GREEN BAY, Wis. — Baker Mayfield couldn't shield his disappointment Saturday following one of the toughest games of his four-year career.
Mayfield threw four interceptions and went 21-for-36 for 222 yards and two touchdowns in the Browns' 24-22 Christmas Day loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field. Mayfield took accountability for the errant throws, which 17-year QB veteran Aaron Rodgers turned into all three of the Packers' touchdowns, and had a clear understanding of where the Browns' playoff hopes stood with two games to play.
The performance was far from the game Mayfield expected to have after he landed in Green Bay early Saturday morning following a clearance from COVID-19 protocols. Mayfield had been on the reserve/COVID-19 list since Dec. 15, but was able to make it a day after the team originally arrived in Green Bay.
Mayfield, however, wasn't taking anything as an excuse for the first four-interception game of his career.
"I expect myself to make those throws," Mayfield said, "and I didn't. I hurt this team."
No interception hurt more than the last.
The Browns were down just two points and had an opportunity to take the lead when they reached the 50-yard line with 50 seconds left. On third-and-10, Mayfield dropped back and fired a pass intended for Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Packers in Week 16
Peoples-Jones could never get a hand on the ball. Instead, CB Rasul Douglas stepped in front of it to make the interception, which sent the Browns offense on a slow, final walk back to the sidelines as the final score was sealed.
"I've had a ton of reps and making those throws, and I expect myself to make them," Mayfield said. "I'm a quarterback in the NFL. I need to make those throws, and I have before, time and time again."
The Browns, however, had plenty of chances to take a lead prior to the final interception.
Cleveland managed to crack Green Bay territory three times in the second half. The third drive in that sequence ended with Mayfield connecting with rookie WR Anthony Schwartz for his first career touchdown, bringing the Browns within two points of the lead, but the first of those two drives ended with just three points — one 37-yard field goal and one punt from the Packers' 48.
The other three interceptions barred the Browns from possible points, too. The second one happened when Cleveland was at Green Bay's 24-yard line, down 7-6 and building a chance to take the lead. Mayfield attempted to hit WR Jarvis Landry, but Packers CB Chandon Sullivan caught the pass instead.
Mayfield said the other two interceptions came as a result of a combination of poor throwing decision or a poor pass.
"I don't think (the interceptions) were anything preparation-wise, mentally," Mayfield said. "It was just missed throws. It's uncharacteristic, and I hurt this team. That's the most frustrating thing for me."
The Browns knew they were going to have to take advantage of all scoring opportunities with Rodgers on the other sideline. He's built a Hall-of-Fame worthy career out of protecting the football and managing games to preserve leads, and the defense did all they could to stop Rodgers and give the Browns a chance in the final minutes — he was held to 48 passing yards in the second half. Green Bay's run game, too, was limited to just 109 yards the entire game.
Mayfield admired the play of the defense while lamenting what could have been for the offense.
"I thought our defense played tremendously against a really, really good offense," he said, "but when you turn the ball over in your own territory in the red zone and around midfield and give them opportunities, they're going to take advantage of it. That's who they are."
The Browns can't afford another poor offensive game the rest of the season. They're no longer in control of their playoff destiny and now need to win each of their remaining two regular games, both against divisional opponents. They'll likely need some additional help around the league to have a shot at the playoffs, too.
Mayfield will do all he can to improve in the final two games and position the offense for better results, whether the playoff picture allows the Browns to control their fate or not.
"We have to handle business," he said. "The main focus is onto Pittsburgh. I'll learn from my mistakes."
But he knows any positive changes will have to be immediate.
"If we don't win these next two games," he said, "then it won't matter."