CLEVELAND — Quarterback Baker Mayfield liked the in-week communication with new coordinator Freddie Kitchens. He liked the aggression of interim coach Gregg Williams. He liked the three first-half scoring drives. He liked the increased involvement of Duke Johnson and Greg Robinson’s performance in an emergency start at left tackle.
He liked his progress.
“I think I took a big jump from the past weeks to today, and I have to continue to do that,” Mayfield said.
The Browns lost their fourth straight Sunday, 37-21 to the Chiefs at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mayfield didn’t like the result and pointed out plenty of areas for improvement. But he struck an optimistic tone as the leader of a team at a crucial stage in its season.
“You’ve got to find those positives,” he said, explaining why the losing streak wasn’t dragging him down. “You have to build on it to where eventually the positives outweigh the negatives and you’re not dealing with losses, you’re dealing with wins.”
Mayfield has talked about changing the Browns’ culture since before they drafted him in April with the No. 1 pick. He knows this is a critical time in the ongoing process.
Coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were fired last week, with owner Jimmy Haslam citing “internal discord.” Mayfield sounded energized by the changes.
“There was so much more communication throughout the week,” he said of life with Kitchens running the offense. “We wanted to make sure everybody was on the same page. He was very vocal about if we’re not comfortable doing something as players, then we’re not going to do it. So there was a lot of back and forth throughout the week, talking about the little details, and I think that’s why we played better on offense today.”
Mayfield dropped to 1-5 as a starter but went 29-for-42 (69 percent) for 297 yards, two touchdowns, an interception, two sacks and a 95.0 rating. It was his third-best rating, trailing his debut against the Jets in Week 3 and the overtime loss at Tampa Bay two weeks ago.
He was more decisive in the pocket, completed nine passes to Johnson, including two touchdowns, and spread the ball to eight receivers.
“You can see the guy belongs in our league,” Williams said. “He led our football team.”
Mayfield lost the rematch with Big 12 rival Patrick Mahomes, who’s playing like an MVP for the Chiefs in just his second season. He went 23-for-32 for 375 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a 129.0 rating.
“I was able to see some of the times that he was stepping up into the pocket extending plays. It’s what we all know that he can do. He just does it every day,” Mayfield said. “I don’t think I’m watching him directly comparing myself to him. I’ve always respected him and his game. We do some things similar, but at the same time, we’re different players. He’s making a lot of great plays, so I would love to be able to do that, too.”
Mahomes and Mayfield are friends and talked before and after the game.
“He has a ton of talent and he’s going to keep getting better every single week,” Mahomes said. “He played well today and the future is bright for him and the Cleveland Browns as quarterback.”
Mahomes is blessed with a big body, giant arm and a lot of athleticism. He also is the beneficiary of an offense loaded with Pro Bowlers and a coach in Andy Reid who finds creative ways to use them all.
“They’re not doing anything unbelievable they invented,” Mayfield said. “They’re getting their guys in good positions. They’re running screens and executing them. They’re getting one-on-one matchups and taking advantage of mismatches that they like.
“We just have to be better. We’ve just got to trust our guys and trust our playmakers and do our job.”
Mayfield wasn’t happy with a fourth-quarter interception that stopped any hope of a comeback. Trailing 37-21 at the Chiefs 31-yard line with 4:39 left, Mayfield scrambled left and tried to fit the ball to tight end Seth DeValve, but cornerback Steven Nelson jumped in front. Mayfield was also upset with overthrows downfield.
“Some of those plays that we had open guys, I’ve got to hit them and just got to take advantage of the opportunity,” he said.
Mayfield was forced out of the game for the final three plays of the third quarter. The independent medical observer saw him get hit in the head by safety Ron Parker as he was being driven back by lineman Chris Jones and called down to have Mayfield evaluated for a concussion. Mayfield didn’t want to leave the game, was checked and returned.
“They’re going to take the precaution. It’s just interesting how it works,” he said.
Mayfield, who took a vicious helmet-to-helmet shot against the Buccaneers that should’ve been called a penalty, said wasn’t ready to say the officials missed one on Parker.
“I’ll have to look at it,” Mayfield said.