CLEVELAND — Repeatedly, Monday night and Tuesday, Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski refused to acknowledge a moral victory.
Of course his team was confronted with the defending champions AFC North and the reigning MVP. But in the end, Stefanski said, the Browns lost to Baltimore 47-42 – game of the year or not.
May I repeat, no moral victories? Will you let me do it? Stefanski answered Tuesday, slightly annoyed by the new pressure.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Despite an interception Baker Mayfield was great in the air and with his legs for the second week in a row. Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Stefanski may be right to save his team from Monday’s result. But the reality is that Cleveland’s performance against the Ravens has further underlined its upward trend. And even with a loss, the Browns sent a message to the rest of the league: They are in a strong position – in the last weeks of this season and beyond.
I have faith in this team, said quarterback Baker Mayfield. The guys around me and what we do.
The recent rise of Mayfield is an important reason why the Browns should be so confident.
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Mayfield wasn’t perfect Monday night. But it was, again, impressive. After an unsuccessful interception by the Ravens for a 34-20 lead, Mayfield caught fire. Cleveland made 11 of his last three passes in the fourth quarter, including two touchdowns, rushing for a five-yard touchdown pass.
The sample size of Mayfield playing this way is also not so small anymore. In fact, he is the fourth best player in the NFL for Week 7 (October 25), behind Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady – all former star players.
Baker clearly plays at a high level, says Stefanski. He lacks trust, and I say that in a good way. He always has been, and that’s fine. The level of comfort is certainly increasing.
Cleveland’s consolation against the best of the AFC is also growing.
QB Baker Mayfield decides to include himselfpic.twitter.com/34e7ebO.
– Cleveland Browns (@Browns) 15 December 2020
The same Ravens embarrassed the Browns 38-6 in week one. The Pittsburgh Steelers did the same with the Browns five weeks later. But since then Cleveland plays as one of the best teams in the AFC. Last weekend the Browns took a 38-7 half-time lead over another play-off team, the Tennessee Titans. Then, on Monday, the Browns let nothing pass, not even when QB Lamar Jackson and Baltimore took control of the game at the end of the second quarter.
Our guys understand that we will always be competitive and we have built our foundation on that, Stefanski says. We are lagging behind on a number of matches this year, but the boys realize that it’s a 60 minute match and sometimes more. They will prevail. In fact, the main goal of the evening (Monday) was just to find a way to win, and in the end we made it to the end.
The Browns, with so many young players on both sides of the ball, are still learning how to win such games on Monday night. But they’ve also proved they’re legal, and they’re not easy for everyone. And no matter how good they were against Baltimore, their best ball is always for them.
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