1. The streak is over, but Baker Mayfield keeps rolling
It was bound to end sometime.
What mattered most Monday, though, was how Baker Mayfield responded after he threw his first interception since Week 7.
Mayfield's interception, his first in his last 187 throws, came at a pivotal moment. With the Browns trailing by 8 after what appeared to be a momentum-altering defensive stop, Mayfield was picked off on the very first play. LB Tyus Bowser stepped in front of his pass to the sidelines and returned it to the 1-yard line. Baltimore scored on the next play to take a 14-point lead for the second time in the second half.
That could have been it for the Browns, but Mayfield wasn't done. Instead, he finished with arguably his best stretch of quarterbacking of the season, if not his career, to come back first from 14 points and then from 7 with less than 2 minutes to play. Cleveland scored touchdowns on its next three possessions, and Mayfield was at the center of all of them. He finished with a season-high 343 yards, 209 of which came in the second half, giving him the first back-to-back 300-yard games of his career.
"He is a winner. He wants to win and is a hard worker," RB Kareem Hunt said. "I like a guy like that on my team. Baker is doing a great job of leading us and finding ways to keep us in the ball game."
Over the last three games, Mayfield's arm has carried a Browns offense that predominantly thrived on the ground through the first half of the season.
Since the Browns arrived in sunny Jacksonville following a three-game stretch in less-than-ideal conditions by Lake Erie, Mayfield has seen his numbers sky-rocket. He's completed 72-of-109 passes for 935 yards, eight touchdowns and the lone interception. Six different players have been on the receiving end of those touchdown throws, and Mayfield has rattled off back-to-back games in which three different receivers finished with 60 or more yards.
Mayfield's final touchdown pass Monday, a 22-yarder to Hunt with 1:04 to play, gave him 23 on the season, surpassing his total of 22 from 2019.
"Baker is obviously, I think, playing at a high level," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He does not lack confidence and I say that in a good way. That is who he has always been, which is great. I think what you are seeing is the comfort level is certainly growing, and that also goes back to all the work he puts into this. He is a get in early stay late type of player, grinds on it and gets extra work out on the practice field.
"I think you are just seeing all the fruits of his labor."
Check out photos of the Ravens against the Browns
2. Too Soon?
Stefanski on Tuesday was asked if the Browns scored too quickly on their game-tying touchdown drive late in Monday's fourth quarter. He called it a "fair question," as the Ravens got the ball back with plenty of time to drive down the field themselves and ultimately win with a 55-yard field goal.
Still, there's only so much a play-caller can control, and the Browns needed points. Also, there was no stopping Hunt.
Trailing 42-35, the Browns took over at their own 25-yard line with 1:51 to play. Mayfield fired a 30-yard pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones and then a 7-yarder to Jarvis Landry. Both plays stopped the clock after the receivers went out of bounds. Mayfield then hit Hunt on a screen pass that went for 16 yards and went right back to him with a 22-yard touchdown pass that saw Hunt make an incredible effort to drag his defender toward the pylon.
"I think when we called that play I was not thinking a hitch to the running back was going to score," Stefanski said. "To Kareem's credit, it was an unbelievable individual effort. So yeah, I would love to score with 1 second left on the clock but that is a very, very fine line. I would really just tell you that was an incredible play by Kareem."
3. Big Gains
The Browns offensive line kept Mayfield clean again Monday, marking the fifth time this season Cleveland's opponent has gone without a sack. That's tied for the second-most of any team in the NFL and, with three games remaining, is already the fourth-most in franchise history.
The Browns are tied for fifth in the NFL for fewest sacks allowed (17). Every team in the top nine would make the playoffs if they started today.
By comparison, the Browns surrendered 41 in 2019.
On the flip side, Cleveland's defense is just five sacks away from surpassing its sack total from 2019. After collecting three sacks Monday, the Browns rank 11th in the league with 34.