Baker Mayfield's next challenge: Rebounding from worst loss ever

BEREA, Ohio – Baker Mayfield found himself in uncharted territory this week.

“That is the worst loss that I have ever had,” Mayfield said Wednesday of the Cleveland Browns' 38-14 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

It also was the worst completion percentage Mayfield had in a game he started and finished, from college through the NFL.

“Quarterbacks might as well start on their knees, because they’re going to be brought to their knees in this league,” coach Hue Jackson said. “He’s got to bounce back.”

Mayfield's explanation: “Just did not play well, plain and simple, no way around it. It was not fun.”

Mayfield’s words are statements of maturity. The quarterback’s job is to spread the credit when things go well, and take responsibility when they don’t go well. But for Mayfield to be 22-of-46 (47.8 percent) was a blaring neon sign -- because it was atypical and has Mayfield in unfamiliar territory.

The last time Mayfield was below 50 percent in a game was on Nov. 21, 2015, when he went 9-of-20 in a win over TCU. But in that game Mayfield incurred a concussion in the first half and did not play in the second half.

The last time Mayfield started and finished a game below 50 percent was Sept. 12, 2015, in Tennessee. But even in that game Mayfield was 19-of-39, meaning he was one completion from being above 50. He also guided the Sooners to 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime in a 31-24 win.

Those were the only times in college when Mayfield was below 50 percent.

Which means he is bouncing back from a clunker for the first time in three years.

But even the “clunker” comes with qualifiers. Mayfield had at least five passes dropped; if the Browns

hang on to two, he’s above 50 percent.

That did not stop him from looking critically at his game.

“I am very hard on myself,” he said. “There are spots that I have to hit.”

That approach may be why Mayfield was so accurate in college. At Texas Tech and Oklahoma, Mayfield had seven games when he finished below 60 percent, and 23 when he was above 70 percent. This is not an inaccurate passer. But it is a guy who will not hesitate to be accountable as he prepares to face Tampa Bay on Sunday.

“It just comes down to me not doing my job to the best of my ability, plain and simple,” Mayfield said. “There is no way around it. I have to be better for this team and be that for our offense.”

Mayfield addressed issues one by one on Wednesday. The Chargers made it clear their focus was to keep Mayfield in the pocket. That makes his height -- he's listed at 6-1 -- a little more of a factor and takes away his ability to slide or move while keeping his eyes downfield for a throw.

“I was not drafted here to run around and do things with my feet,” he said. “I am not fast, so I have to be able to throw from the pocket.”

He also said he has to be more decisive and get rid of the ball quicker.

“Kudos to [the Chargers] for doing their job; they did it well,” he said. “At the same time, if I get the ball out of my hands, then none of that really matters.”

As for his receiving group for Sunday, which consists of Landry, three rookies and recently signed Breshad Perriman, Mayfield takes it in stride.

“We have guys in here that we have had all of training camp, and then we also have new guys that have played before,” he said. “We have to trust in that they are going to be able to play and do their job and just go to work.”

There were times it did not seem like receivers had much separation or were open, but Mayfield shrugs that off.

“I have always said that you can never defend a perfect ball,” he said.

There is an adage that things never are as bad as they look when a team loses or as good as they look when a team wins.

That may well apply to the Browns, who are dealing with doom-and-gloom questions one week after dealing with questions about playoffs and high hopes following a win over Baltimore.

Mayfield said the key is returning to fundamentals, or as he often says, “getting back to work.”

“I would not exactly say that we are soul-searching,” he said. “I just think that we need to do our job. All of that will reveal itself.

“Yeah, any loss like that hurts. That is the worst loss that I have ever had. You have to push forward and just have to do your job, and you will find out what this team is made of. It is never about the week before or if you win or lose -- it is how you react from it.”