When Baker Mayfield’s in the driver’s seat, buckle up.
Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns knocked off the Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-25, on Sunday afternoon, moving to 8-3 and solidifying a hold on a playoff spot. But the game had a lot more drama than any contest involving the Jaguars ought to.
This isn’t to disparage the Browns’ effort this year. Cleveland needed more than three seasons to win eight games before Mayfield arrived. But man, Mayfield keeps things interesting for this team. He can throw a playing card into the middle of a deck, but he can also have trouble hitting the ocean from a boat.
Halfway through the second quarter, up 7-6, Mayfield and the Browns were on the Jags’ 5-yard line. Wide receiver Rashard Higgins slanted inward and, thanks to a Jacksonville defensive miscue, stood wide open in the end zone. It should have been the easiest throw possible, a toss that even you could have turned into six points, but, well ... no:
— Pick Six Podcast (@picksixpod) November 29, 2020
Twitter, naturally, had jokes:
Baker Mayfield throwing a slant. -🃏 pic.twitter.com/dvPrRdQQrA
— Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz (@LeBatardShow) November 29, 2020
This wasn’t just a routine incompletion. Mayfield had an 86 percent chance of scoring on that play, per NFL NextGen Stats, and the play chart shows the two wide-open options Mayfield missed:
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 29, 2020
Later in the game, with an opportunity to ice the win, Mayfield again missed a wide-open Kareem Hunt on third-and-inches. The Browns would then miss the fourth-down conversion attempt by roughly the width of an index card. Cleveland’s defense couldn’t keep Jacksonville out of the end zone, but disrupted what would have been a game-tying two-point conversion, and the Browns escaped with a win.
This is what you get with Mayfield. At another point in the fourth quarter, Mayfield, standing with his heels on the back edge of the end zone, found Landry for a crucial first down:
— NFL (@NFL) November 29, 2020
Mayfield finished the afternoon with 19 completions on 29 attempts for 258 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t pretty, but against Jacksonville, it didn’t need to be.
Cleveland has already won more games than in any season since 2007, and the Browns aren’t done yet. Their upcoming schedule is rough — Tennessee, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, offset by back-to-back against both New York teams — but as long as Mayfield can do a little better job of hitting his receivers standing all by themselves, Cleveland is on track for its first postseason since 2002.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from Yahoo Sports: