The Cleveland Browns can't win on the road.
Cleveland lost its 23rd straight road game Sunday even though it led the Oakland Raiders 42-34 with less than a minute remaining. Derek Carr (35-of-58 for 437 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions) directed a game-tying drive in regulation and moved the offense into Matt McCrane's range for the winning field goal in overtime to clinch the 45-42 victory at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum.
Baker Mayfield just missed the win in his first career start and finished 21-of-41 for 295 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as Cleveland fell to 1-2-1 and Oakland improved to 1-3.
Browns Fans Must Brace for Highs and Lows with Baker Mayfield
The Browns finally have their franchise quarterback—that much was clear when Mayfield rescued the team in a comeback Week 3 win over the New York Jets with his infectious energy and playmaking ability.
Mayfield flashed his potential again Sunday by escaping pressure with his legs, fitting passes through tight windows—including a rifle to Darren Fells for his first career touchdown pass—and demonstrating impressive touch with a pass to Jarvis Landry in the corner of the end zone.
However, he was also responsible for much of Oakland's production. He threw a pick-six to Gareon Conley in the first quarter, and he allowed the Raiders back into the game with a fumble inside Cleveland's 10-yard line in the third quarter and a dropped snap in the fourth quarter, both leading to touchdowns.
He also threw an interception on what could have been the game-winning drive at the end of regulation.
There are always growing pains with rookies when they are thrown into the daunting reality of playing NFL defenses, and that is exactly what Browns fans must prepare themselves for. That is especially the case with Mayfield, who was an aggressive playmaker at Oklahoma and didn't hesitate to take chances if they could lead to game-changing plays.
Sometimes those game-changing plays are going to benefit the other team, but they will more often than not work in Cleveland's favor.
The resiliency he displayed by directing scoring drives on three straight possessions after the pick-six and again to retake the lead in the final quarter is something required of franchise quarterbacks. That is exactly what Mayfield will be, but there will be some valleys along with the peaks.
Raiders Are Better Than Record Reflects
The Raiders were a punch line in the opening three weeks of the season, especially since Khalil Mack has been such a force for the Chicago Bears. In fact, Oakland was dead last in the league with three sacks entering Sunday's slate, while Chicago was first with 14.
The ill-advised trade has dominated headlines, but the product on the field is better than the 1-3 record suggests. In fact, the Raiders held second-half leads in all three of their losses, including the 20-point defeat to the Los Angeles Rams. They lost by just one to the Denver Broncos and eight to the Miami Dolphins and are a few plays away from being 3-1.
They made those plays Sunday with Conley's pick-six, two Johnathan Hankins fumble recoveries that led to scores and an offense that utilized all of its playmakers. Marshawn Lynch (20 carries for 130 yards) went over the century mark for the first time this year, and Carr connected with Jared Cook (twice), Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson for touchdowns.
There is plenty of veteran leadership between Lynch, Nelson and Cook to keep the team afloat after a lackluster start, and Cooper (128 yards) went over 100 yards for the second time this year, matching his total from the entire 2017 campaign.
Sunday's showing underscored the fact that Oakland has the offensive weapons to be explosive. The Raiders will be dangerous in the AFC West even without Mack if they can get momentum-altering turnovers from the defense like they did against Mayfield.
Nick Chubb's Big-Play Ability Key to Unlocking Browns' Potential
Nothing takes the pressure off young quarterbacks more effectively than a strong rushing attack, and Cleveland has the ingredients to control games on the ground.
Carlos Hyde is a solid between-the-tackles back who scored his fifth touchdown of the season Sunday and demonstrated the physicality to convert at the goal line and on short-yardage situations. However, Nick Chubb's big-play ability can raise the Browns' ceiling, especially in a thunder-and-lightning situation with Hyde.
The Georgia product unleashed a 63-yard touchdown in the first half and a 41-yard score in the fourth quarter, proving he should have tallied more than his three carries for 105 yards.
With Josh Gordon on the New England Patriots and Landry more of an underneath receiver after posting 8.8 yards per catch last season, Chubb gives the Browns a rare home run threat who can force defenders into the box and open passing lanes for Mayfield.
Even though Hyde has proved to be a capable lead back, Cleveland needs to mix Chubb in to open up the offense, especially in back-and-forth affairs like Sunday's.
Oakland couldn't stop him, and the threat his speed presents to opposing defenses will give Mayfield additional throwing windows he can exploit with more experience.
Both teams face divisional foes in Week 5, with the Browns hosting the Baltimore Ravens and the Raiders at the Los Angeles Chargers.