Baker Mayfield’s reaction said it all.
After watching Chandler Catanzaro kick a 59-yard game-winning field goal -- on the same day Catanzaro missed an extra point and a 40-yarder, no less -- Mayfield stood hunched over with his hands on his knees and his mouth agape. He bowed his head in disbelief before shifting his focus toward exiting the field at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium.
The Browns, again, lost a game they could — and in their minds, should — have won by a score of 26-23. Losing is never fun. But losing when you’ve come tantalizingly close to winning can sting even worse.
“It’s very frustrating any time you lose,” Mayfield said. “Especially because we could’ve done a lot of things better. That seems to be the moral of this season, the memo of everything that’s going on.”
That memo has been sent repeatedly this season. The Browns know they need to clean up the penalties, do the little things better. They just haven’t done it often enough over the course of an entire game.
They were penalized 14 times for 114 yards. The defense forced four turnovers but none yielded points. The offense came away with nothing on two trips inside the red zone.
Some of Sunday’s shortcomings can be attributed to bad luck. Mayfield didn’t just fumble; he fumbled and the ball bounced backward. The Browns thought Adam Humphries fumbled when the officials didn’t. The Browns’ only turnover came at the worst possible time. And again, a kicker who missed two field goals earlier in the game made a 59-yarder to win it.
In a game of inches, those bad bounces can change a lot. But so can simple execution and discipline, which, as Hue Jackson said, the Browns lacked.
The Cleveland Browns play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Week 7.
“To me, our discipline today wasn't very good,” Jackson said. “We had way too many penalties as a football team — offensively and defensively. We got to get that squared away.”
It wasn’t just the mistakes. It was the timing, too. The defense committed four penalties on third down. Jabrill Peppers fumbled at midfield with 3:27 left in overtime. Correcting these untimely mistakes is the definition of learning to win.
“These guys fight as hard as they do and put themselves in position,” Jackson said. “They gotta make those plays.”
Jackson said he’ll be more involved with the offense but stressed Todd Haley will still call the plays. Joel Bitonio said the penalties will level off. No one’s trying to commit penalties, they’re just making mistakes within the flow of the game, Bitonio said. And multiple players made the point that late-game mistakes wouldn’t flare up as much if the Browns just played better sooner and built bigger leads earlier in the game. And of course, this young team will get older, more mature.
But the Browns have the talent to win now. They know it, and that’s what has made these heartbreaking losses so frustrating. After Sunday’s hard-to-believe loss, Mayfield summed up the frustration succinctly.
“We gotta crack down and be better,” Mayfield said. “Yeah. Losing sucks.”