CLEVELAND — When it came to his team's performance against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. didn't mince words.
"They were the better team," Beckham said on a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday. "They beat the s--t out of us."
And when it came time for fans and media alike to assess blame for the Browns' 38-6 loss in their season opener, there was plenty to go around, with many pointing to Beckham -- or more specifically, Cleveland's use of the 3-time Pro Bowl wideout.
While Beckham appeared largely absent from the Browns' game plan in the first half against Baltimore, Cleveland seemed to make a concerted effort to get its star wideout the ball in the second half. Yet despite receiving a team-high 10 targets, Beckham only notched two catches for 22 yards -- the second-fewest of his seven-year NFL career.
Some of that was on quarterback Baker Mayfield's inaccuracy and some of it was on Beckham, who had a key drop and prematurely stepped out of bounds on a would-be catch. Asked about the perception he was force-feeding Beckham the ball, Mayfield defended the strategy, stating that he was simply taking what the Ravens' defense was giving him.
"We take our 1-on-1 matchup. I trust those guys. That's what they get paid to do: 1-on-1 matchups," Mayfield said on Tuesday. "It might have looked [like the Browns were force-feeding Beckham], but it's a 1-on-1 matchup."
That's not to say the Browns don't have work to do, as evidenced by Sunday's final score. Since losing to the Ravens, Mayfield, Beckham and Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski have each acknowledged the need for the team's quarterback, star wideout and play-caller to get on the same page if the Browns offense is going to live up to its potential.
“I do not think [Mayfield] was forcing the ball," Stefanski said on Monday. "We did not connect obviously as much as we would like to. I think it is a combination of things. You have to really start with them and give them credit. They made some plays. A couple balls, I am sure Baker wants back. A couple of routes, I am sure Odell wants back. That is the nature of this thing."
Added Beckham: "Sunday wasn't what we wanted, but more game reps will be the way to go."
While Mayfield acknowledged that getting the ball to Beckham needs to come naturally, there's also a balance that needs to be met. Asked if he would prefer to be more involved earlier in games, Beckham said that was the case and compared getting a couple of quick catches to a basketball player hitting some early 3-pointers.
Whatever the solution is to getting Mayfield and Beckham on the same page, it will need to come quickly. After getting blown out by the Ravens on Sunday, the Browns won't have to wait long to get back on the field, with Cleveland hosting the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.