Browns Stumbled In San Diego

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Oct 4, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback

Josh McCown

(13) throws a pass during the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

How Did The To The Game Lead To The Winner Being Decided As Time Expired?

RB Duke Johnson earned his first NFL start as the Browns traveled west. Johnson, a third round pick in this year’s draft, made the most of his shot to be a difference maker for the Browns offense. As part of a first half that saw Johnson catch 7 passes for 82 yards, Johnson scored his first NFL touchdown on a 34 yard deep route up the seam.

QB Josh McCown ended the first half 19 of 26 for 212 yards with the touchdown throw to Johnson. He even engineered a 70 yard drive that saw him go 6 of 8 en route to a K Travis Coons field goal which ended the half tied at 13.

The Browns did strike first with Coons’s first field goal on the Browns second drive. After a bad three and out, TE Gary Barnidge took a McCown pass 28 yards on the drive leading to the Browns taking the 3-0. It was a great response by McCown, who fumbled the previous drive and looked like he would struggle in the early going for the second week in a row.

However, the Chargers have a pretty good quarterback of their own in Philip Rivers. On the drive immediately after the first Coons’ field goal, Rivers hit WR Keenan Allen for 28 yards. Allen made a leaping grab over top of CB Pierre Desir, who started for injured CB Joe Haden. Desir was simply outmuscled by the physical Allen in the end zone. That score gave the Chargers their first lead at any point in an opening quarter this season.

Rivers spent much of the first half untouched, as the Browns still failed to register a sack and apply any pressure. Despite the depth issues up front for San Diego, the Browns and DC Jim O’Neil dialed up very little pressure at all. That may have been due to the injuries starters Haden and DE Desmond Bryant had.

San Diego added two field goals from Lambo of 46 and 45 yards in the second quarter. Both field goals were set up by big plays from their backfield. RB Melvin Gordon, the top pick for the Chargers this year, busted right through the heart of the Browns defense for a 28 yard run to set up Lambo’s first attempt. Then, it was RB Danny Woodhead taking a swing pass 16 yards to get Lambo within range for his 46 yard kick.

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The second half featured far more fireworks than the field goal rich first half. Rivers threw for his longest career completion twice. The first went 62 yards to Woodhead, which led to a 19 yard touchdown by TE Ladarius Green on the very next play. That score gave the Chargers a 20-16 lead in response to a Coons field goal earlier in the quarter.

After another Coon field goal in the fourth quarter, Rivers hit WR Dontrelle Inman, who was only on the field due to injuries for a 68 yard pick up. Inman was pushed out on the one yard line after torching the Browns secondary. Two plays later, TE John Phillips caught a Rivers pass in the back of the endzone to put San Diego up 27-19.

McCown’s excellent day continued through the second half as well. In the third quarter, McCown hit RB Isaiah Crowell for a 53 yard gain to set up a 33 yard kick from Coons. The biggest play of the day came in the fourth from the latest Brown to breakout, TE Gary Barnidge. Just a week after going over 100 yards against the Raiders, Barnidge dove at the one yard line and caught a McCown pass on the sideline.

At first, the catch was waved off with the signal showing Barnidge was out of bounds. The replay would show Barnidge had both an elbow and a knee down and Browns head coach Mike Pettine successfully overturned the call on a challenge. Barnidge then caught a one yard pass for a score two plays later. A Taylor Gabriel two point conversion was then added to the score, as the Browns rallied to tie the game at 27.

This is still the Browns, however. Rivers led the Chargers quickly down the field, hitting Green for a 19 yard pick up, while also watching Woodhead drive right up the middle of the Browns defense for another 19 yard gain to set up Lambo’s game winning kick. 12 penalties and a suspect defense wasted a great effort from the Browns offense, which pushed Cleveland back to the AFC North basement.

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