In a duel of recent number one overall NFL draft picks, Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns came out on top, narrowly defeating Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 37-34 on Sunday.
Mayfield was able to overcome a terrible start to this game, which saw him at one point have more interceptions than passing yards, to then go on a run completing 21 of 22 passes with five touchdowns. He ended the game with an incredible 24-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones with 15 seconds left in the game, completing the comeback and securing a much-needed win for the Browns.
Mayfield was 21 for 27 for 297 yards. TE Harrison Bryant also had a big game, coming down with two touchdown catches, while Rashard Higgins led the team with 110 receiving yards.
For the Bengals, Burrow continued to prove why so many are excited for his future in this league. He was able to overcome another shaky performance from his offensive line and maintain his poise with tremendous pocket presence, even in the face of an unrelenting pass rush. Burrow completed 35 of 47 passes for a season-high 406 yards and three touchdowns, as well as one rushing score. He even led the team on what looked to be a game-winning drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Giovani Barnard on fourth-and-1 to give the Bengals a 34-31 lead with 1:06 remaining.
Unfortunately for the Bengals, Burrows excellence wasn’t enough to overcome their defensive woes, which continue to haunt them. The loss stings, but what was more important for the Bengals was that Burrow continued to take strides forward. They are in the long game, and Burrow’s performance should leave Cincinnati fans excited for what is to come.
Mayfield, on the other hand, has been regressing this season. Maybe today’s stellar performance gives him back his trademark confidence and propels him to a productive second half of the season, but his future as the Browns’ long-term starting quarterback is up in the air. He had a great showing after the first quarter today, but he needs to keep it up if he wants to revive the organization’s and fan’s confidence in him. Watching him play today, you know it’s in there somewhere, and hopefully he is able to consistently tap into it before it’s too late. The Browns also find themselves in rare playoff contention, and their chances lie squarely on Mayfield’s back. The running game and pass rush have so far kept them afloat, but they need Mayfield to take major strides forward if they hope to remain in contention through the end of the season. It is yet to be seen if he can maintain some form of consistency.
Next week, the Browns (5-2) host the Las Vegas Raiders while the Bengals (1-5-1) have another tough game, hosting the Tennessee Titans.
Photo Credit: Andy Lyons
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