OAKLAND -- Until they get out of their own way, the Cleveland Browns will doom themselves to more frustration and painful losses.
The Browns blew a 14-point, second-half lead and an eight-point lead with less than a minute left before losing in overtime on Sunday.
Instead of following up an exciting Thursday night win, the Browns frittered away a game that was in their hands. Excitement over the play of the first overall pick goes so far; a team that has two wins since 2015 needs to move beyond excitement to winning games.
“It’s all the little things,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said.
Mayfield meant it colloquially, talking about the things people don’t always notice. But these “little things” like fundamentals and precision are important things when it comes to winning and losing.
Mayfield had a mixed bag of a game, nearly throwing for 300 yards but also taking four turnovers on his stat sheet. Though not every one was his fault, he will have to avoid that kind of game if the Browns are to get over this hill that has too long seemed too high to climb.
Everyone with the Browns knows it, everyone understands it.
The Browns simply have to make it happen, Mayfield included. As he said, he’s the quarterback of the team.
In order, his turnovers happened this way:
The first came in the first quarter on the Browns' second possession. He threw outside to rookie Antonio Callaway, and the ball tipped off his hands and to cornerback Gareon Conley, who scored the game’s first touchdown.
“We got to go back and get the ball,” coach Hue Jackson said of Callaway, who slipped on the grass as he cut.
“The grass is so short for the baseball field, you have to be so fundamental in your routes,” Mayfield said. “You have to be really over toes when you’re breaking. You can’t cut off the wrong foot. There’s just not a lot of surface for those guys to dig into.”
Mayfield’s second came in the third quarter with the Browns up 28-14. They had the ball at their 11 and called a pass. Maurice Hurst hit Mayfield as he started to throw, and the ball was recovered by the Raiders. They followed with a third-down touchdown.
“The right guard had some leakage,” Jackson said, referring to Kevin Zeitler.
“They had good coverage,” Mayfield said. “Was gonna check it down outside, and they just made a play.”
The third was the one that seemed to cause the most pain. It came with the Browns up 28-24 early in the fourth quarter.
The Browns had confusion with motion, and the timing on the snap was off.
“The center might have snapped that a little quick,” Jackson said.
“Miscommunication,” Mayfield said. “That’s on me to get everybody on the same page.”
“They have to work that out,” Jackson said. “That can’t happen.”
It also set up a touchdown.
The final one came when the game was tied in the final minute of regulation. With 14 seconds left, Mayfield tried to throw downfield to Callaway, but Jarvis Landry also was in the same area and the ball wound up in coverage. Reggie Nelson intercepted.
“Obviously that was a bad throw,” Jackson said, adding Mayfield can learn from that throw.
Mayfield seemed almost to say that he was willing to take that chance that late in the game. But he did concede a shorter completion might have helped, too. With a timeout, the Browns could have tried a long field goal to win, though they would have needed 15 yards for a 53-yard try.
“We'll see. I probably could've checked it down,” Mayfield said. “I had people open; it just so happened we wanted a route, a little double move, and it didn't work out.”
To say the turnovers cost the Browns would not be fair to Mayfield. The Browns had four plays of 40 yards -- two on Mayfield passes and two on touchdown runs by Nick Chubb. The offense scored more points than it has in a game since 2007, and Mayfield provided some exciting plays and excellent throws.
But they dropped at least six passes -- Landry kicked himself for a third-down drop in the fourth quarter -- and the defense never rose up to shut down the Raiders when it needed to, especially on the Raiders’ game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minute.
"We gave that game away," running back Carlos Hyde said.
He's right. They did. And in a quarterback-driven league, a team will have a hard time winning when its quarterback has four turnovers on his ledger, whether they’re entirely his fault or not.
Growing pains are understandable, but this is a team that needs to accelerate through those quickly.