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NFL 2020: Baker Mayfield edges Joe Burrow in battle of Ohio's franchise quarterbacks

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals
Amaar Burton
ANALYST
Modified 27 Oct 2020, 07:53 IST
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In 2018, Baker Mayfield was picked No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, after he'd won college football's Heisman Trophy at the University of Oklahoma.

In 2020, Joe Burrow was picked No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, after he'd won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship at Louisiana State University.

On Sunday, the two franchise quarterbacks of Ohio's two NFL teams met in a shootout that went down the last minute.

Baker Mayfield's Browns emerged with a 37-34 victory, keeping them in the AFC North race at 5-2, while the Bengals fell to 1-5-1.

The win was costly for the Browns, who lost star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a torn ACL in his knee that ends his season.

Otherwise, it was the highlight of the season for Mayfield, who'd come into the game under constant scrutiny from Cleveland fans for his inconsistency.

After throwing an interception on his first pass attempt, Mayfield threw incompletions on his next four. After that 0-for-5 start, Baker Mayfield then morphed into Joe Montana.

He threw 21 straight completions (a franchise record), including five touchdowns, to finish with 297 yards through the air. Mayfield's last pass was the game-winning touchdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones from 24 yards out with 15 seconds left.

Joe Burrow can't be blamed for the Bengals' loss. The rookie was 35 of 47 for 406 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for a touchdown.

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Burrow was especially impressive considering that Cincinnati played without star running back Joe Mixon, meaning the Browns' defense could focus more attention on stopping Burrow and the Bengals' passing game. The Bengals also lost three offensive linemen to injury during the game.

Is this the year Baker Mayfield silences the critics?

While the Bengals are still rebuilding around Joe Burrow, the Browns are supposed to have arrived with Baker Mayfield.

Last season, Cleveland came in with high expectations that proved too high; preseason playoff predictions faded away as the Browns lost their last three games to finish 6-10.

This season, the Browns were again projected to be good. Baker Mayfield was surrounded by Odell Beckham Jr. and another Pro Bowl receiver in Jarvis Landry. He had a young standout running back in Nick Chubb and a talented veteran RB in Kareem Hunt. The Browns' defense was believed to be solid, led by defensive end Myles Garrett, and new head coach Kevin Stefanski was -- like so many other coaches before him in Cleveland -- viewed as the guy who could finally get it right with this team.

While their two losses have been really bad -- blowouts at the hands of AFC North foes Baltimore and Pittsburgh -- the Browns' five wins have been promising. Most impressive was a 32-23 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5, in which Cleveland's offense looked great against a Colts' defense that ranks fourth in the NFL in points allowed and second in yards allowed.

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Every time it seems the noise convincing the Browns to give up on Baker Mayfield gets loudest, the QB responds with an inspiring performance like he did on Sunday. For now -- until the next loss -- it seems Baker Mayfield's spot is safe as the franchise quarterback for the Browns.

In Cincinnati, Burrow has done nothing but show that he was the right pick at No. 1, despite the team's undesirable record. The Bengals have time on their side to turn things around.

The Browns and Baker Mayfield might already be facing the right direction.

Published 27 Oct 2020, 07:53 IST
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