Cleveland Browns: Defense Picks Up Baker Mayfield As Browns Shut Down Vikings
Baker Mayfield gave a hard take on his performance Sunday, but he was thankful his defense bailed him out.
Cleveland (3-1) held an opponent to single digits for the second straight week, beating the Minnesota Vikings, 14-7, and keeping pace with the Ravens (3-1) and Bengals (3-1) in the division.
The Browns could have won more convincingly, but Mayfield had his worst game of the season – 15 for 33, 155 yards, no touchdowns, 59.0 quarterback rating. Mayfield was well off-target on several throws and missed a wide open Odell Beckham Jr. for what would've been an easy touchdown to ice the game.
Mayfield didn't mince words when asked about his play.
"I need to pick it up," Mayfield said via WKYC.com. "I'll get better. Luckily we can lean on (the defense) and run the ball when we need to. There's a lot of easy throws that I think I missed. I pride myself today on being extremely accurate. Today, I don't know what the hell that was."
Mayfield suffered an injury to his left shoulder two weeks ago and has been wearing a brace while playing, but he didn't use that as an excuse.
"I throw with my right," Mayfield said.
However, Cleveland's defense led by Myles Garrett is doing all the right things. The Vikings entered Sunday's game averaging 29.0 points, but they couldn't figure out the Browns. After scoring on its opening drive, Minnesota was shut out on its final 11 possessions.
The Browns host the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5, and after yielding just 13 points over the last two games, Garrett thinks the Browns' defense can be dominant.
"It just shows that last week wasn't a one-time thing," Garrett said. "We can hold up against just about anybody and everybody."
Pittsburgh Steelers: Third Straight Loss Leaves Steelers Searching for Answers
Dropping a 27-17 decision to the Green Bay Packers, the Steelers (1-3) trail everyone else in the division by two games and host the Denver Broncos (3-1) and Seattle Seahawks (2-2) before a bye in Week 7.
The next two weeks could determine if the Steelers are finally ready to make a quarterback change. Ben Roethlisberger continued to struggle Sunday (26 for 40, 232 yards, one touchdown, one interception), averaging just 5.8 yards per attempt. Questions about Roethlisberger's arm strength and mobility at age 39 are growing, and Pittsburgh's transformed offensive line is having issues protecting the veteran quarterback.
That leaves the Steelers with the difficult question of how to handle Roethlisberger if the offense keeps struggling.
Pittsburgh's inability to push the ball downfield has resulted in frustration from the wide receivers. Roethlisberger missed JuJu Smith-Schuster who was wide open for a probable touchdown, and Smith-Schuster angrily slammed down his video tablet after he watched the play on the sideline.
Roethlisberger also missed Smith-Schuster later in the game, and the wide receiver said Pittsburgh can't afford to squander those opportunities.
"You just never know what the outcome would be," Smith-Schuster said via SI.com. "Maybe you put seven points on the board, you get your team in better position to run the ball. I just know the momentum of playing here would've changed for offense, defense, special teams."
Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are Pittsburgh's backup quarterbacks, and neither has earned the right to be the team's quarterback of the future. Former NFL executive and ESPN analyst Andrew Brandt tweeted that the Steelers should have identified a young quarterback to build around sooner.
The Steelers need a win badly and the negative noise won't stop until the they get one. Roethlisberger, who's had a Hall of Fame career, says he won't run from the challenge.
"I think this is going to test us all," Roethlisberger said via the team's website. "We need to look in the mirror and figure out what path we want to take. I've been doing this a long time. Still love to play this game. I still love what it is."
Cincinnati Bengals: Culture Has Changed After 3-1 Start
In their third season under Head Coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals are finally winning close games. The Bengals were 1-12 in games decided by one score or less in Taylor's first two seasons. However, they've captured two victories in the waning moments this year, including Thursday night's 24-21 come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Part of Cincinnati's confidence comes from quarterback Joe Burrow, who played with swagger during the Bengals' game-winning drive.
The Bengals will host the Packers (3-1) in Week 5, which will be another test to see how far Cincinnati has come. However, tight end C.J. Uzomah is in his seventh season with the Bengals, and he says this year's team has a different vibe than the others.
"The culture in the locker room is huge," Uzomah said via the team's website. "You can't change overnight. When Coach Taylor and the staff come in and says this is who we are…people have to understand it's very tough to say, 'alright we are flipping a switch.' This being his third year now, we've got some pieces. We've got good culture guys who bought in."