Tyrod Taylor shows needed progress leading Browns' offense

BEREA, Ohio -- The ultimate goal is to win the game, so in that sense the Cleveland Browns' offense and quarterback Tyrod Taylor have not succeeded this season.

But what Taylor can do is take a deep breath after the loss in New Orleans, because from Week 1 to Week 2, he and the offense showed signs of growth and improvement.

Taylor will have to deal all season with the reality that the draft’s first overall pick, Baker Mayfield, is behind him, and with that comes attention and scrutiny and speculation. But Week 2 allowed Taylor to exhale after he had gone 15-of-40 passing in the opener.

“It wasn’t everything,” Taylor said Tuesday as the Browns prepared for Thursday night’s visit from the New York Jets. “But there were definitely some areas of growth there and was definitely something to walk away from that game encouraged by.”

The Browns had a 12-play touchdown drive in the third quarter and a 10-play drive in the fourth quarter that ended in a missed field goal. Then at game’s end, when they needed it, they came up with a touchdown drive to tie and a hurry-up drive that gave them a chance to send the game to overtime. The Browns actually outgained the Saints 327-275, and averaged 5.5 yards per play. The offensive line had no false starts in a noisy road environment, and there was a general feeling that the quarterback was much more in control and much more comfortable.

There were mistakes. The kicker had a horrible day. The offense could not get a first down and failed on fourth-and-2 after the defense forced a Saints fumble in the second quarter. And Taylor by his own admission threw a bad interception in Browns territory that set the Saints up for a go-ahead touchdown.

But the late completions helped Taylor’s overall numbers: 22-of-30 for 246 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a rating of 94.6. A poll on Cleveland.com saw 46 percent of responders giving Taylor a grade of B for the game, and only 13.2 giving him either a D or an F.

“It wasn’t like it was a dominant performance by any means,” Taylor said, “but I definitely think we took a bunch of steps from the Pittsburgh game to the Saints game.”

The most significant ones came late, he said.

That’s when the Browns took over with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left after New Orleans had gone up six. Taylor completed three passes for 38 yards, but had a 10-yard sack. On fourth down from the Saints’ 47, he went for the big play and found Antonio Callaway for the TD to tie the game.

After New Orleans went up by three, Taylor and the Browns took over at their 25 with 21 seconds left and one timeout. He completed throws of 25 and 16 yards to give Zane Gonzalez a chance to tie.

“For us to take the ball down and score in a critical moment and then to get the ball back down the field for a chance to tie the game was definitely some growth,” he said.

Taylor's opener will bring questions, particularly with Mayfield waiting. Thursday the Browns face a team that is starting its first-round pick, as Sam Darnold will lead the Jets. The Browns have given the season to Taylor to hold as long as he can.

He now does it with Josh Gordon and his unfilled potential traded to New England. Instead of wondering about Gordon, the Browns can simply go play with the guys who have been working through every practice since the offseason. In New Orleans, the trio of Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins and Callaway accounted for 13 catches, 197 yards and a touchdown.

“These are the guys we were in OTAs with, training camp with,” Landry said. “I’m sure 5 [Taylor] is comfortable with them, as well as the guys upstairs.”

Taylor will probably never be able to eliminate the Mayfield chatter entirely. The first overall pick draws attention. But Taylor does have the chance to keep the job -- provided he and the Browns get a victory sooner rather than later.

“The more experience that we have with each other playing together, I believe the better things will go,” Landry said.

“It is our job,” Taylor said, “to keep getting better.”