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Heat is on Baker Mayfield as Browns face Bengals on Yahoo Sports app

·4-min read
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There’s no shame in losing on the road to the Baltimore Ravens.

But a 38-6 drubbing raises red flags for a team with playoff aspirations. Especially one coming off the catastrophe that was its 2019 season.

The Cleveland Browns were incapable of slowing Lamar Jackson and equally inept on offense Sunday in a result that raises the stakes for this week’s matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Baker Mayfield’s Browns will take on Joe Burrow’s Bengals in Cleveland on Thursday in a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.

It’s hard to call any Week 2 NFL game make-or-break. But the clock is ticking on Mayfield, and a second straight division loss to a team fielding a rookie quarterback — even one of Burrow’s stature — will trigger all the alarms that aren’t already blaring in Cleveland.

Can Browns recover in 2020?

The Browns hit the reset button after last season’s 6-10 disaster that was supposed to be the franchise’s first foray into the postseason in 2002.

What started with high hopes in 2019 built around a roster loaded with young talent ended with the firing of head coach Freddie Kitchen after just one season. The worst of first-time NFL head coaches almost always get a second chance, but the Browns were rightfully desperate to clear the slate.

[Watch live NFL games on the Yahoo Sports app, here's how]

The roster appeared to be in place. Defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback are defensive cornerstones. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt make up one of the NFL’s most dynamic backfields.

The arrival of Odell Beckham Jr. was supposed to propel Mayfield from promising to Pro Bowler.

Can Baker Mayfield recover from last season's disaster?(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Can Baker Mayfield recover from last season's disaster?(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

What happened to Baker?

But Mayfield regressed. The accuracy that was his hallmark at Oklahoma and during an auspicious rookie campaign disappeared in 2019. He connected on 59.4 percent of his passes and logged a 24-to-21 touchdown-to-interception ratio, numbers that don’t cut it for a starter in the NFL. Was it a product of his second coach and offense in two seasons? Or was something deeper in play?

The Beckham who was arguably the NFL’s most exciting receiver as a member of the New York Giants was a shell of himself in a season that saw Jarvis Landry lead the team in receiving yards and touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Garrett was starting to live up to the hype of his No. 1 draft slot before he swung a helmet at Mason Rudolph’s head and ended his season six games early.

New season, same problems?

There were no outrageous acts of violence in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. But just about everything else mirrored 2019.

Mayfield was ineffective, posting a 53.8 percent completion rate and 65 quarterback rating while scrambling at almost any sign of pressure. Beckham was MIA, tallying 22 receiving yards.

Chubb and Hunt churned out 132 yards on the ground that had zero impact on the scoreboard.

As for the defense: It tallied two sacks and one turnover while allowing reigning league MVP Jackson to look like a prime candidate to repeat. Whatever changes rookie head coach Kevin Stefanski installed paid no dividends against the Ravens.

Thursday will present a much different scenario for the Browns. They won’t be facing the NFL’s best regular-season team from 2019 on the road. They’ll get the reigning worst-regular season team at home in prime time.

It’s a chance for Mayfield and company to set things straight and salvage the season before it spirals out of control after two weeks. But if Burrow — 2020’s No. 1 overall pick — outplays the top selection in the 2018 draft in a Bengals road win, the Browns may kick off the search for their next quarterback savior in earnest.

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