The tough stretch of Cleveland’s schedule starts with the Chargers
The Chargers and Browns entered this game each with 3-1-0 records. This game is crucial to see what type of team Cleveland actually has this year. Super Bowl contenders or Super Bowl pretenders? Los Angeles is a very good football club so a good showing plus a win were essential to the Browns. But in a high-scoring game, Cleveland lost 47-42.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
RB Nick Chubb – Absolutely a workhorse performance for Chubb. 21 carries for 161 yards. His 52-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was all Nick Chubb with Donovan Peoples-Jones taking out Chargers’ cornerback Michael Davis to set him free. Awesome job.
Rightside offensive line – The majority of the huge gains and runs that had to be made came towards the right side anchored by RG Wyatt Teller and RT Jack Conklin with additional blocking by tight ends Austin Hooper or Harrison Bryant.
TE David Njoku – First down was a seven-yard completion to OBJ. Now second and three, a strike to Njoku who pushed aside defender Nasir Adderley like a rag doll before outrunning the closing Los Angeles defense. This score provided Cleveland with a 35-28 lead. Was a good blocker in the running game as well.
Special Teams – K Chase McLaughlin hit both field goals and was 4/4 on PATs. Kickoff coverage is outstanding with Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, Elijah Lee, Grant Delpit, A.J. Green, Demetric Felton and Jovante Moffatt all making contributions and keeping Los Angeles in bad field position including one down at the 12-yard line and another beginning at the 15. P Jamie Gillan had one punt for 53-yards.
DT Malik McDowell – The Chargers could not run up the middle and had to resort to catching the end as McDowell was too much today. In the second quarter McDowell beat tackle Rashawn Slater badly for the sack. His fumble recovery just before the half got Cleveland the ball deep in Los Angeles territory.
First half time of possession – The Browns had a 20-13 lead at halftime by keeping the ball 20:59 of game clock.
Refusing points – Third week in a row that head coach Kevin Stefanski did not take the field goal. On their third possession down 14-10, a fourth-and-two at the Chargers’ 17 fell incomplete. At game’s end, Cleveland would have been up 45-41 instead of 42-41. This meant the Chargers had to score a touchdown instead of only looking to kick for three instead. Yes, Kareem Hunt scored on another fourth down attempt, but the Browns really needed that four-point cushion with the Chargers’ final drive.
WR Odell Beckham, Jr. – The dropped ball on that fourth-and-two was inexcusable. This man has a cap hit of $15.750 million this year alone and is paid to make those catches. Instead of leading the team in reception yards, four others had more grabs.
Deep coverage – Where do you start? How does a guy like Mike Williams, ranked ninth in the league going into this game, just run on by and catch an uncontested 42-yard touchdown? Fans in that end zone were closer than Cleveland defender John Johnson. The Chargers’ first touchdown was TE Donald Parham all by himself. On their second touchdown Williams was again all by himself for a 72-yard score. What is going on with the safety position?
Chargers’ fourth down conversions – Three for four. Yikes. Los Angeles made a 4-2, 4-7 and a 4-8.
Chargers’ third down conversions – Seven for 15. Yikes again. Los Angeles converted three third-and-10 plays, one for a touchdown. These numbers are horrible.
LB Anthony Walker – Out of position for a good portion of the game. The Browns stayed in the 4-2-5 which meant no real middle linebacker which hurt with open gaps in the center of the field. Walker missed two tackles including on a second-and-four with 4:17 left in the game. Twice he allowed TE Parham to run past him; one of which was a touchdown. He was late in coverage of Williams on a key third-and-two with just over a minute left in the third. The touchdown run by Herbert was Walker’s territory to cover.
Bogus pass interference call – Facing a third-and-four at their own 41 and down 35-28 in the fourth quarter, a long pass attempt to Chargers’ receiver Mike Williams clearly showed the offensive player had a fistful of jersey of Cleveland cornerback A.J. Green. Then, Williams pulled Green to the turf. The Browns were called for the PI. Six plays later Los Angeles ties the game 35-all. Is “crock” a football term?
Pass rush – For most of the game, Chargers’ QB Justin Herbert had all the time he wanted to throw. Browns defensive front had eight QB hits but only two sacks. Takk McKinley and Myles Garrett each had their moments, but overall Los Angeles had plenty of time to pass.
Milk Bones – it starts with “here, hold my beer….”
CB Greedy Williams – For someone who is known for poor tackling skills, this man has changed his image as he led all defenders with 10 total tackles plus one batted ball. Absolutely leveled Chargers receiver Keenan Allen with 3:28 left in the game. Had two third-and-long completions that hurt the Browns’ chances of getting off the field. With 7:45 left in the third, a third-and-seven was converted for 12-yards on an easy toss to Allen. The end result was an LA touchdown two plays later. On a third-and-10 midway through the final stanza Williams failed to cover Mike Williams who gained 10-yards. That drive also concluded with a touchdown.
RB Kareem Hunt – Two touchdown day with five catches for 28 yards and another 61 rushing yards. Excellent blocking when kept in.
WR Rashard Higgins – Finally, a Hollywood sighting. Seems to be Baker Mayfield’s go-to guy. Targeted five times with three receptions for 29 yards and Cleveland’s first touchdown.
LT Blake Hance – Most of the bigger gains were to the rightside, but the young man who had to fill in for Jedrick Wills had his ups-and-downs this game. But basically he held his own and did not allow any sacks.
FB Andy Janovich – Why does any NFL club employ a fullback these days? Watch the replay on Hunt’s first touchdown run and see what Janovich did as the lead blocker.