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Panthers' Mayfield addressing batted balls, dropped snaps

(AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

By STEVE REED

AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Baker Mayfield joked that he may have found a solution to all those passes the Cleveland Browns batted down at the line of scrimmage on Sunday.

"Get on an inverted table a little bit. Stretch out. Get taller," Mayfield said. "Thanks, Mom and Dad."

The Browns batted down four of Mayfield's passes in a 26-24 win over the Carolina Panthers, plays that killed drives early in the game.

It's nothing new for the fifth-year quarterback.

He's had 48 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage since coming into the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, which is more than any quarterback during that span, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Mayfield said it comes down to him finding "windows" or "passing lanes" and being on the same page with his offensive line. It also means the line trying to block in such a way they prevent defensive linemen from getting a hand up.

Regardless, it's always going to be a struggle for a quarterback like the 6-foot-1 Mayfield - and teams are going to try to take advantage of his stature.

"He's known for getting a lot of balls batted down and stuff like that, so we put a lot of emphasis on the D-line, guys rushing the quarterback to get their hands up, and knock some balls down," New York Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams said.

Added Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence: "He's one of the shorter guys, so getting our hands up and affecting him hopefully will help us in the game."

Panthers coach Matt Rhule said the 6-foot-5 Williams and 6-foot-4 Lawrence present a challenge this week because of their wingspan.

"Our line has to do a great job of driving out and making sure the pocket is firm," Rhule said. "And Baker has to do a great job of sliding and finding windows. As the game went on (against the Browns) he got more comfortable with that."

Center Pat Elflein said the Panthers are working on drills to keep the opposing defensive linemen's hands down while pass blocking to limit tipped balls.

Williams said Mayfield is also known for his deep drops, which give the QB a place to run but also create opportunities for pass rushers.

"Most quarterbacks in the NFL like stepping up when they feel that pressure, whereas a quarterback like Baker Mayfield, he wants to make a play so sometimes he'll drop back even deeper and might try to scramble out the back," Williams said. "But as a defensive line, sometimes we don't mind that because it kind of gives us another bite at the apple."

Minimizing batted balls is not Mayfield's only concern this week in practice.

He and Elflein struggled with exchange issues in Week 1 with three botched snaps from the shotgun and one from under center, resulting in four fumbles - albeit no turnovers.

Mayfield was credited with three of those fumbles.

One of those occurred on Carolina's final scoring drive. The Panthers, trailing by one, had moved to the Cleveland 14 with less than two minutes remaining but Mayfield fumbled the shotgun snap on first down and had to abort the play.

"We almost lost the game right there," Rhule said.

The botched snap still cost Carolina.

After the fumble, the Panthers went conservative and ran the ball on second and third down - in part to force the Browns to use their timeouts - before settling for a 34-yard field goal with 1:13 left. That was too much time for Jacoby Brissett, who moved the Browns into field-goal range, setting up rookie Cade York's winning 58-yarder with 8 seconds left.

Mayfield said he and Elflein are working this week to rectify the situation and insisted it will be resolved.

"I just have to field the snaps," Mayfield said. "I'll take the blame on that. Just stay in there longer and making sure, especially in critical situations, that I secure the football. The ball is king around here and I have to make sure I take care of it."

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AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report.

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Updated September 14, 2022

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