INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – Whew! That was a lot of fun. Fans attending SoFi Stadium hoping to be entertained by the Los Angeles Chargers and Cleveland Browns in their Week 5 NFL matchup were not disappointed.
Justin Herbert and Baker Mayfield traded acrobatic throws and touchdowns like gift-wrapping packages. Mike Williams turned the football field into his own personal playground. Playmakers from both teams were turning passes into scoring highlight-reel clips.
The fourth quarter was a doozy. It looked like a video game out there. The Chargers trailed the Browns by one point entering the period. By the time everything was said and done, Herbert and the Chargers had put four touchdowns on the board in the final quarter to offset Cleveland’s two scores.
“It was unreal,” Herbert said. “I looked back at the stats, and I think it was 26 [points] in the fourth quarter, 34 points total in the second half. I think that’s huge for our offense.”
Stopping the run was like trying to stop water for the Chargers. Then again, neither team figured out a way how to do that.
Slowing Cleveland’s rushing attack was going to be a hard task for the Chargers to deal with from the start. Led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns came into the game with the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 177 yards per game.
The Chargers’ run defense was No. 29 entering their contest with the Browns. Cleveland wound up rushing for 230 yards in the game. In his postgame comments, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley addressed his team’s futility in stopping the run.
“I’m not pleased with how it went today,” Staley said. “I don’t think we played or coached well enough today. What we have to do is tell the truth about what’s happening. This is the second time in a game that we’ve given up far too many yards. What happens is it has a really adverse effect on the team because it limits possessions for your offense. We have to play better, and we have to coach it better.”
The Browns’ No. 3 pass defense did not exactly get a reprieve from Herbert or from the Chargers’ offense. Like he has done since he has taken over the reins as the team’s starting quarterback, Herbert produced another superb outing.
Herbert passed for 398 yards and four touchdowns in torching Cleveland’s secondary. He also had a rushing score to give himself five touchdowns on the afternoon in a very remarkable day to lead the Chargers to a 47-42 win Sunday.
“To win a game like this, one that turns into a track meet, you have to have a superstar quarterback to win it,” remarked Staley. “That’s what he is, he was fantastic in the game. That’s an awesome defense that he’s playing against, that defense is really good.”
Staley continued, “Seeing them in person, they’re very complete — they have front rushers, they have second-level players that can run. They’re doing a really nice job coaching the secondary — J.J. [Browns S John Johnson III] and T-Hill [Browns CB Troy Hill] have really helped stabilize that group. They have a lot of players. For us to play like we did today, it starts with Justin.”
Herbert, for sure, is the Chargers’ triggerman that makes the Chargers go. But he has plenty of co-stars in this season’s production. What can you say about the way Williams has played thus far this season.
Of the five games the 4-1 Chargers have played in, Williams has had seven or more receptions in four of those games. Against the Browns, Williams made eight catches and turned those receptions into 165 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, Williams has posted 31 catches for 471 yards.
“We believe in him. He is one of the best to do those jump ball-type plays,” Herbert said of Williams. “Any chance I can get the ball one-on-one with him, we feel really comfortable getting that with him.”
In his fifth season with the ballclub, Williams is on his way to having a monster year. Staley likes the way Williams has been playing.
“The guy’s a fantastic receiver,” Staley said. “He’s a complete receiver. He can beat you in the deep part of the field, he can beat you in the first or second level. He can move throughout the formation and what you’re seeing is a guy who, when you need a win, can. He can. The guy’s a clutch player and I’m super proud of him. He’s worked really hard, he’s stayed patient.”
Staying patient is something that Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski was not in describing the Browns blowing two coverages that left Williams completely wide open on his two touchdowns. The two pass plays that Williams scored on covered 42 and 72 yards.
“I will tell you that we will talk about it,” Stefanski said. “It is obviously a miscommunication and we had too many of those. They had big plays. They got behind us on some broken plays, they had some DPIs, so we have to do a better job. I have to look at it and obviously make sure we make those corrections.”
Stefanski was also frustrated with how the Browns were not able to put away the Chargers after holding a 27-13 lead late in the third quarter. After trailing 13-10 in the second quarter, Cleveland reeled off 17 straight points to take the double-digit lead and looked poised to upset the home team.
Obviously, Herbert and the Chargers had other things in mind. Starting with a scoring drive in the third quarter, the Chargers scored 15 successive points to take a 28-27 lead before all of the back-and-forth fireworks took place in the final period.
Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield talked about the Brown’s inability to put down the Chargers after the team’s early advantage in the third quarter.
“Obviously, that’s why we lost,” Mayfield said. “We didn’t make enough plays to win the game, and that goes for everybody on our team. We didn’t do that. Like I said, we left too many points on the board in the first half. It would have been the same outcome, needing a touchdown to tie the ballgame up late in the game if we had done that early on. So, we just have to do our job. We haven’t played a complementary football game yet.”
Featured Image Caption: Oct. 10, 2021. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) scrambles for a 9-yard touchdown run against the Cleveland Browns defense. The Chargers defeated the Browns, 47-42. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline
I write about sports, racial and social justice, culture, and everything else in between. Beat writer for the Rams, Chargers, Lakers, and Clippers. Part of the inaugural Associated Press Sports Editors Diversity Fellowship class. Howard University alum.