BEREA — Baker Mayfield’s final throw wasn’t perfect, coming in behind backup running back Dontrell Hilliard, who was slanting toward the middle. But it was catchable, going through Hilliard’s hands.
What happened next has been the story of Mayfield’s season.
The ball ricocheted into the arms of a defender. The third of Mayfield’s three interceptions Sunday was corralled by Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright and ended the Browns’ chances for victory with 2:41 on the clock.
Seahawks 32, Browns 28.
“Tough catch for him,” Mayfield said. “Just seems a lot of those bounces right there are not going in our favor.”
The misery that has filled Mayfield’s season continued Sunday.
In addition to the three interceptions and another loss, he injured his hip on a third-quarter scramble and was taken into the locker room. He didn’t miss a snap but was in obvious pain at times.
“Kind of tender right now, but we will see,” he said of the hip.
He acknowledged it affected his play.
“A little bit, but that is not an excuse,” he said. “It hurts, but it’s a physical game of football.”
He didn’t consider not playing.
“There was no conversation,” he said. “It was not even a thought.”
“Baker is a tough individual,” coach Freddie Kitchens said. “He is a tough quarterback mentally and physically. He will be fine.”
Mayfield, a captain who didn’t participate in the coin toss after the handshake controversy Monday night with San Francisco’s Richard Sherman, was off to a great start against the Seahawks, going 10-for-15 for 131 yards, a touchdown and a 116.25 passer rating before the first interception. He finished 22-for-37 for 249 yards, no sacks, a touchdown, three interceptions and a 54.9 rating.
His NFL-high interception total stands at 11, and he described the latest.
“The linebacker buzzed the flat, trying to get it to (Hilliard) before he gets there and kind of throw it on his back hip,” said Mayfield, who’s completed 56.6 percent with five touchdowns and a 66.0 rating on the year. “It is just the timing of it is obviously not great. Tried to protect him on the throw, but it is a tough one.”
The Browns fell to 2-4 heading into their bye. The story of the game was turnovers as the Browns committed four, in addition to having a punt blocked.
The Browns had scored on their first three possessions and led 20-9 when the first interception happened. Odell Beckham Jr. was running a slant from the left but got bumped by a defender. Mayfield had anticipated where Beckham was supposed to be and threw straight to cornerback Tre Flowers.
“They picked him off from the ball,” Kitchens said of Beckham. “It was inside of 5 yards so it is not a penalty.”
The second pick was part of a pivotal sequence.
The Browns reached the Seattle 10-yard line on the first play after the two-minute warning and hurried to run the next play. Mayfield tried to squeeze the ball into receiver Jarvis Landry in tight coverage, but the pass was a bit behind, tipped by cornerback Shaquill Griffin and intercepted by safety Tedric Thompson.
Instead of using as much clock as possible before halftime, Kitchens wanted to score quickly, stop the Seahawks and score again before the half was over. His greed cost him.
“I threw it a little behind Jarvis,” Mayfield said. “Trying to keep him away from the safety, but Griffin made a good play on it.”
The offense looked as crisp as it has all year during the first three drives. It used a quicker tempo, got the ball out of Mayfield’s hands and even went without a huddle for most of the second drive.
“I thought Baker was wired in, focused, concentrated during the course of the week,” Kitchens said. “Baker made some good throws and made some good decisions. Our guys caught the ball, and they did something with it after they caught the ball.”
The efficiency didn’t last, which left Mayfield in a mood.
“We lost. I am pretty p—–,” he said.
The underachieving record is enough to make anyone associated with the Browns angry.
“We have played better at times than 2-4, but the fact is we are 2-4,” Mayfield said. “There is no getting around it. There is no way of hiding it.
“The great teams learn from their mistakes. They learn from games like these. The certain plays that you can look back on and say, ‘This would have made the difference.’”
Mayfield still sees enough positives and potential to remain optimistic about the Browns’ chances the rest of the season.
“If we don’t hurt ourselves, this team can go where we want to go,” he said. “I said it earlier in the week, we found out the problem and it is self-inflicted mistakes that is holding us back and shooting ourselves in the foot. If we can eliminate that, we can be a great football team. If you have to constantly overcome things like that, it is tough.”
Beckham liked the perseverance of his quarterback.
“It’s heart,” he said. “That’s all I told him when he came back on the field. It’s just heart, dig deep, he’s a competitor. He’s not going to come out of the game. He’s going to do whatever to help this team. I know he was banged up and he gave us his all. We just came up short today.”