Baker Mayfield is a polarizing figure; people either love him or hate him. Through his three years in the NFL, he has gained more notoriety for his various commercials for his on-field play. Mayfield is a lightning rod for the NFL universe. Everybody has an opinion on the former first overall pick. Some are fans; some are critics, but this Monday night, Mayfield has the chance to silence the doubters.
However, there is one purple obstacle in the way. The Baltimore Ravens are the Browns opposition this Monday. The primetime spotlight is firmly on Mayfield, and he must lead his team to a win over their arch-rivals. It is the biggest game since the Cleveland Browns came back into the NFL, and it all rests on Baker Mayfield, but he can win this game for his team.
The former Heisman Trophy winner is enjoying the best season of his fledgling career. First-year head coach Kevin Stefanski has tamed some of Mayfield’s problems. The decision making looks a lot calmer from Mayfield, as does his play in the pocket. The previous two years have seen Mayfield panic in the face of pressure; this year, he has displayed good awareness of the pocket and where the pressure is coming from.
Plus, his offensive line is helping him immensely. The Browns offensive line is second in ESPN’s pass block success. That is the vital component of Mayfield’s improvement. He is not a dual-threat quarterback; he is a pure pocket passer. To be successful, Mayfield needs a clean pocket as much as possible. The group of Jedrick Wills, Jack Conklin, and Wyatt Teller are all having great years.
Wink Martindale is a superb conjurer of pressure. The Ravens blitz as well as any team in the NFL. It is not apparent where the pressure may come from; the coaches must prepare the Cleveland line for a demanding examination. Week 1 saw Mayfield feel pressure all day; the Ravens duly trounced Cleveland. Mayfield needs help from his big guys up front this Monday.
Then Mayfield will need his partner in crime; bruising running back Nick Chubb. Chubb leads the NFL in yards after contact; he is a punishing running back. Against a team that brings immense physicality, such as Baltimore, Chubb will be critical. His intense style of running tires the defense out, it can also delay the pass rush from the opposition. It is no surprise that Mayfield’s best game of the season coincided with Chubb’s return.
In his absence, Mayfield had three of his worst games of the season. Two of those games came against the Steelers and Colts. Mayfield struggled mightily as the onus was all on him. In the last game Chubb played before his injury, Mayfield’s passer rating was 100; last week against Tennessee, it was 147.
Kevin Stefanski loves play action; Chubb can open that up for the head coach. Mayfield is a decent thrower into tight windows; he is an excellent passer in open passing windows. If Chubb can get motoring on the ground, the Brown and Mayfield are in business.
Mayfield showed in college that the big moments do not scare him, the man that infamously proclaimed that, “He woke up dangerous,” needs to back up the big talk on the big stage. Mayfield has enjoyed calling out his critics in his career at both the collegiate and NFL levels, however, none of that matters if you don’t win critical games.
The former Oklahoma man has everything he needs from his team; he needs to categorize the bravado and confidence. Put that aside for one game and be ice cold in the most intense of infernos. It is the most crucial game for Cleveland of the last 20 years; it will be physical, intense, and dramatic. However, if Baker Mayfield can block out all that noise, he has the perfect opportunity to shut the critics up once and for all. Win, and he can plant a Browns flag wherever he pleases.