When Baker Mayfield has played his best football, he's usually made history.
As the starting quarterback for Oklahoma in 2017, Mayfield threw for over 4,600 passing yards and recorded 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. He won the Heisman Trophy as a result and became the only walk-on player to ever take home the biggest award in college football.
In his rookie season with the Browns in 2018, Mayfield ignited the city of Cleveland after making his NFL debut in Week 3 to snap a 19-game losing streak. He finished the season with over 3,700 passing yards and 27 touchdowns, the most ever by a rookie quarterback.
Mayfield has played some of his best football again in 2020 — and he's still making history. The list is long:
- Last Monday, he eclipsed 2,500 passing yards on the season and became the first Browns quarterback ever to do so in their first three NFL seasons.
- His passing attempts without an interception came to an end at 187, the fourth-longest streak in franchise history.
- Mayfield threw for over 300 yards Monday for the eighth time in his career, which passes Otto Graham for the third-most by a Browns player since 1950.
- He now has over 10,000 career passing yards, the first Brown to ever do so in his first three years.
Mayfield is on pace to potentially make this season his best since the Browns drafted him No. 1 overall in 2018. His play over the last month has made that possible, and he doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon.
"Playing with confidence is where I'm at my best," he said. "Trusting these calls, trusting my eyes and going through it and trusting my guys around me."
The list of accolades — those that are already accomplished and those still within striking distance — grows bigger each week. Many of them circle back to Mayfield, who has thrown 13 touchdowns and two interceptions since Week 7.
His hot throwing arm didn't quite lead to a win Monday. But without Mayfield's dominance, the Browns wouldn't have taken things down to the last second against their AFC North rival.
"He fought, just like everybody else," running back Nick Chubb said. "We follow Baker's lead."
Mayfield's success speaks to how well the rest of the offense has played, too. The pass game wouldn't be as efficient without a steady and often devastating output from the run game, which is ranked third in the NFL.
And neither of those departments would be as strong without the offensive line, which has bullied its way through defenses all season and has established itself as one of the best units in the league. Offensive playmakers have praised the big men all season, and Mayfield added to that praise as he reflected Wednesday on his seasonal growth.
"I love those boys up front," he said. "We have great guys. We have a great group of men in there, and I appreciate them so much. (They're) extremely focused and they play with each other right now."
The pieces have all come together for the offense, and no piece has arguably shined brighter than Mayfield over the last month. That's what coach Kevin Stefanski was expecting after he met Mayfield and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt for a deep dive into Mayfield's first half of the season at the Week 9 bye week. At that point, Mayfield had 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions and no games with over 300 passing yards.
In the five games since the bye, he's thrown eight touchdowns and one interception, which came Monday after Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser stopped a laser pass with one hand and made a difficult catch, and has thrown for over 300 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
Those late-season performances are what define NFL quarterbacks, and if it weren't for the heroics from Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and a 55-yard field goal from Justin Tucker in the final seconds, Mayfield might've been the player of the game.
"Baker kept battling and was leading the team," Stefanski said in his postgame interview. "We were moving the ball."
But Mayfield has already moved on. He's focused on stacking another quality performance against the New York Giants and inch even closer to history — a win would put him even closer to becoming the quarterback behind the first Browns team to make the playoffs since 2002.
That achievement is better than any individual marker Mayfield has hit this season.
To him, that's the only one that matters.
"We have a big picture mindset," Mayfield said, "but the singular focus is just so vital right now to get into the postseason playoff race."