The Cleveland offense was very successful against the Kansas City Chiefs in their season opener, in no small part due to the play of quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Cleveland scored 29 points in the loss, a twelve-point improvement from their dismal effort in the AFC Divisional Round. Mayfield looked sharp for the entirety of Sunday's contest, and save for an unlucky interception, did everything right.
The apparent command that he has over this offense is remarkable. Mayfield routinely gets the ball out on time, in rhythm, and puts it in the correct spot. One stark difference from one year ago is how he sees the entire field on every play.
Mayfield has always been a smart passer, and in spurts, has been able to read the entire field. On Sunday, he went to the next level. Kansas City played solid underneath coverage throughout the game, forcing Mayfield to move through his progressions quickly.
He went from his first to second to third reads multiple times and always managed to find an opening. The Chiefs didn't have an answer for him as the game went on, as it became evident that Mayfield would find the weak point in the defense no matter what.
He ended the day 21-28 passing, throwing for 321 yards and the interception. Mayfield found success down the stretch of the 2020 season in head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense, and he now has complete control over the system.
If you can recall, Mayfield's play during the 2019 season was less than inspiring. His mechanics were all over the place, in part because he didn't prepare well over the offseason.
That was not the case on Sunday. Mayfield was as technically sound as one can be, throwing with poise and the proper footwork. CBS commentator Tony Romo marveled at how "quiet" Mayfield's feet were, saying that he consistently put himself in good positions with his footwork.
The game was not a fluke; instead, it should be a forecast of things to come. General manager Andrew Berry added the necessary pieces over the offseason to make this offense work. The Browns now have three players with game-breaking speed that can wreak havoc down the field: wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Anthony Schwartz.
Mayfield's entire field will be open to operate, and with this offensive line, we should be in for Mayfield's best season yet. Over his last ten contests, including two playoff games, here are his stats.
64.6% completions, 2,705 passing yards, 270.5 yards per game, 18 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.
He will only continue to improve as the season continues. Mayfield's efficiency has improved over those ten games, and everything is in place for him to run the table in the AFC North.
Mayfield's accuracy continued to be a strong point on Sunday. His accuracy has always been his calling card, and he made several throws on Sunday that would have been incomplete had they been three inches off.
The last drive against the Chiefs was unfortunate, but it is not a reflection on Mayfield. The fact that they didn't score a touchdown doesn't mean he shouldn't see a big contract; all it means is that sometimes football happens. An edge rusher tackled Mayfield right as he released a pass that he said after the game was going out of bounds.
The pass came up short, but it wasn't a poor decision. Mayfield will continue this strong play as the season goes on, and in a different scenario where he gets tackled one second later, we are singing his praises today. It appears we may have to wait a few weeks instead until everyone catches on.