Merry Frickin’ Christmas!
Christmas Eve mood pic.twitter.com/HYesUmY01m— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 24, 2016
On the eve of presentry (yes, I just made up a word there), the Cleveland Browns finally won their first game of the season. The fear of going 0-16 are no more, and the stupid parade is off, thanks to the Browns defeating the San Diego Chargers by a score of 20-17. Of course, that also means that Cleveland getting the No. 1 overall pick in the draft is in serious jeopardy, so this might feel like a lump of coal in the stocking for some of you. Either way, let’s get to the breakdown of the game itself.
Despite San Diego’s success in scoring when they get the ball first, the Browns opted to defer when they won the coin toss. The Chargers opened the game with a 50-yard pass from QB Philip Rivers to WR Travis Benjamin, who beat CB Joe Haden. The Chargers got to a 4th-and-1 situation near the goal line and went for it, but converted via a run down to the one yard line. Off of a playaction fake, Rivers found TE Antonio Gates wide open for a touchdown pass from 1 yard out to give them a 7-0 lead.
Philip Rivers & Antonio Gates.@Chargers Touchdown!— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2016
He was wide open! #SDvsCLE https://t.co/mxLl5DZ4sp
Cleveland, shockingly, matched the touchdown on their first drive, although they had the benefit of two personal foul penalties and a pass interference penalty, along with going for it on a fourth down. The drive was capped by an 8-yard rushing touchdown from RB Isaiah Crowell to tie the game at 7-7.
Crowell speeding through the Chargers D with ease... It's a @Browns TD! #DawgPound https://t.co/a78dXLbFW8— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2016
San Diego was held to a 43-yard field goal on their next drive, making it a 10-7 game heading to the second quarter. On Cleveland’s next drive, they were sparked by a big catch-and-run from RB Duke Johnson that also took out two defenders after a sick juke move:
Duuuuuuuukkkkeee#SDvsCLE https://t.co/BCAK2HciAq— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 24, 2016
Then, a 21-yard catch by TE Seth DeValve set up Crowell’s second touchdown run of the game, this time from four yards out, to give the Browns a 14-10 lead. With the Chargers driving on their next possession, Rivers was picked off by CB Jamar Taylor trying to go downfield to Gates. The Browns got in range for a 49-yard field goal, which K Cody Parkey drilled to make it a 17-10 game.
Before the end of the half, WR Terrelle Pryor had a shot at making a long touchdown catch in the end zone, but couldn’t haul it in.
The Browns got the ball to begin the second half and quickly marched downfield with a couple of pass plays and then a 22-yard run by Johnson. With a goal-to-go situation, a false start by C Cameron Erving and then missing a wide open WR Andrew Hawkins prevented another touchdown. They still got a 27-yard field goal to take a two-possession lead at 20-10.
The Chargers responded on their opening drive of the second half with a touchdown, aided by a pass interference penalty on Taylor in the end zone as Rivers lobbed it up for Gates. On 3rd-and-goal from the 1 yard line, Rivers found WR Tyrell Williams to make it a 20-17 game half-way through the third quarter.
After a couple of punts by each team, the Browns converted a 3rd-and-12 with a tight end screen pass of all things to end the third quarter.
The start of the fourth quarter was disastrous for Cleveland. Griffin was sacked on first down, and then made the wrong read-option keeper on second down to get drilled. On third down, he aired a pass way out of bounds, but DE Joey Bosa was flagged for roughing the passer. I thought it was an awful call by the officials, but Cleveland got the benefit of the call.
Both teams traded punts again, and the Browns’ poor offense continued on their next drive. Griffin was drilled in the helmet as he tried to take off, forcing him to exit and rookie QB Cody Kessler to come in on a 3rd-and-10 play. His pass was incomplete after WR Corey Coleman failed to hang on to it, but the play would’ve been shy of the marker regardless.
On the Chargers’ next possession, Cleveland’s defense came up big. On 2nd-and-short, S Tracy Howard had a jarring hit on Gates to force a drop. On 3rd-and-short, the run by RB Kenneth Farrow was stuffed for a loss of a yard by a contingent of Browns defenders. San Diego had to punt, giving Cleveland the ball with under seven minutes to go. They went three-and-out, including a sack on Kessler near his own end zone.
Because of Cleveland having been backed up on their previous drive, the Chargers started their drive in field goal range and got even more cushion with a 20-yard pass to Gates. The defense held after that, and Lambo came in to kick a 32-yard field goal to tie the game at 20-20...but DL JAMIE MEDER BLOCKED IT! The local kid from Cleveland, Ohio!
Jamie Meder blocks the Chargers’ field goal attempt! #SDvsCLE https://t.co/2CwjOfksGx— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 24, 2016
With under four minutes to go, Kessler completed a third down pass to Coleman. Now with three minutes to go, the Chargers had one timeout left. Cleveland could only get it down to just under two minutes before they had to punt. With no timeouts, Rivers got to his own 40 yard line with a couple of completions to Gates. What happened?
4th-and-10...and he found Gates completely uncovered to get into field goal range. But then chaos ensued as the Chargers rushed the field goal unit onto the field as time was expiring...and Lambo’s rushed 45 yard attempt as the ball was snapped at two seconds was NO GOOD! JUST BARELY WIDE RIGHT! HOLY COW!
- QB Robert Griffin III: 17-of-25 for 164 yards. 6 rushes, 42 yards.
- RB Isaiah Crowell: 16 carries, 54 yards, 2 TDs.
- The Browns were sacked nine times.