered with one offensive snap in his career, was pressed into service by the Willies injury Friday in practice and rebounded from the drop to catch six passes for 82 yards.
The Browns signed free agent receiver Breshad Perriman on Saturday and will look to improve the position through a trade or another signing. Jackson acknowledged they need help.
“But nobody is going to cry about it right now,” he said. “No other team cares about what our issues are.
“We will find a way to put the right guys out there to give us a chance to win.”
The Browns couldn’t crack the end zone until the game was out of hand, wasting prime field position when the game was still close in the first half. They started drives at the Cleveland 46- and Los Angeles 33- and 39-yard lines but managed just a field goal.
The lone touchdown was a jumping 1-yard catch by Njoku on a fade in the corner in the fourth quarter.
The defense was just as bad, as it had no answers for veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and his host of playmakers. Los Angeles totaled 449 yards, including 246 on the ground, and averaged 7.7 yards a play.
“We didn’t come out with enough energy,” nickelback TJ Carrie said.
“If you don’t be prepared to play in your own house, they are coming in here to take a victory,” Mayfield said.
The Browns will try to regroup this week before heading to Tampa Bay on Sunday in search of their first road win in three years.
“See what we’re built on. See what type of men we have on this team,” said linebacker Christian Kirksey, who had a fourth-quarter interception. “But it’s just a bad game played by us. This is not who we are.”