Baker Mayfield continues balance of being 'aggressive and smart'

Mayfield hasn't thrown an interception in five weeks and is coming off a solid Week 12 performance

Baker Mayfield wasn't in the mood to give himself compliments after the Browns' win Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He could've if he wanted to. He went 19-of-29 for 258 passing yards and two touchdowns and helped move the Browns offense at an efficient pace for most of the game. Mayfield played at a solid level, and it helped the Browns reach eight wins in a season for the first time since 2007.

But Mayfield wasn't as happy as he could be. Instead, he was critical.

"I really feel like we left a lot of points up on the board," he said in his postgame interview. "There were a ton of missed opportunities just from my perspective, a lot of missed throws. I have to make those throws."

Mayfield listed two throws that nagged him Wednesday when he revisited his performance. Both pass attempts happened on the same drive.

The Browns were in position to add a touchdown when they drove to the Jaguars' 9-yard line midway through the second quarter. On first-and-goal, Mayfield took the snap and found wide receiver Rashard Higgins uncovered with a clear path to the end zone. He pump-faked as a defensive lineman swung his hand up and then released the ball on his next full attempt, but the pass was too high for Higgins. 

Two plays later, Mayfield rolled out to his left and targeted wide receiver Jarvis Landry as he streaked near the left pylon. This pass was a touch too high as well and skimmed the fingertips of Landry's outreached hands. Incomplete.

Better throws likely lead to touchdowns on both plays. On the miss to Higgins, Mayfield said his footwork was off. On the throw to Landry, Mayfield said he needed better technique on turning his hips around and re-adjusting as he rolled toward the sideline.

None of them are excuses — they're technique issues that Mayfield knows he needs to fix to be better.

"I'm very critical of my play," Mayfield said. "I pride myself on being an accurate passer, and I didn't do that. I'm going to beat myself up about that because I know I can be better, and it pisses me off when I don't do the things I need to."

The numbers show that Mayfield has still been accurate, though. He hasn't thrown an interception in his last 123 passing attempts, which span back to the last five games. During that stretch, he has seven passing touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 106.9 passer rating. The Browns are 4-1 during that stretch, too.

So yes, Mayfield might feel as though he's made mistakes that have muddled how he looks back at recent games. But his errors haven't prevented the Browns from winning football games, and his big plays have helped keep the passing offense humming.

"You have to always as a quarterback straddle that fine line of being aggressive and smart," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He has done a nice job the last few weeks. Even in that last game, he threw some tight window balls that had to be perfect, and they were. He is doing a nice job in that regard."

Mayfield always wants to strive to be better. After the Browns' passing game was limited due to inclement weather in Weeks 8-11, he pulled through, protected the ball and strung together a solid performance in Jacksonville. The Browns won in part because Mayfield played well, and that's all that can be asked from a quarterback.

Mayfield, though, will always ask more from himself. He knows that each throw will become more important as the end of the season nears and the postseason race heats up. So as he reviews the tape from each game, his mindset will never change: there's always room to be better.

"This is the stretch of the season where every game counts and every play counts," he said. "These are the things that we have been trying to build up to, and we're here now. We're in the middle of it, so let's seize the moment."

Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Jaguars yesterday by the Browns photo team