NFL: Mistakes doom Baker Mayfield, Browns in season-opening dud against Ravens

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) scrambles in the backfield during the first half of Sunday’s game at Baltimore. The Browns lost, 38-6. [AP Photo/Terrance Williams]

BALTIMORE — Odell Beckham Jr. watched the ball hit his hands, then the ground.

The Browns fell just as easily and quickly.

In a season opener filled with mistakes and looking like so many in previous Cleveland seasons, Beckham’s dropped pass on a crucial third-down play late in the first half of Sunday’s 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens may have been the most costly.

There were plenty to choose from.

“They out-coached us, they outplayed us,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said after a painful debut. “We did a lot of things losing teams do. We turned it over three times, didn’t play complementary football. We’ve got a lot to clean up.”

With no margin for error against one of the NFL’s best teams, the Browns made way too many against the Super Bowl-craving Ravens, and Stefanski’s first game with Cleveland went the same way as it did for most of his predecessors.

The Browns fell to 1-20-1 in season openers since the franchise’s rebirth in 1999, and Cleveland is now winless in 16 straight openers — an NFL record it already owned.

For the second year in a row, the opener was a colossal letdown for a Browns team seeking a fresh start. Last season, it was a brutal 30-point loss to Tennessee, and this one was just as bad — maybe even worse since it came against a division opponent.

“Sometimes a wake-up call is good for everybody,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “A punch in the mouth and that’s how we should take it.”

Mayfield, the former OU star, threw an interception on Cleveland’s first possession, kicker Austin Seibert, another former Sooner standout, missed an extra point and field goal — and may soon get the boot himself. Stefanski’s first gamble backfired badly when he faked the first punt this season.

“That’s on me,” Stefanksi said. “It didn’t work out.”

Little went right for the Browns, and yet despite numerous early issues, they were still within 17-6 and possibly driving for a late score in the second quarter when Beckham, known for his one-handed catches, tried to run before securing Mayfield’s short pass at the Baltimore 20 with 50 seconds left.

A completion would have given the Browns a first down and the chance to carve into the Ravens’ lead. Instead, they had to settle for a field-goal attempt, but Seibert pushed his 41-yard try to the right. Earlier, he clanked his first PAT of 2020 off the left upright.

“I expect him to make those kicks,” said Stefanski.

The Ravens took over and went 69 yards for a touchdown as quarterback Lamar Jackson, who had his way against a Cleveland secondary thinned by injuries, dropped a 9-yarder between Browns linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Karl Joseph to make it 24-6.

It was halftime. It was over.

Mayfield finished 21 of 39 for 189 yards, and had a few nice moments. But just as last year, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 struggled to find chemistry with Beckham, who was targeted 10 times and finished with three catches.