Odell Beckham Jr. created more of a stir during Sunday's postgame than he did during the Cleveland Browns' 27-13 loss to the New England Patriots. The loss, Cleveland's third straight, dropped the Browns to 2-5 at the season's midway point. The Browns, the popular preseason pick to win the AFC North, is currently in third place in the division behind Baltimore (5-2) and Pittsburgh (2-4).
Beckham, who caught five of seven targets for just 52 yards in Sunday's 27-13 loss to the undefeated Patriots, openly discussed his disappointment in the Browns' offense failing to look his way more often during Sunday night's loss. Beckham was hoping to have success against New England's All-Pro cornerback, Stephon Gilmore, .
"I just felt like we didn't challenge as much as we could have," Beckham said, via Pro Football Talk. "I think we kind of shied away from it. I was expecting and looking forward to it, but that wasn't the case today. We had a couple plays, but for whatever reason we didn't do as much challenging as we talked about. Other than that whatever came my way, pretty much I caught. Whatever opportunities I had I made the most of them. You can only control what you can control."
Two of Beckham's catches against Gilmore came on bubble screens, with his biggest catch of the day -- a 31-yarder -- coming in garbage time. Gilmore's performance earned him praise from New England head coach Bill Belichick, who after Sunday's victory was awarded the game ball in recognition of his 300th win as an NFL head coach.
"Steph's a great competitor," Belichick said of Gilmore, a Pro Bowler for the Buffalo Bills in 2016 before signing with the Patriots that offseason. "I love Steph. He always wants whatever the biggest challenge is. 'Whatever you need me to do, whatever the biggest challenge is, put me on that player and that situation and I'll give you my best and be ready to go.' I love that about him. He's very competitive and will take on whatever challenge we want to give him."
While Gilmore's performance Sunday night reinforced his status as arguably the best cornerback in the NFL today, Beckham's stat line represents what has been a disappointing season for himself and the Browns. While he's on pace to record 976 receiving yards, Beckham has caught just one touchdown through eight games. One of the biggest reasons for his and Cleveland's struggles thus far has been the play of second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has completed just 57.6% of his passes with six touchdowns and a whopping 12 interceptions.
"I wish I could put my finger on one thing because I'd do everything I could to get it fixed," Mayfield said after Sunday's loss, via Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. "I just think everyone has to be singularly focused on doing your job, not worrying about what's going on, on the outside. We have to be willing to sacrifice the ultimate price to get to what we talked about preseason, our ultimate goals. We have to be able to sacrifice stuff each and every day: time, focus. It's going to be a long stretch, but our guys are capable of doing that, and so it's my job to make sure we do that each and every day. Like I said earlier, it starts tomorrow."
Along with Mayfield's inability to fully utilize Beckham and wide receiver Jarvis Landry (who caught five passes for 65 yard), a Mayfield interception, five sacks, 13 penalties, and two lost fumbles by running back Nick Chubb played a significant role in Sunday's outcome. Mayfield came to Chubb's defense following Sunday's game.
"This isn't Nick Chubb's fault whatsoever," Mayfield said of Chubb, who rushed for 131 yards on 20 carries against New England's top-ranked defense. "Yeah, he definitely is going to be very hard on himself. He knows what he has to do, but there's so many other things that if we do it the right way, then we're still in that game. And so, we've pointed out the problem, now it's about executing it on Sundays.''
While he clearly wanted to have a bigger impact in Sunday's outcome, Beckham added that he wants to help be part of the solution if the Browns plan on turning their season around. Cleveland will look to get back on track this Sunday in Denver against the 2-6 Broncos.
"There's no finger pointing going on, and that's not the type of team we are," Beckham said. "So, we just need to be harder on ourselves. The accountability thing is making sure everybody's locked in each and every play. I can't have eyes on everybody at every single time, neither can the coaches. It's got to be within the position groups in making sure everybody's in the right place at the right time."