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BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens has Baker Mayfield’s back.

In a big way.

Kitchens said Thursday he has no problem with any of Mayfield’s recent statements about former coach Hue Jackson, including an Instagram response when Mayfield called Jackson “fake.”

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Mayfield: No regrets over calling Jackson ‘fake’
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said Wednesday that he has no regrets over calling former coach Hue Jackson “fake” and added that he’s not looking for the approval of anyone who questions his maturity.

“I promise you this: Baker’s not going to blow smoke up anybody’s ass,” Kitchens said Thursday as the Browns prepared to face the Texans in Houston on Sunday. “So if he said it, that’s what he feels. And I’m standing behind Baker Mayfield.”

Mayfield did not detail what he meant except to say there were things that happened in the building that led him to use the word.

Kitchens was just as adamant about Mayfield’s postgame comments in Cincinnati when Mayfield said he did not appreciate his former coach taking a job with a rival so soon after being fired by Cleveland.

“I don’t have a problem with Baker saying anything like that,” Kitchens said. “The guy spoke what he felt to be true. I don’t know when it became big news to speak the truth, OK? And if that’s what he feels then he should voice it.

“Hard Knocks is in here and everybody is looking for a story. Well, he’s giving you a story. He’s telling you the truth. Everybody wants an inside look and the truth. Well hell, that’s the truth.

“We go down to Cincinnati and one of the biggest wins … I know there’s people in that locker room that have never gotten on a plane to come back here on a road game with a victory. So they didn’t know that feeling until then.

“Suddenly it’s big news if we don’t want to turn it into a Kumbaya after the game and turn it into fist bumps and hugs. I don’t think Baker disrespected anybody in what he said. He spoke what he felt.”

Kitchens said he can see the Browns coming together, and that words are irrelevant.

“At some point, everybody’s going to realize it doesn’t matter what anybody else says,” Kitchens said. “It doesn’t matter what anybody says in Cincinnati, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, nowhere. It’s about what’s said in here. And more importantly it’s about our fans, our organization and our locker room most important.

“It’s about what those guys in there feel, and when they start believing that, which they do, then you have something.”

Mayfield’s teammates did not want to be drawn into a discussion about Mayfield’s words. To Kitchens, it’s fundamental.
“Ultimately it’s about winning,” Kitchens said. “When you start winning people want to find other stories. I’ve told you guys this in the spring: Players chase stats and media chases controversy, because both of them equal money. It’s about how many hits you get on the internet; it’s about how many viewers you have.

“Ultimately if we can stay together in the locker room or not let anything like (stats) divide us or any Instagrams or anything like that divide us, we’re going to be fine.”

Kitchens also said that he told running back Nick Chubb he could call the plays in Houston if Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC championship game. Chubb played at Georgia, Kitchens at Alabama, and Wednesday Chubb told the NFL Network about the fun arrangement.

“That’s because he (Kitchens) has no belief we’ll win,” Chubb said.

“I changed a play today to Roll Tide; he wouldn’t even run the play, so I don’t know,” Kitchens said of Chubb. “I had to come up with something; he wouldn’t even bet me anything.”

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BALTIMORE — Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and the rest of the team seemed confident this week that they could turn the season around against the Ravens.

So far, the results are inconclusive.

The Bengals gave up 117 yards rushing to Lamar Jackson. Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY Sports
It wasn’t a total disaster, like the outings against the Chiefs and Saints, and that’s probably why the Bengals’ defensive players weren’t hanging their heads in the locker room after the game. The mood certainly was lighter than it had been in the weeks prior to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s ouster.

“I thought they played their tails off,” Lewis said.

But at the end of the day, a 24-21 loss to the Ravens counts the same as a 51-14 loss to the Saints.

That isn’t to say the Bengals shouldn’t take any moral victories out of a close loss to a division rival on the road. If they can learn from it, they have six games left in the season to show that they’re better for it.

Lewis certainly seemed to think that could be the case.

“We have to learn something,” Lewis said. “Today, I thought they learned something about themselves. We had opportunities, but we didn’t take full advantage of them. We’ve got to take full advantage, but we learn. … But for them, they’ve got to be excited. We know where we are, and now it’s a race to the finish. And they are in the same position we are.”

In some ways, the Bengals appeared to play better with Lewis calling the plays. They settled down after a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game and forced three straight punts. Shawn Williams picked off rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson to set up the Bengals to get points in the second half, and they held the Ravens to a field goal in the fourth quarter.

The offense had two chances to tie or take the lead late, but those drives resulted in a missed 52-yard field goal and an incomplete pass on fourth down to Cody Core, who appeared to drop Dalton’s pass after getting two hands on it.

The offense managed only 255 total yards, the second-worst total this season, and punted five times in the first half. Without A.J. Green, the Bengals simply couldn’t come up with the plays at the end of the game, like they did against the Falcons, Buccaneers and Dolphins.

That’s almost as concerning as the lack of playmakers on the defensive side.

There’s definitely blame to go around. However, defensively, it was clear that changing the playcaller isn’t going to be some magic bandage to fix the unit. They still gave up 403 yards and remain on pace to break the record for yards allowed in a season set by the 2012 Saints.

Not only did rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson become the first quarterback since Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to rush for more than 100 yards in a game, but he also recorded 265 total rushing yards. Jackson’s 117 rushing yards were the second-most by a rookie quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger.

The Ravens didn’t attempt a pass on the 11-play opening drive but were still able to convert two third downs by using Jackson’s feet. That happened even though the Bengals knew the Ravens would be running the ball instead of passing.

“He can’t throw the ball,” Burfict said after the game in the direction of Vincent Rey, who was talking to reporters at an adjacent locker.

If the Bengals are encouraged, it’s because the bar was set pretty low after a series of declining performances. There was nowhere to go but up, and the Bengals think they’re starting to make that climb back.

“It was a great step in the right direction. We just didn’t get the results we needed,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “There are some positives. It was clear and evident we looked like a different defense out there.”

If that is the case, all is certainly not lost. Getting healthy would help. The situation at linebacker has become almost dire, with Nick Vigil and Preston Brown out and Vontaze Burfict, who is dealing with a hip injury, clearly still hobbled. Green could come back as early as next week, and the Bengals have the Browns, Broncos and Raiders on the schedule. It’s more manageable than facing the Chiefs or the Saints with an injured cast of characters.

“You just have to keep fighting and playing until the game is over,” Lewis said he told the team. “So let’s make plays. We know that we can do that, and we have guys who can do that. We’ll get some guys back and healthy, and that will make us better. And that will lift us up. But right now, everybody that’s getting the opportunity to play now, just keep playing better.”

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Week nine was mostly about the quarterbacks, as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers faced off, and Drew Brees captured some Rams, but it wasn’t all down to the slingers.

Brees’ headline act, stellar as it was, would have been less impressive if not for a hat-trick from our favourite Liberian running back.

Player of the Week

Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints – Running Back #41)

He had solid competition for player of the week honors, but after balling out for the Saints on Sunday and helping to end the Los Angeles Rams unbeaten run, POTW has to go to Alvin Kamara.

The Liberian-American had three touchdowns on Sunday, a first half hat-trick of touchdowns, with two receiving and one rushing. AK41 became the only player in the NFL this season with a receiving and a rushing touchdown in the first quarter of a game, as he ran for 82 yards on 19 carries.

Add in the four receptions on five targets for 34 yards, and an impressive shoulder shake to get past the Rams defender while running an option route, and the Saints got an important W with a 45-35 win.

Notable Performances
Miami’s Brock Osweiler came off second best against Jeremiah Attaochu in week nine. Mark Brown/Getty Images
Jeremiah Attaochu (New York Jets – Outside Linebacker #55)

After signing with the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets prior to the start of the season (after being cut from the San Francisco 49ers), Attaochu has fit in nicely in New York so far.

After providing good performances in prior weeks, the Nigeria-born linebacker had two tackles, one sack and three quarterback hits in the Jets’ 13-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Despite the poor showing by the offense, Attaochu and the defense were a bright spot for the Jets to look to build on in the second half of the season.

Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons – Running Back #26)

With lead running back Devonta Freeman on IR, Coleman had himself an outing on Sunday as he helped lead the Falcons to a 38-14 win over the Washington Redskins.

Rushing for 88 yards on 13 carries, and playing an equally important role in the passing game with five receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns, Coleman reminded teams that he will be available in the off-season for a potentially lucrative second contract.

Foye Oluokun (Atlanta Falcons – Linebacker #54)
Foye Oluokun has been a solid presence for the Falcons this season. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Rookie linebacker Oluokun continued to impress as he played a big role in limiting the Washington running backs to 57 yards total on Sunday. The Nigerian-American had six tackles, one QB hit, and a tackle for a loss.

The Yale grad has shown an ability to defend the run nicely and also provide capable coverage on passing downs for the 4-4 Falcons.

Jahleel Addae (Los Angeles Chargers – Safety #37)

Ghanaian-American safety Addae was in great form on Sunday as he made several key plays to help the 6-2 Chargers win their fifth game in a row. Addae notched 10 tackles, one sack and QB hit and one extremely important pass breakup.

With the Chargers up 25-17 in the waning seconds of the game, the Seahawks were given an untimed down while on the six yard line and with the clock at 0.00. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson sought to provide the home fans with his usual magic from behind center as he evaded the Chargers pass rush and flung a pass to receiver David Moore in the end zone.

Unknown to Moore, Addae was making a break in the opposite direction and flung his right arm out and with a fingertip (or fingernail, according to Addae) broke up the pass and sealed the win for the Chargers.

Players to Watch in Week 10

Arizona Cardinals Cornerback Bene Benwikere celebrates a second half interception against the San Francisco 49ers. Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Bene Benwikere (Arizona Cardinals Defensive back)

The Cardinals are still trying to find stable footing this season and week 10 sees them take on the 8-1 Chiefs and the talented QB Pat Mahomes, running back Kareem Hunt, and receiver Tyreek Hill. Benwikere has played his part at cornerback and safety over the past few weeks and will need to be at the top of his game to combat the Chiefs offensive weaponry and schemes.

Kelechi Osemele (Oakland Raiders Offensive Tackle)

The Oakland Raiders are a disaster this season and Osemele has missed three games with a knee injury so far, but when he has been on the field he has provided the Raiders with a dependable presence at left guard. Osemele will be even more important in week 10 against the Chargers if left tackle Kolton Miller is unable to play through his own knee injury.

Brian Orakpo (Tennessee Titans Defensive End)

Orakpo and the Titans beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-14 on Monday Night Football and the Nigerian-American defensive end had one of the five Tennessee sacks on the night. In order for the Titans to beat the Patriots in week 10, Orakpo and the Tennessee defense will need to make a mess of the Patriots offensive line and pocket protection for Tom Brady.