Quarterback Baker Mayfield looked like a beaten man as he hobbled up to the podium last Sunday for his postgame press conference after the Cleveland Browns' 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots.
Mayfield was suffering from the wounds of battle he has accumulated in what has been a difficult season for him and the Browns.
A hard hit on his left knee had forced Mayfield to leave the game early. He already was dealing with injuries to his right knee and ankle, and his left shoulder. The shoulder will require surgery after the season.
"I've got to find a way to get as healthy as possible," Mayfield said. "I'm pretty beat up now."
The Browns are beat up, too. The most visible wound is their 5-5 win-loss record going into Sunday's home game against the Detroit Lions.
With a talented roster, they were expected to take another step forward as contenders in the rugged AFC North. The Browns made the playoffs last year with an 11-5 win-loss record. They beat the Steelers in the wild card and were eliminated by the Chiefs in the divisional round.
View photos of the starters for the Cleveland Browns.
The damage done by injuries, inconsistent play and the drama that ultimately was resolved by releasing wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is reflected in their 5-5 win-loss record.
The Browns got to 5-5 the hard way. They won three straight after losing the season opener opener to the Chiefs but have gone 2-4 since then. They've given up 144 points in those four losses, an average of 36 points per game.
Worst loss in that span: 45-7 last week to the Patriots. After scoring first to take a 7-0 lead, the Browns gave up 45 straight points.
"At this point, everybody in our building has to look in the mirror and kind of reevaluate and be accountable to each other," Mayfield said. "We're sitting somewhere where we thought we'd be in a better place right now, but we're not.
"When you're sitting here at 5-5, obviously something's wrong. You've got to figure it out and get it fixed."
How the Browns stand with six games left, beginning Sunday with the Lions:
Offense: Injuries aside, Mayfield has not played well. He has nine TD passes in nine games, with four interceptions. He is well off his 2020 pace of 26 TD passes, but his yards per attempt is up to 8.1 from 7.3.
Jarvis Landry has missed four games. That took away a highly competitive wide receiver who plays hard every down. Landry has just 23 receptions after posting reception totals of 81, 83 and 72 the last three years.
Nick Chubb is the leader of a good running game. He's missed three games, but in the other seven he's run for 721 yards and 6.0 per carry. Kareem Hunt, out for four games, is a premier No. 2, with 361 and 5.2 yards per carry.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.
Defense: Defensive end Myles Garrett's magnificent obsession is sacking the quarterback, and he does it well – as his 13 sacks attest. Other parts of his game aren't quite as dominant, and he expressed his frustration with some coaching strategy after the loss to the Patriots.
"We didn't make any adjustments as they kept scoring," Garrett told the media. "We weren't countering that."
Jadeveon Clowney has only 3.5 sacks, but he has never been an elite pass rusher in his previous seven seasons. But he been an outstanding defender against the run with his explosive ability to get through gaps.
Bottom line: In a weird schedule quirk after Sunday's game, the Browns play the Ravens, take a bye, then play the Ravens again. In their final four, they're home vs. the Raiders, on the road against the Packers and Steelers, and home vs. the Bengals in the finale.
There's a road to the playoffs in there, but unlike last year, but the Browns might be their own stumbling block.