CLEVELAND, Ohio — Baker Mayfield didn’t make the Pro Bowl in his third NFL season, but he’s certainly been playing at a Pro Bowl clip his last four games.
During that stretch, the Browns have gone 3-1 en route to 10-4, and Mayfield has thrown 10 touchdowns against only 1 interception. He’s also completed 70% of his passes and earned a 117.7 rating.
The torrid stretch, which included victories over the Jaguars, Titans and Giants and a loss to the Ravens, has catapulted him to No. 11 in the NFL with a 99.4 rating. That’s up 13 spots from before the blistering quartet, when he checked in at 90.0.
Included are three ratings above 100.0, and the Browns are 15-1 in Mayfield’s career when he posts a 100.0-plus rating. Those ratings were 116.7, 147.0 and 126.2.
During Sunday night’s 20-6 victory over the Giants (5-9), Mayfield set a club record for completion percentage at 84.3 for players with a minimum of 25 attempts. For players with a minimum of 15 attempts, it’s the third-best mark in team history.
“Baker was really, really sharp,’’ coach Kevin Stefanski said. “[But] completion percentage isn’t a perfect stat to tell the whole story. No. 1, we didn’t have any drops last night and we had some contested catches, so that plays into it.
“Teams playing big zone where you’re working the underneath zones at a high clip plays into that. We’ve seen over the course of a bunch of ballgames he’s fit the ball into tight windows – I think of Jarvis [Landry’s] touchdown last night. It is an all-encompassing stat that really is a team stat between Baker and the guys on the receiving end.”
But Stefanski wouldn’t concede that Mayfield’s accuracy is improving.
“I would have to really study it over the course of the season,’’ he said. “That’s one of his strong suits is his accuracy.”
With newly minted Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry — tied for the league lead with 17 pass breakups — sitting at home on the Giants’ COVID-19 reserve list, Mayfield picked apart the patchwork secondary, one that featured a safety in Julian Love who moved over for the night, and a cornerback in Isaac Yiadom, who had been benched for three games earlier this season. The Giants played a zone, but it was no match for Mayfield and Co.
“It definitely changed some things,’’ said Giants safety Logan Ryan. “You can’t replace James Bradberry, but everyone has to step up in a different way by doing a little more. Honestly, our hats off to the Browns. I think our coverage was tight; they made some contested catches. We really loaded up to stop the run game, which we did, but we really weren’t good in third down or in the red area which is, situationally, how you win football games.’’
With Mayfield’s accuracy, protection and loaded offense, backup defensive backs have no chance against him — especially with the play-action working to perfection like it was against the Giants.
“Hats off to Baker,’’ Ryan said. “He played really efficiently today, and if we didn’t have respect for him before, we definitely have it now. He was one of the most efficient quarterbacks we’ve gone against this year.’’
The Giants, who only pressured Mayfield on eight of his 33 dropbacks, aren’t the only team saying that lately.
In fact, the difference in Mayfield from the beginning of the season when he was coming up the learning curve in Stefanski’s offense to now is stunning. In the first six weeks, he was ranked 28th in passing grade at 57.3 among NFL starting quarterbacks, according to profootballfocus.com. Since then, he’s No. 2 only to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers at 91.9.
Against the Giants, Mayfield (27-of-32, 297 yards, 1 sack, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 126.2 rating) led all starting quarterbacks in Week 15 with a 92.4 passing grade, highest of his career.
His grade on throws more than 10 yards downfield, thanks in large part to play action, was also second-best of the season. He completed 12-of-14 for 189 yards and two TDs on his 10-plus-yard attempts, with four big-time throws.
Mayfield has been so efficient that he’s climbed to No. 5 in ESPN’s QBR rankings with a 76.6 mark. He’s in some lofty Top 5 company with Rodgers, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill, some of whom he might meet in the playoffs.
“We didn’t want him to extend plays,’’ Ryan said. “We didn’t want him to get out of the pocket, we think he’s really great at that. We sold out to stop the run, we made Baker Mayfield be a pocket quarterback, and he was extremely efficient at that. He played well.’’
If he keeps it up, anything can happen when they reach the postseason.
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