Baker Mayfield last season showed he can be a dynamic NFL quarterback.
But the second-year passer for the Cleveland Browns can’t complete passes if he’s running for survival or flat on his back, and both of those scenarios seem plausible for Monday night’s matchup against the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
The Browns offensive line has given up 12 sacks in four games, and now must handle a San Francisco defensive front seven that has been getting stronger. With Dee Ford and Nick Bosa at defensive end and the likes of Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner inside, with linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, the 49ers are an athletic, relentless group.
The 49ers have nine sacks this season, with two each for Ford, Armstead and Buckner. They’ve also accumulated 18 hits on opposing quarterbacks. San Francisco is putting consistent pressure on passers for the first time in many years.
"They’re the best front we’ve faced this year," Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said. "They play hard. They’re very talented, very long, big guys that play with quickness. And they’re very deep. They can rotate guys in and out."
Bosa has played well, but has performed through nagging ankle injuries, with a sack and a team-leading 17 quarterback pressures. As he heals, he’s playing even better. For the first time, Bosa isn’t on the team’s weekly injury report.
Certainly, Bosa sounds motivated. He and his teammates would love to play well in Monday’s nationally televised game.
The 3-0 49ers can make a loud statement by beating Mayfield and the 2-2 Browns.
"Everybody is going to have an impression of us after this game," Bosa told the San Jose Mercury News. "We want to be a 4-0 good impression, not as a 'fake undefeated team' like people are kind of saying now."
Oddsmakers have made the 49ers five-point favorites. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m.