One week after posting one of his lowest passing outputs of the last two seasons and vowing to be better moving forward, quarterback Baker Mayfield fulfilled his promise and delivered one of his best performances of the year Sunday in Los Angeles.
Mayfield went 23-for-32 with 305 yards, two touchdowns and a season-high quarterback rating of 122.5 — all of which contributed to the Browns' monstrous total of 531 yards from scrimmage against the Chargers.
But it wasn't enough.
Despite Mayfield and the offense's big day, the Browns didn't make enough big plays to beat the Chargers and lost 47-42. The offense departed Los Angeles with plenty of positives from its best game of the season, but Mayfield wasn't in the mood to discuss them.
"We didn't make enough plays to win the game, and that goes for everybody on our team," he said. "We just didn't make the plays we needed to."
The plays that were made, however, provided promise that the offense is ready to become more productive after struggling to consistently find points in the last two weeks.
TE David Njoku and WRs Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins all opened the season on quiet notes before Week 5 — the trio had combined for 282 yards and no touchdowns in the first four games — but were Mayfield's top targeted players Sunday and combined for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Peoples-Jones recorded a career-high five catches for 70 yards, while Higgins caught his first touchdown of the season in the second quarter to kickstart the Browns' offense.
The biggest output, though, came from Njoku, who built a career-best day with 149 receiving yards and a touchdown on a 71-yard completion. That play was the longest of the season for Mayfield, who did a quality job turning to other receivers with top veteran WR Odell Beckham Jr. facing tight double coverage during most of the game.
The Browns, who have also been without WR Jarvis Landry since the second play from scrimmage in Week 2, will need more big performances from Njoku and their other tight ends moving forward to maintain an explosive passing game.
"Baker threw a great ball," Njoku said. "I just jumped and got it, and the rest was history."
The high totals in the passing department were also made possible by heavy contributions from the run game, which totaled a season-high 230 yards and three touchdowns combined from Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. Their success, which included a season-high 161 rushing yards from Chubb, kept the Chargers defense guessing and opened space for Mayfield on play-action calls and other roll-out play types that are the bread and butter of head coach Kevin Stefanski's playbook.
Week 5 was the first game of the year in which both the run and pass game complemented each other with several big plays. Sure, it still wasn't enough to win, but the Browns certainly will look to replicate that rhythm again each week.
"It makes (the offense) a lot easier," Mayfield said. "Our rushing attack week in and week out is one of the best in the league. We leaned on that today. We passed the ball when we needed to, and we just didn't make the plays we needed to win."
Mayfield continued to reference the first half when talking about where points were left off the scoreboard. The Browns scored two touchdowns in that half but kicked two field goals in the Chargers' red zone after failing to convert on third down. The Browns also turned it over on downs deep inside Los Angeles territory. They were three opportunities that could've changed the final score had the Browns been able to reach the first-down marker.
They didn't. Those were a few of the only shortfalls that bit the Browns, but in a game in which the teams combined for 1,024 yards from scrimmage, every opportunity for points matters.
"That's a really good team," Mayfield said. "We knew that we were going to have to score points going into this. One of our points of emphasis this week was taking advantage of red zone opportunities; getting touchdowns, not field goals.
"I'm going to keep harping on it. We didn't do that enough."