CLEVELAND — Baker Mayfield knows the Browns will be labeled as overrated pretenders, and it'll be easy for the rest of the sports world to pile on.

They entered Sunday's season opener as the NFL's most-hyped team, only to fall on their faces in a 43-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans. FirstEnergy Stadium dissolved from a rocking, sold-out atmosphere at the opening kickoff to the familiar "Factory of Sadness" by the fourth quarter when everyone knew the home team's expansion-era record in Week 1 would fall to 1-19-1.

"Everybody's going to throw us in the trash. I think that's good," Mayfield said. "I know what type of men we have in this locker room. Quite frankly, I don't really give a damn what happens on the outside.

"I know how we're going to react. I know what we're going to do, how we're going to bounce back and we've got a Monday Night game coming up. So we don't really care. We're ready to go."

The starting quarterback nailed it. For better or worse, the Browns will show everyone, including themselves, what they're really all about by the way they respond to their embarrassing outing in the head coaching debut of Freddie Kitchens.

Mayfield and Co. will be tasked with rebounding against former Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his blitz-happy scheme when they visit the New York Jets for "Monday Night Football" on Sept. 16.

"That was definitely a punch in the mouth, but that’s probably what we needed," free safety Damarious Randall said. "We’ll definitely be OK.

"You never know what to expect in Week 1. We just didn’t do a lot of things correct and it showed. Period."

The Browns have enough talent to become a playoff team, but they're not going to live up to their potential if they continue to lack discipline.

They committed 18 penalties for 182 yards against the Titans, who, by comparison, had six penalties for 54 yards. The franchise record for penalties is 21, set Nov. 25, 1951, against the Chicago Bears. The second-most is 18, a total reached Sunday and Oct. 7, 1951, against the Los Angeles Rams.

"Adversity is hitting early," Kitchens said, "and we're going to find out what kind of team we have now."

Penalties weren't the only obstacles, though.

The offensive line took a beating, and so did Mayfield, who left the stadium with his throwing hand and wrist wrapped after X-rays came back negative.

The defense was caught sleeping late in the third quarter, and it proved to be the game's turning point.

After the Browns, despite all their sloppiness, trimmed their deficit to 15-13 with Mayfield's 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Njoku with 2:10 left in the third quarter, Titans running back Derrick Henry immediately countered with a 75-yard touchdown on a screen pass from quarterback Marcus Mariota, putting the Browns in a 22-13 hole with 1:57 remaining in the third quarter. Linebacker Joe Schobert correctly described the play as "a backbreaker."

Then the score got flat-out ugly for the Browns because of turnovers.

Mayfield threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter, including one cornerback Malcolm Butler returned 38 yards for a touchdown with 3:02 to play. The Titans also scored touchdowns off interceptions by free safety Kevin Byard and cornerback Logan Ryan.

"Once you have one mistake and then you're pressing late in the game, it compounds," Mayfield said, "and it hurts us."

The Browns debut of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. disappointed, too. He led them with seven catches for 71 yards on 11 targets, including Mayfield's first interception, the one caught by Byard with 14:11 left.

"[Beckham] had the in route," Mayfield said. "Just a terrible throw. [Beckham] was at the right depth, right place. Bad throw."

Mayfield dropped to 6-8 as an NFL starter. He went 25-of-38 passing for 285 yards and a touchdown with the three interceptions. His passer rating was 64, and he took five sacks, including outside linebacker Cameron Wake's safety with 1:42 remaining in the second quarter that left the young QB wincing in pain.

"From Baker this year, you’ll see a lot of growth and maturity," Beckham said. "He’s the captain of this team now. He’s going to lead us. We have other guys that have to step up and lead as well.

"He never got down. He never got out of himself. He just stuck to the plan and tried to make plays when he could.

"There’s nothing to panic about. Adversity has to come at some point in the season. Why not be right now?"

The Browns almost have no choice but to view the situation through Beckham's lens.

But this was the most highly anticipated opener in years, and they still haven't prevailed in one since 2004.

"We just need to rally together," Mayfield said. "Don’t flinch. It's game one of a long season. To get to where we want to go, you're going to have bumps in the road.

"We're not going to let it define us, and let’s see what type of men we have in this locker room. I'm pretty sure I have a good idea about it."

 

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.