The Baker Mayfield era in Cleveland has arrived. In a thrilling game on Thursday night, No.1 pick Baker Mayfield outdueled fellow rookie Sam Darnold, leading a 14-point comeback, and giving the Browns their first win in nearly two years.
While Browns fans are rejoicing in the fact that they have found their man, New York Jets fans are wondering if they still need to search for theirs. It was a tough outing for young Darnold which was compounded by Mayfield’s phenomenal debut. With that being said, both fan bases need to cool the jets on what they take away from Thursday’s performances.
It was all Jets in the first half Thursday night with their defense completely stifling Tyrod Taylor. Taylor was an abysmal 4-of-14 for only 19 yards up until two minutes remaining in the second quarter, when he was taken out with concussion-like symptoms. Although, with the way Taylor played, it was only a matter of time before he was replaced, injury or no injury. The Jets defense made Taylor’s life difficult in the pocket, sacking him three times and bringing constant pressure; but, Taylor did not do himself any favors. Taylor was very inaccurate, missing a few open receivers highlighted by an underthrow to a wide-open Antonio Callaway for what would have surely been a touchdown. The restless Cleveland crowd let Taylor and head coach Hue Jackson know they were not pleased. Taylor was booed on every snap in his final sequence before he was injured, chants of “Baker! Baker!” heard in between plays.
Cleveland already seemed defeated and the Jets looked as if they were on their way to another primetime rout until Baker Mayfield stepped onto the field. The stadium erupted as Baker completed pass after pass, leading the Browns offense down the field for a field goal to end the first half. The second half was all Cleveland.
The Browns scored 14 unanswered points to tie up the ballgame after a successful 2-point conversion reminiscent of the famed Philly Special and were able to edge out the New York Jets 21-17. Baker Mayfield showed everyone why he was selected number one overall finishing the contest 17 of 23 for 201 yards in little more than one half. The rookie quarterback on the other side of the field did not play nearly as well. No. 3 overal pick, Sam Darnold, went 15-31 for 169 yards and threw two interceptions in the final two minutes to seal the loss.
Darnold had a bad game but should we have expected much more? Darnold was on the road playing his third game in 11 days, his first three career games in less than two weeks. This is a tough task for any quarterback let alone a rookie; not to mention, the Browns defense is legit. Future Hall of Famers, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees struggled in Weeks 1 and 2 against Greg Williams unit. Brees threw for less then 250 yards while Big Ben had five turnovers and a passer rating of 60.5 when facing them week one. With all this in mind, can we really blame Darnold for his poor performance?
On the other side, it seemed as if Mayfield did everything right. He completed over 70% of his passes, showed great poise, and won. Yet, when taking a closer look, you notice many factors were in the number one picks favor. For starters, Mayfield was in front of a jazzed-up home crowd who brought a lot of energy and excitement when he was in the game. And, he was facing an exhausted defense who had prepared for someone else under center. Baker Mayfield is an incredible talent and has the potential to be a great player, but let’s wait before we declare him the next great quarterback.