Former Ohio State star Nick Bosa turned the tables on Mayfield by planting an imaginary flag after hitting him at the end of the first half, and then planted a real 49ers flag after their 31-3 blowout on Monday Night Football.
In between, Bosa planted Mayfield plenty more times and left him walking gingerly out of Levi’s Stadium sore and bruised, in body and ego.
“I didn’t know that [Bosa planted the flag] until I was informed before I got up here,’’ Mayfield said. “Good for him. Good play.”
Mayfield had his right shoulder heavily wrapped with ice after the game, and also walked gingerly with a black sleeve on his left leg.
“I’ll be good, it’s just the nature of football,’’ he said.
Freddie Kitchens, who’s refused to take Mayfield out of the game at other times this season, yanked him in favor of Garrett Gilbert with 5:08 left and the 49ers relishing their 28-point lead. By that time, Mayfield had already been hit eight times and was hurting.
“Yeah, I thought he was taking too many hits unnecessarily,’’ said Kitchens.
But it was certainly time to put Mayfield out of his misery. With Bosa almost singlehandedly wrecking Mayfield’s night, he completed only 8-of-22 attempts (36 percent) for 100 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions en route to a horrible 13.2 rating. He was also sacked four times and fumbled twice, losing one. The score would’ve been a lot worse, but the 49ers failed to cash in on Mayfield’s first two turnovers in the first quarter.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, he had a raw QBR of 1.4, the lowest of any QB this season. His total QBR of 4.4 (includes for strength of the defense) was second-lowest for any NFL QB this year. His season rating has also dipped to 68.5 for 32nd in the NFL.
“So much of the quarterback has to do with the things around him, just like every week,’’ Kitchens said. “Last week he played good, because the guys around him played good. The quarterback can’t do it himself, so he doesn’t. This is the reason football is the ultimate team game. It takes 11 guys, and if one guy doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, then you have a not successful play, and that goes for all positions.”
Mayfield also played well during the 40-25 victory over the Ravens because he didn’t have a Bosa taking over the game — like one would expect Myles Garrett to do — or a dominant defensive front like the Chargers’ overwhelming his line.
The 49ers’ No. 2 overall pick this year, Bosa exacted revenge on Mayfield with two sacks, three more QB hits, a forced fumble and a recovery. He consistently beat left tackle Greg Robinson, and ran over Joel Bitonio on one of his sacks.
“I got a lot of one-on-one opportunities tonight and I knew I could win them,’’ Bosa said. “Having Dee [Ford] burning off the edge, inside guys, Arik [Armstead and [DeForest Buckner] just closing in on Baker, Baker couldn't see anything downfield. Some of my sacks should go to them.’’
He knew the 49ers could get in Mayfield’s head.
“He was panicking,’’ he said. “He was double clutching, rolling back and forth, we had him rattled all game.’’
Bosa said he doesn’t usually talk, but made an exception for this grudge match.
"He had it coming,'' he said. "Just screaming his name, like Ba-ker, Ba-ker, you good? Come on, pick it up, we want a challenge.’’
Bosa plants the flag and exacts revenge on Mayfield
With the 49ers bearing down, Mayfield wasn’t as accurate as usual, and several of his passes were dropped. Odell Beckham Jr., held to two catches for 27 yards after two for 20 last week, dropped a bubble screen on the first drive and a deep out on the second that was high. Mayfield took the blame for the errant throw on the latter.
“Not great,’’ Mayfield said of his performance. “When you look at it, obviously when you lose like that, there’s a lot of things wrong. We’ll go back to the drawing board and eliminate the mistakes.”
Still, Mayfield had a chance to cut the deficit to 14-10 with 4:45 left in the half when he hit Antonio Callaway in the hands at the goal line on third and 6. But Callaway — in his first game back from a four-game suspension, bobbled and dropped the ball and it fell into the hands of former Browns cornerback K’waun Williams, who returned the pick to midfield. The 49ers converted it into a 19-yard TD run by Tevin Coleman for a 21-3 command. It was the turning point of the game, and the 49ers tee’d off on Mayfield from there.
“Yes it’s unfortunate, but I could’ve been more accurate with the ball,’’ said Mayfield. “Honestly, it’s more than just one play that turned the game around.”
Callaway, who had a bad game all around including a false start on that fateful gamebreaking drive that moved the Browns back from a first and goal at the 9, was also the intended receiver on Mayfield’s first interception, by Richard Sherman on the Browns’ second drive — one play after Mat Breida scored on an 83-yard TD run on the Niners first play of the game.
But Mayfield still has faith in his 2018 draft classmate.
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “Everybody makes mistakes. We had total faith in him. There’s a reason he was out there tonight even after not playing the first four games. We trust him. The biggest thing is putting our arms around him and letting him know that every once in a while that happens, but to be able to be a great team, we have to eliminate that and take advantage of our opportunities.”
The crushing defeat came a week after the Browns, now 2-3, moved into a tie for first place in the AFC North with the Ravens, who climbed to 3-2 with their big OT win over the 1-4 Steelers.
“To not stack a win is very unfortunate,’’ Mayfield said. “We knew that nothing carries over from last week. We just have to come out and do our job. When you make mistakes and beat yourself up, a team like that is going to capitalize, and they absolutely did. They deserve the credit.”
Are the Browns searching for their identity again after thinking they found it in Baltimore? They were 0-2 in the red zone, 1 for 11 on third down and were outgained 446-180.
“Absolutely not,’’ Mayfield said. “In Baltimore we did our job. We were physical. Tonight we didn’t do our job and therefore, you play behind the sticks, and you play behind and it allows a team like that to be able to tee off and do certain things. We found out what we need to do. We just didn’t do it tonight.”
The Browns were also blown out by Tennessee 43-13 in the opener, but rebounded with a win over the Jets. But they better fix this in a hurry, because the 4-1 Seahawks are up next at home and then the 4-0 Patriots on the road.
“Once again, we’re not hitting the panic button,’’ said Mayfield. “For us, we know the problem. We know we have to be better and do better. When you play a great team, you have to eliminate mistakes. We know exactly what we need to do. We need to play well.''