Chargers win close one against Browns

Listen to this article

The San Diego Chargers started their game against the visiting Cleveland Browns slow. After a kick off from Josh Lambo that went into the Cleveland end zone, Justin Gilbert of the Browns brought the ball out to their 35-yard line, showing one spot where the Chargers need some work: special teams.

But it was a quick three-and-out for the Browns as they punted from their 44-yard line, putting San Diego on it’s own 8-yard line.

It didn’t go well for quarterback Philip Rivers and his offense. He passed three times and all three were incomplete. Mike Scifres punted, giving the Browns great field position, but three plays later Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown was sacked and fumbled the ball.

But the Chargers were unable to convert.

With the next drive the Browns were able to go from their 18-yard line to the San Diego 18-yard line where kicker Travis Coons made a field goal.

The Chargers answered with a touchdown. It was with this San Diego drive that Cleveland started racking up the costly penalties. Defensive holding gave the Chargers five yards and a free first down. In eight plays San Diego moved the ball to the Cleveland 28. Rookie Melvin Gordon ran twice for eight yards and Danny Woodhead ran for 11 and caught a pass.

San Diego got its first score on a touchdown pass from Rivers to Keenan Allen, and the extra point gave the Chargers a three-point lead.

It didn’t take long for the Browns to jump out to another lead, after they scored a touchdown early in the second quarter.

Both teams traded scores and the half ended in a 13-13 tie.

It was in the second half that the Chargers offense began to come alive. The Browns scored another field goal to take the lead, but the Chargers jumped out to a 20-16 lead after Danny Woodhead caught a pass for 62 yards, most of it on the ground. That set up pass from Rivers to LaDarius Greene for a touchdown, Greene’s 2nd this season. Rivers was under pressure, threw a rainbow pass while getting tackled and Greene made a circus catch in the end zone with a defender right on him. The score was 20-16 Chargers.

The Browns were able to score another field goal to close the score to 20-19.

Rivers was sacked at the end of third quarter, forcing a punt, but then McCown was sacked on the opening drive of the fourth quarter. A touchdown pass to John Phillips put the Chargers ahead, 27-19

Cleveland was able to come back and tie the game on a 10-play drive that saw an exciting catch that was first ruled incomplete. Cleveland challenged the call and it was reversed, putting the Brown on the San Diego half-yard line.

The Chargers during practice
The Chargers during practice

Gary Barnidge caught a pass From Josh McCown and then the Browns converted on a two-point conversion, tying the score at 27 a piece.

That brought one of the more dramatic finished to a game the NFL has ever witnessed. Brandon Oliver received the kick off three yards in the end zone and brought it out to the San Diego 27.

With the 2-minute warning stopping play during the drive, the Chargers methodically moved the ball downfield, Danny Woodhead ran the ball for 19 yards on one play and ran twice more after that for another four yards total.

This put the Chargers in position for Josh Lambo to kick a 39-yard field goal for the win. With just seconds left in the game, Lambo took his shot, missed slightly to the right. It looked like the game would go to overtime, but in a costly error, the Brown were penalized for being offside, giving Lambo a second try, five yards closer. He made that one and the game was over — the score Chargers 30, the Browns 27.

Both quarterbacks did well, Josh McCown passing for 356 yards on 32 passes. Philip Rivers had 358 yards on 23 passes. There were no interceptions.

Eight different players caught passes for the Chargers, but they ended the game with only two wide receivers able to play. Malcolm Floyd was out with a concussion and Stevie Johnson suffered a hamstring injury during the game. He caught four passes for 32 yards and Floyd had one pass for 20 yards.

Duke Johnson, Jr. caught nine passes for the Browns, totaling 85 yards. They had six receivers with more than 20 yards each.

The Browns had more rushing yards, 100 to the Chargers’ 91.

The big stat in the game: the Browns helped the Chargers with 12 penalties, many of them foolish. Lambo missed field goal at end of game, but a Cleveland offsides penalty gave him a second shot at the game-winning field goal, which he completed.

Danny Woodhead had a big impact on the game with 136 combined yards.

The defense did a good job against the Browns, but they allowed 456 yards of offense that kept the Browns in the game.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming up next week and then a trip to Green Bay to play the Packers in Lambeau Field, the Chargers needs to improve if they expect to win those games. Like the Chargers, the Steelers are 2-2, but the Packers are 4-0 and Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league.

 (Los Angeles Post-Examiner Staff contributed to the reporting
All photos by Claudia Gestro