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3 Big Takeaways: Baker Mayfield likes the Browns' chances with backs against the wall

Cleveland’s QB vowed he’ll continue to play through the pain of a shoulder injury

They can't all be fun ones at FirstEnergy Stadium.

We're focusing on the top storylines to emerge in the aftermath of Sunday's 37-14 loss to the Cardinals, the Browns' first of the season on the shores of Lake Erie. And we're starting off with Baker Mayfield, who once again played through the pain of an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.

1. Baker Mayfield likes the Browns' chances with backs against the wall

One thing was clear as Mayfield laid on the turf in pain after injuring his non-throwing shoulder for the second time in the last four weeks: This looked worse than the first time.

Veteran J.J. Watt, who stripped and sacked Mayfield as he scrambled midway through the third quarter, knelt next to Mayfield as he writhed in pain. Players from both sides knelt and waited as Browns trainers tended to the fourth-year quarterback. He eventually popped up, walked off under his own power and headed straight to the team's blue medical tent.

And then, when the Browns got the ball back following a back-breaking Cardinals touchdown, Mayfield was right back on the field. It wasn't until the game was well out of reach when Mayfield called it a day — one he'd love to forget, but yet another installment that embodied the toughness he's shown throughout his Browns career.

Mayfield wore a sling on his left arm after the game and admitted it didn't feel great. Asked multiple times if he'd be able to play Thursday against the Broncos, Mayfield said he "absolutely" expected to start his 52nd straight game.

And Mayfield expects the Browns — after their most lopsided loss since Week 6 of the 2020 season — to bounce back and surprise many just like he did when he returned to the field Sunday.

"We are going to see what we are made of," Mayfield said. "Our backs are up against the wall right now, and I like our chances."

Even before the injury, Mayfield and the Browns offense wasn't playing anywhere close to its potential.

Playing without both starting offensive tackles and perennial Pro Bowl RB Nick Chubb, the Browns didn't find the end zone until the midpoint of the second quarter. By then, it was 20-0, and Cleveland needed to pick up points and yards in a hurry. Ultimately, though, the Browns scored just once more on a Hail Mary to Donovan Peoples-Jones at the end of the first half.

Mayfield turned it over three times, twice on fumbles and once on a second-quarter interception. He finished 19-of-28 for 234 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn't nearly enough on a day when the Browns, who came into Sunday's game having cleared at least 150 rushing yards in each of their previous five games, couldn't get much going on the ground with just Kareem Hunt, who finished with 66 yards on 14 carries.

"We are not consistent enough and not making those little plays and little details," Mayfield said. "Whether it is alignment or assignment, it is just doing your job and not doing too much. Just doing your job. That is pretty much it."

The same problems surfaced around Week 6 at this point of last season, when the Browns were blown out at Pittsburgh. The Browns picked themselves up and won six of their next eight to put themselves into the thick of the playoff hunt.

Mayfield said the Browns will need that same kind of urgency in 2021.

"We are 3-3. That is not where we wanted to be right now, but the pure genius of the NFL, we have 11 more games instead of 10 now," Mayfield said. "We have 11 more games to go show who we are, play for each other and get better as each week goes on because nobody makes the playoffs right now. You have to not let up and you have to peak at the right time. We will handle this correctly. We will do that, and I know that because of the guys we have in the locker room. We will get better. That is just a fact."

Check out photos of the Browns against the Cardinals in week six

2. Hurting for Hunt

Browns players expressed their concern and well-wishes for Hunt, who exited in the fourth quarter with a calf injury. Hunt needed to be helped off the field by trainers and was carted to the locker room following a failed fourth-down attempt.

One week after Chubb and Hunt combined for 230 rushing yards against the Chargers, the Browns finished the game without either player, and it's uncertain who will be available Thursday against the Broncos.

Mayfield said he talked to Hunt, who told him Sunday was the first time he'd not been able to finish a game he started.

"He was playing through some nicks and injuries, as well," Mayfield said. "For it to happen on kind of a simple pass play that he is just going over the ball, it just sucks. I hurt for him. 

"Things like that are tough because you do not wish that upon anybody."

3. Short-lived boost

The Browns appeared to finally have something go their way when Mayfield connected with Peoples-Jones on a 57-yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half. In the blink of an eye, the Browns went from down by as much as 20 to trailing by just nine.

"I was able to see it, get a good read on it and judge it to see where it was going to land," Peoples-Jones said. "I went up there and made a play. I saw the ball when it was about halfway in the air. I saw it and had a feeling where it was going to land.

"We are just trying to put up as many points as we can and get in position to win the game."

The Browns just couldn't get any more on the board in the second half. Cleveland stopped the Cardinals on their first two possessions of the second half, but the offense struggled to capitalize on the momentum. Mayfield's second fumble of the game set up the Cardinals for a scoring drive that put Arizona's lead to double-digits for the rest of the night.

"Not enough plays out there on the field," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "That is where we have to do a better job as coaches. We have to make sure that we are putting these guys in positions to succeed."

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