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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Baker Mayfield didn’t get his revenge against the Cleveland Browns, but he came close.
After looking dreadful for almost three quarters, Mayfield led the Carolina Panthers to 17 fourth-quarter points and the lead before the Browns spoiled his revenge party with a 58-yard field goal by rookie kicker Cade York with eight seconds left.
The 26-24 loss left Mayfield 0-4 in NFL openers, including 0-3 with the Browns.
Mayfield was 10-for-19 for 101 yards with four balls tipped at the line of scrimmage, an interception and two sacks in the first half. He also muffed a snap in the shotgun.
His only big play in the half was a 50-yard completion to tight end Ian Thomas, who was wide open down the middle of the field.
It got so bad that he was booed for the first time after being forced to throw the ball away under pressure to end the fifth of his seven possessions.
There also were boos as the Panthers left for the locker room at halftime down 17-7. It was so bad that Quincy Avery, the personal passing coach for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, tweeted: “That’s the Baker we know and love.”
Mayfield finally showed some of the energy the Panthers were looking for out of him late in the third quarter and early into the fourth quarter with a touchdown drive he capped with a 7-yard scramble up the middle.
He then showed some of the emotion he has throughout his career, slamming the ball into the padded stadium wall after cutting the lead to 20-14.
After a Cleveland field goal, Mayfield threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Anderson to trim the lead to 23-21 with 6:02 remaining.
He then led Carolina to a go-ahead field goal with just over one minute to play, setting the stage for York’s game winner. Mayfield finished 16-for-27 for 235 yards.
The Browns traded for Watson during the offseason, prompting Mayfield to ask for a trade from the team that made him the first pick of the 2018 draft.
That happened on July 6, when the Panthers acquired Mayfield after the Browns agreed to pay $10.5 million of the quarterback’s 2022 salary ($18.9 million) and Mayfield agreed to take a $3.5 million salary cut that he can earn back in incentives.
He underwent what Carolina called an “open” competition with 2021 starter Sam Darnold for the starting job, although league sources said it was Mayfield’s job to lose all along. He officially was named the starter on Aug. 22.
He never made a big deal about facing his former team before Sunday, saying it’s a “good storyline” but he was focused on doing his job.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of attachment there,” Mayfield said of the Browns. “I’m not going to sit here and be a robot and say it doesn’t mean anything. It will.”
It was all hugs and smiles for Mayfield before kickoff as he greeted many of his former teammates, coaches and executives.
There were more hugs and fewer smiles after the game.