3 Takeaways from Browns' Week 6 Loss
Since Kevin Stefanski took over as head coach in January 2020, the Cleveland Browns have turned around the trajectory of the franchise. Heading into Sunday, they hadn't even lost back-to-back regular-season games under the 39-year-old.
However, that is no longer the case as a banged-up Browns team endures some early struggles.
Cleveland couldn't knock off the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals at the weekend, falling 37-14 at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns opened the 2021 season at 3-1, but they had a three-game winning streak snapped the previous week when they lost 47-42 to the Los Angeles Chargers on the road.
It became clear early on Sunday that Arizona was going to run away with the game. It scored the first 20 points of the contest, while Cleveland was shut out in the second half as it tried to erase a nine-point halftime deficit.
Here are three takeaways from the Browns' Week 6 loss.
Mayfield Showing Toughness by Playing Through Pain
Although the Browns' comeback attempt was unsuccessful, you can't blame the effort of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Continuing to play through a left shoulder, he was in visible pain during the third quarter, which led to him visiting the medical tent.
However, the 26-year-old didn't miss a play at that time, and he didn't come out of the game until it was too far out of reach in the fourth quarter. Despite the pain, he went 19-for-28 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, with both of his TD passes going to wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Mayfield told a postgame press conference that he will be undergoing an MRI on Monday.
"It dislocated again and slipped out again on a non-contact play," he said. "Just have to figure out a way to get better."
Even though the Browns play again Thursday night at home against the Denver Broncos, Mayfield doesn't anticipate missing any time. But if this continues to be an issue, or it worsens to the point that he can't play, his absence would create another major hole in the Cleveland roster.
Hunt Adds to Growing List of Injuries
The Browns were missing quite a few notable players on offense on Sunday, including running back Nick Chubb (calf), wide receiver Jarvis Landry (knee) and tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) and Jack Conklin (knee). Those absences contributed to the team totaling only 290 yards and committing three turnovers.
It wasn't just a tough day for the Browns in terms of their lack of offensive production, though. They also lost another key player to what appeared to be a substantial injury, when Kareem Hunt exited in the third quarter due to a right calf issue and never returned, after he had rushed for 66 yards on 14 carries.
"He was playing through some nicks and injuries, as well," Mayfield said, per Andrew Gribble of the team's official site. "For it to happen on kind of a simple pass play that he is just going over the ball, it just sucks. I hurt for him."
If Chubb and Hunt continue to miss time, Cleveland's rushing attack will not be nearly as formidable. It will still have rookie Demetric Felton, but Chubb and Hunt have powered the Browns' offense since joining forces in 2019.
Cleveland needs to be healthy to reach its offensive potential, but it's missing too many key pieces to play at the level it did for most of last season.
Defense Struggles Again While Facing a Strong Offense
For the second week in a row, the Browns' defense was tasked with trying to stop a strong offense. It wasn't successful in Week 5, when the Chargers had 47 points and 493 total yards, and things didn't go much better against the Cardinals on Sunday.
Arizona got into the end zone on each of its first two drives and scored points on all five of its first-half possessions. Cleveland also couldn't come up with key stops late, as the Cardinals scored touchdowns on their final drive of the third quarter and their opening drive of the fourth to put the game out of reach.
The Browns' defense showed what it's capable of earlier in the year, such as when they held the Chicago Bears to six points in Week 3 and the Minnesota Vikings to seven points in Week 4. But it's been going through some defensive struggles since then.
"Right now, we have to find ourselves," defensive end Myles Garrett said, per Fred Greetham of 247Sports. "We are not rushing like we are supposed to. We are not covering like we are supposed to."
Part of that is due to injuries to some defensive players, but Cleveland has also simply underperformed. It has to do a better job of limiting opposing offenses, especially when its own offense is shorthanded, too.