Baker Mayfield impressed everyone but himself Sunday. He threw for 376 yards against the best defense in the NFL. He broke the rookie passing touchdown record. He almost knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs.
And yet, among all the passes Mayfield completed to spur the Browns' comeback, he'll best remember the one he missed.
"The one that I'm gonna replay in my head for a long time is that out route to Jarvis (Landry) (that I) left inside," Mayfield said. "That one hurts cause that would've put us very comfortably in field goal range."
Landry beat his defender on an out route at the near the left sideline on second-and-10. Mayfield recognized the advantage but threw the ball behind Landry, forcing him to turn his body and attempt a one-handed catch.
That's the play that Mayfield said he'll replay in his head. Never mind that the Browns ran two more plays after that miss. Mayfield made a bad throw on the last drive, so that's what he'll remember.
But what about the second-quarter pass that bounced off Landry's helmet? Landry said the Browns wouldn't have needed a game-winning drive if he'd just caught that pass. And Jabrill Peppers' fumble return that wasn't? That could've changed everything.
"That's an easy way to blame the game," Mayfield said. "Saying that if we would've scored on defense, that we would've won the game. But there's so many things within the ball game where if we take care of business, we would've been in position to win. So yeah, it's an easy one to point fingers at, but we got the ball right after that and the defense did a good job of getting us the ball. We need to take advantage of it."
Couldn't Mayfield's misfire to Landry be viewed through the same lens? Sure, Mayfield should've thrown a more accurate ball, but much like the officials blowing the fumble dead, Mayfield's throw was just one of a myriad of plays that could've changed the game. Harping on that miss as a primary reason for the loss sounds like another "easy way to blame the game."
Mayfield doesn't see it that way, of course. He doesn't subject his teammates to the same harsh scrutiny to which he holds himself. That's how he self-motivates, not how he leads.
He leads by deflecting credit and claiming blame; that's what's expected of the leader of a franchise. But that's also a large burden to carry, which is why coach Gregg Williams made a note to congratulate Mayfield on setting the NFL rookie touchdown record (27) with his fourth-quarter connection with Antonio Callaway.
"Everybody needs a pat on the back, even when you're as competitive as that young man," Williams said. "And he is competitive."
Mayfield helped resurrect an 0-16 team in one season while experiencing multiple coaching changes, broke the rookie passing touchdown record and factored the Browns into the playoff picture after starting 2-6-1.
He called it a decent year.
"It's nothing to be completely disappointed about," Mayfield said.
That's how you change a culture, and while Mayfield will never admit his job is done until the Browns win the Super Bowl, but the culture is at least evolving. He deserves a large amount of credit for that, and it's a big reason why he's considered the frontrunner to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Not that he cares.
"I'm not worried about that," Mayfield said. "For me, there's a lot of room for improvement, and that's promising for our team going forward."