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Browns offense seeks to re-gain confidence over bye week

The Browns will spend plenty of time over their bye week focusing on how to capitalize on their missed opportunities for points in Week 12

BALTIMORE — Baker Mayfield walked off the field with his hands gripping his shoulder pads and his head down.

Mayfield was one of the last Browns players off the field after Cleveland's 16-10 loss to Baltimore on Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium, and the disappointment was evident from the quarterback and several other Browns players after failing to capture a crucial win against a divisional opponent. 

The Browns managed to score just 10 or fewer points for the third time in the last five games. Their passing game couldn't generate enough explosive plays. Their run game couldn't find many holes — no matter the situation.

"We just need to make more plays," Mayfield said. "I mean, as simple as that sounds, that's really the way it is. There are plays there to be made, and we need to make them."

Nobody was making excuses, and there was certainly little room for them after the defense managed to record four takeaways, the most they've totaled in a game this season. 

Opportunities were abundant, yet the Browns still found the end zone only once and converted on just one field goal — the only points Cleveland managed to score as a result of the takeaways, all interceptions thrown from Ravens QB Lamar Jackson.

Mayfield completed 18-of-37 pass attempts for 247 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. The Browns have mustered just five touchdowns through the air in the last five games. No one envisioned such a slump at any point of the season, let alone at the end of November as the playoff race heats up.

"We just haven't put consistent weeks in a row together," Mayfield said.

Check out photos of the Browns against the Ravens in Week 12

The offense appeared to be off to a good start on their first drive, which spanned 57 yards and lasted eight plays. Mayfield was in-tune with all his receivers, none more than WR Jarvis Landry, who bested both his receiving totals from the last two weeks with two catches for 47 yards, including a 36-yard gain that quieted an energized Baltimore crowd.

The drive, though, ended with a missed 46-yard field goal from kicker Chase McLaughlin, and the Browns offense never sustained the same quick pace again. Just one drive the rest of the evening went longer than 50 yards. Cleveland managed a 72-yard drive in the third quarter and ended it with a sliding 20-yard touchdown catch from TE David Njoku to cut the deficit to 13-10. 

But from there, the offense was silent. The Browns totaled only 38 more offensive yards the rest of the night. They only recorded 262 yards all game. The Browns rushed for 40 yards, their lowest total since Week 16 last season, and the pass game didn't build much firepower to counter.

"It's frustrating. It's very frustrating," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "To not score enough, it's always a combination of things — staying on the field on third down, trying to run the ball effectively and getting in the red zone. All of those things. But we're just not doing a good enough job, and that starts with me."

The Browns have spent loads of time over the last seven weeks attempting to find ways to reinvigorate a pass game that exploded in the second half of the season a year ago. They haven't had much success, save for a 41-point outburst in Week 9 in Cincinnati, but they still have one big reason to believe they can rediscover that crispness before it's too late: a bye week.

It's finally arrived. The Browns' bye comes in the second-to-last week on the NFL calendar where a bye week is available, and it's badly needed. The Browns had four players suffer injuries Sunday, including RT Jack Conklin, who returned this week after a three-week absence with an elbow injury. 

Conklin was the only player injured who didn't return after he suffered a knee injury, but the Browns need a weekend of rest. They had 16 players listed on their injury report last week, and seven of them were from the offense. All of them held key roles, too. Mayfield, Landry, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, RB Kareem Hunt, C JC Tretter, Conklin and WR Anthony Schwartz — the only player listed who did not play — were all on the list.

The upcoming rest and time to complete a deep film study will, no doubt, be embraced to the fullest. 

"(Last year), we were able to do self-scouting and figure out what we needed to focus on," Mayfield said. "I imagine we'll need to do the same thing this week. We need to grow, get better, and focus on our packages because there are a lot of plays to be made, and I just don't think we've done it. We are good enough to do so, but we haven't done it."  

When the Browns return, they'll have five games left to stay in a tightly-congested AFC playoff race. The loss Sunday pinned their record to 6-6, now three losses behind the first-place Ravens and 12th in the AFC. An argument can be made that the Browns must win all five of their last games to keep their playoff hopes alive, but Cleveland will only keep its lens on its next game: a rematch against the Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium.

For the results to be different, however, the offense knows it must take a big step forward. The results Sunday — and for the last two months — haven't been strong enough. 

Everyone must be committed to making the most of the upcoming week off to get better, and it starts with taking a deep look at how to correct the mistakes that cost them Sunday in Baltimore.

"I think we just need to get together and figure it out," Mayfield said. "It doesn't need to be a feel-good session. [It can be] just talking to each other and getting our confidence back."

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