BEREA — Interim coach Gregg Williams isn’t the least bit worried about Baker Mayfield bouncing back after throwing three critical first-half interceptions Sunday in the 29-13 loss to the Texans.
“None. Zero. None,” Williams said Monday of his concern. “That is not who he is.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio saw Mayfield put the interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, behind him during the game.
Mayfield was 5-for-13 for 46 yards, the three picks on three straight possessions and a 9.3 rating in the first half as the Texas took a 23-0 lead. He responded by going 24-for-30 for 351 yards, a touchdown and a 126.5 rating in the second half.
“It is pretty impressive. I think he already bounced back in the second half,” Bitonio said. “He improved a bunch from one half to the other. I think he forgot about them by halftime.
“He is going to be ready this week, and I think he is going to want to improve on his overall performance. The great thing about him is he can play the next play, but he will come back like today on Monday and be his biggest critic. He knows he is trying to improve everything and he wants those throws back, and he is going to be ready to get out there and improve those.”
Williams lamented the turnovers but was proud of Mayfield for fixing things on the fly. He adjusted to the Texans dropping linebackers into coverage rather than blitzing, which most teams have done against Mayfield.
“The game could have been closer, and the reason the game was not as close is that on the road you can’t be minus-4,” Williams said of the turnover differential. “You just have to get better at understanding and feeling that.
“Give Baker credit now. They are playing the same stuff in the second half and he has a feel for them. He has made the correction already. He did a really good job with that.”
Williams took another shot at the tackling technique of rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, who remained in concussion protocol after leaving the game in the second quarter.
“I have teased him already today,” Williams said. “The tough part of our game is make a better read and then, ‘What? Oh, you did not tackle low enough again?’
“It is one of those things that at that corner position, especially him, you have to be down.”
Ward, the No. 4 pick, came up to tackle running back Lamar Miller and took a helmet to the side of the helmet. Ward (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) quickly ran off favoring his arm.
“First off, we thought it was a stinger. Then he went through the question and answer stuff, and it was ding-dong,” Williams said. “Then he went into that kind of protocol.”
Williams ripped Ward in the preseason when he suffered back spasms after tackling Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, saying maybe Ward would finally listen to him and stop doing “stupid” things and tackle like he’s taught.
** Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who started the first four games, will be activated from injured reserve this week and play Sunday, Williams said. Mitchell broke a wrist Sept. 30 against the Raiders, practiced the last two weeks and is eligible to come off IR.
“He has had two good weeks of practice,” Williams said.
The Browns have gone three straight games without allowing a sack for the first time since 1988. The offensive line is left tackle Greg Robinson, Bitonio, center JC Tretter, right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Chris Hubbard.
“They better be getting some credit,” Williams said. “If I am Baker, I am around patting those guys on that back, I am talking to them and I am being best friends with them.”
Holding the Texans without a sack was impressive because the Browns trailed for the final 53 minutes, Mayfield threw 43 times and Houston entered tied for sixth in the league with 34 sacks and has J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus.
“That was so far probably the best group and maybe the best group we’ll face all year,” Tretter said. “They’ve just got a lot of talent, they can throw a lot of guys at ya, a lot of different fronts at ya. I just think we’ve really hit our stride.”
Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who didn’t play in the second half after injuring a biceps, didn’t want to talk about the injury Monday as he passed through the locker room but said it isn’t too serious and he might be able to play against the Panthers on Sunday. Williams said more tests were done Monday and he didn’t have any “definitive” results.
“He is a tough dude,” Williams said. “He has had some of those same kinds of injuries before. If he can play through it, he is one of the few guys we have that can do something like that, and he did.”
Ogunjobi was injured in the second quarter and returned to the game for a while.
** Rookie offensive lineman Austin Corbett’s left foot was in a walking boot. He didn’t practice last week and was inactive Sunday.
He was injured the week before against the Bengals when defensive tackle Geno Atkins rolled into him during one of Corbett’s two snaps as an extra lineman.
The Browns joined the rest of the league in not claiming running back Kareem Hunt, who was waived by the Chiefs after video was released Friday of him pushing and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February.
Hunt became an unrestricted free agent when he passed through waivers Monday afternoon but remains on the commissioner’s exempt list, which prevents him from playing.
Browns general manager John Dorsey drafted Hunt in the third round in 2017 when he was GM in Kansas City. Hunt went to Willoughby South High School.
He led the league with 1,327 rushing yards as a rookie.