CARSON, CA-The Cleveland Browns came to StubHub Center in Carson looking for their first win of the season. They’re still looking for it. For the second time in their last three games, the Los Angeles Chargers defense was going eyeball-to-eyeball with a rookie quarterback.
Against the Buffalo Bills, the Chargers made Nathan Peterman’s first career start a running disaster, picking off the newbie five times on their way to a 54-24 pasting of the Bills.
The Browns and quarterback DeShone Kizer were a different challenge for the Chargers. For one, L.A. didn’t want to be that team that Cleveland notched its first win of the season against. The Browns have been bumbling and stumbling all season, going 0-11 before they played the Chargers. And no less, Cleveland brought another young buck into the Chargers’ wheelhouse.
That didn’t work out too well, either. Kizer was a lot better than Peterman, but the outcome still didn’t play out in the Browns’ favor. Joey Bosa and the Chargers secondary saw to that by forcing two turnovers late in the fourth quarter to wrap up the win.
“Another disappointing lost for us,” said Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson. “Chargers won the game by making plays and we didn’t. We got to make place in critical moments and I think we are equipped to do that. We have to continue to play better and coach better.”
Take away the sack and force fumble by Bosa and a last-ditch interception by Adrian Phillips, the game was still in doubt. Both turnovers came in the red zone as the Browns were looking to score. Both times, the Chargers defense put the brakes on those drives. As a result, the Chargers (6-6) scrapped their way to a not-so-pretty 19-10 win at home.
“We knew that would be a scrappy game,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. “That team… there’s a lot of talent. They’re young, and they’re desperate for that first win. I thought our guys did a good job of making sure they didn’t get it today. We knew that team shows up and plays for four quarters, so we don’t take that win lightly. It’s a talented, young team.”
Considering the Chargers started the season losing their first four games, any win-good, bad or ugly- would suffice now. Those four games seem like ancient history now. With the Kansas City Chiefs hitting the free-fall button, the Chargers are now tied with their AFC West Division rivals for first place. Standing with a 6-6 record, this is the first time Chargers have hit the .500 mark this season. The playoffs seemed like a far-fetched dream for the Chargers at the beginning of the season. It’s real now.
“It feels good. We have a chance, and we are right where we want to be,” said the Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward. “If you had told us when we started with a 0-4 record that we would be where we are now people would say, “you’re crazy.” I think we are headed in the right direction and we have a good team. Washington is coming up next week so we have to be focused.”
The Chargers decided to play possum in the first half when they found themselves in a close game. The worst team in the NFL kept the Chargers offense under wraps through the first two quarters of play.
That shouldn’t come as a real surprise since the Browns have the ninth-rated defense in the league. For the first 30 minutes of action, the Chargers didn’t play like the dynamic team that routed the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day or the explosive squad that hung 54 points on the Bills.
The first two quarters saw the Chargers scramble just to put up three field goals to go into halftime with a 9-7 lead. And that almost didn’t happen. On the Chargers’ first play on the last drive of the first half, quarterback Philip Rivers (344 yards passing, TD) got smacked and fumbled the ball deep in his own territory.
That could have spelled disaster for the Chargers as Cleveland had just scored a touchdown to take a 7-6 lead on a Kizer touchdown throw. But you can only keep a good team down only so long. The Chargers offense finally got its act together in the third quarter to punch in 10 points to allow L.A. to pull away. Travis Coons, who booted four field goals on the day, added three more points in the fourth quarter to provide the game’s final margin for the Chargers.
While Rivers and the Chargers offensive unit played a somewhat choppy game, despite raking in 429 yards in total offense, the team’s defensive unit was putting the plow to the Browns. The Chargers defense made Cleveland’s already suspect offense looked anemic through the first three quarters. Kizer, a rookie out of Notre Dame, was limited to completing just eight of the 17 passes he attempted for only 95 yards.
The Browns scratched just 150 yards in total offense from quarters one through three. Cleveland (0-12) seemed to make some headway into the teeth of the Chargers defense with late drives going down the field in the final period. But those two costly turnovers by Kizer wound up being the difference in the Browns winning and going down in defeat for the 12th time this season.
“The Los Angeles Chargers have some great pass rushers on the side that we have been focusing on all week,” said Kizer. “I did a pretty good job containing them for most of the game. When you get into a position when you are down by a couple of points, you try to make things happen. You are going to try and hold the ball a little longer to put guys in a position to make better plays.”