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Browns can’t overcome bad defense again in 30-28 loss to Chargers, as York misses game-winner

K Cade York missed a game-winning field goal try from 54 yards.

Los Angeles Chargers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns were oh-so-close again, and this time, the Los Angeles Chargers tried giving the Browns a gift at the end to win it. They still came up short, falling 30-28 and dropping their record to 2-3 on the season. Let’s get to the full game recap.

Cleveland received the opening kickoff and moved quickly. QB Jacoby Brissett had a 10-yard completion to WR Amari Cooper, followed by a 14-yard run by RB Nick Chubb. Brissett scrambled for 9 yards to get past midfield, and then on 2nd-and-1 from the 41 yard line, Chubb dodged several tackles and then cut back inside for a 41-yard touchdown, giving the Browns a 7-0 lead.

On the Chargers’ first drive, QB Justin Herbert slid short of a first down on a 3rd-and-2 scramble, but S Grant Delpit was flagged for unnecessary roughness trying to tackle the quarterback. Los Angeles continued driving into Cleveland territory, but on a 3rd-and-2 pass play from the 28 yard line, the defense defended it to force an incompletion. With K Dustin Hopkins sidelined, the Chargers decided to go for it. Unlike last year when their fourth-down success rate was absurd against the Browns, Herbert’s short pass to WR Mike Williams was incomplete, with CB Denzel Ward in on the coverage.

Cleveland capitalized on their next drive, and this time it was more so through the air. Brissett completed passes of 20, 6, and 11 yards to Cooper, the last of which was a touchdown pass to give the Browns a 14-0 lead. It’s also worth mentioning that RB Kareem Hunt had runs of 17 and 6 yards.

Just when you thought Cleveland’s defense could be fired up to get another stop, Los Angeles began the next drive with a handoff to RB Austin Ekeler, who went 71 yards untouched before being chased down from behind by CB Greg Newsome at the 4 yard line.

That chase down proved to be huge, as Herbert’s first two passes were incomplete. A false start ahead of third down made it 3rd-and-goal from the 9, and Herbert’s pass was also incomplete, forcing them to settle for a 28-yard field goal to make it a 14-3 game.

On second down of the next drive, Brissett just barely missed Chubb on an improvised play up the right sideline. On 3rd-and-7, Brissett’s out route to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones was too far out in front, requiring a diving catch that only gained a yard. The Browns punted, with Los Angeles taking over at the 25 yard line with 0:41 left in the first quarter.

The Chargers moved a long distance in that short stretch before the end of the quarter. DE Alex Wright was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty on the first play, and then to end the quarter, Herbert lofted a pass to Williams down the right seam, who made the nice 38-yard catch over Ward and down to the 18 yard line. Unlike their first drive, the Chargers finished this one, with backup RB Josh Kelley walking in along the right edge untouched for a 5-yard touchdown, making it a 14-10 game with 13:39 remaining in the second quarter.

Cleveland ran the ball twice to begin their next drive, setting up a 3rd-and-4. Brissett couldn’t connect with Cooper on third down, and replays showed an open Peoples-Jones over the middle. P Corey Bojorquez punted 61 yards down to the 1 yard line, a beauty downed by CB Martin Emerson. Unfortunately, the defense quickly allowed a first-down pass to give Los Angeles some breathing room.

Not only did they get breathing room, but they were picking up yards in chunks, basically untouched: 10 and 15 yard runs by Ekeler, then a 22-yard dumpoff to Kelley. A few plays later, when the Chargers would’ve had a 3rd-and-5 at the 21 yard line coming up, S John Johnson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for presumably yelling at officials for not calling a blindside block that was delivered to one of his teammates. That set up a 1st-and-goal at the 10 yard line. A screen pass to Ekeler is what was needed for the touchdown, giving the Chargers a 17-14 lead with all of their points coming unanswered at the 5:51 mark of the second quarter.

After a couple of drives with three-and-outs, the Browns got a big 38-yard completion to TE David Njoku. After a 5-yard pass to Njoku, Chubb burst through the left side for a gain of 29 yards to the 3 yard line. The next two plays fizzled out, setting up 3rd-and-goal from the 4 yard line. Brissett’s pass to Cooper was incomplete, but DT Sebastian Joseph-Day was flagged for a late hit on Brissett, which seemed incredibly cheap to call. That made it 1st-and-goal from the 2 yard line. The Browns punched it in with a run by Chubb up the middle, reclaiming the lead at 21-17 with 2:55 remaining in the half. Here’s the run that got them down there to begin with:

The Chargers faced a 3rd-and-1 heading to the two-minute warning. They tried a fullback handoff for some reason, and Clowney stuffed it, forcing a punt. The Browns got the ball back at the 28 yard line after the punt, with 1:48 remaining and 1 timeout. The drive started with an 8-yard run by Hunt, and then a 17-yard pass to Njoku. Cleveland got in range for a 45-yard field goal try by K Cade York, but his attempt wasn’t even close, pushed to the right to end the half.

The missed field loomed large right out of the gate, because Los Angeles easily drove down the field to begin the third quarter, finishing off the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run by Ekeler to give them a 24-21 lead.

To make matters worse, on Cleveland’s next drive, they immediately faced a 4th-and-short from their own 34 yard line. Rather than going for the quarterback sneak that has been automatic with Brissett, they did a slow-developing handoff to Hunt. The whole Chargers’ defensive front burst through to stuff Hunt for a loss of four yards.

Herbert got a nice 16-yard pass to Williams to set up a goal-to-go situation. However, three straight incompletions, including a nice open field tackle by Newsome on third down in the flat, forced the Chargers to settle for a 25-yard field goal. That extended the Chargers’ lead to 27-21 with 5:47 remaining in the third quarter.

Brissett found Peoples-Jones for a 19-yard gain to get close to midfield on the next drive. That was followed by passes of 16- and 14 yards to Peoples-Jones, down to the 26 yard line. A few runs got the Browns closer, but then on 3rd-and-5 from the 11 yard line, Brissett found Njoku over the middle for a completion down to the 3 yard line. On 1st-and-goal from the 3 yard line, Hunt got the carry and jumped over the pile and extended the ball for the touchdown, tying the game at 27-27. York came on to kick the extra point and give the Browns a 28-27 lead with 0:55 to go in the third quarter.

The Chargers went up-tempo to begin their next drive, with a 4-yard run by Ekeler and then a pass to Williams for no gain. That set up a 3rd-and-6 situation heading to the fourth quarter. After the intermission, Herbert’s pass went to Carter on the late crosser for 7 yards and a first down. That was their best chance at stopping the Chargers from getting into scoring range, as they continued running the ball down the Browns’ throats — Ekeler for 17 yards, Kelley for 16 yards, etc. Eventually, the Chargers faced a 1st-and-10 at the 12 yard line. Two short plays to Ekeler set up 3rd-and-7 from the 9 yard line. Herbert’s pass to the goal line was incomplete, bringing on the field goal unit for a 27-yard attempt. K Taylor Bertolet connected to put the Chargers back on top 30-28 with 9:29 left in the game.

Cleveland’s next drive started at the 18 yard line. The first play was a handoff to Chubb, who went around the right side for 16 yards. He followed that up with a burst of 11 yards. A few plays later, on a key 3rd-and-7, Brissett found Njoku on the crossing route for 8 yards and a first down, into Chargers territory. On a 3rd-and-9, Brissett then somehow pulled off a Houdini to get away from a sack and run for 20 yards! After a 11-yard shuffle pass to Njoku, that got Cleveland into field goal range. On 1st-and-10 from the 12 yard line, Chubb was stopped for a loss of 3 yards. On 2nd-and-13, Brissett hit WR David Bell for 6 yards, setting up 3rd-and-7 from the 9 yard line. That’s when Brissett went from hero to goat, scrambling to his right with room to run...and then he pulled up and threw an interception across his body. Ugh.

The Chargers took over with 2:44 to play at the 17 yard line, and the Browns having all of their timeouts. After a 1-yard run by Ekeler, the Chargers ran a playaction fake and Herbert had Williams wide open for 19 yards. With the fresh set of downs, the Browns had not burned two timeouts.

Kelley ran for no gain, and Cleveland used their final timeout. On the last play before the two-minute warning, Herbert completed an 7-yard pass to the lengthy Williams, despite Emerson having very tight coverage on him. Cleveland’s last stand would come after the two-minute warning, facing a 3rd-and-3 from the Chargers’ 44 yard line. Ekeler gained 2 yards, making it 4th-and-1. They ran the clock down and took a timeout. Stunningly, they came back out and tried to go for it, and the pass was incomplete on the slant.

The Browns took over at the Chargers’ 46 yard line, only needing a field goal with 1:10 to go. They only managed one first down to Cooper to get to the 35 yard line. That brought York on to try a 54 yard field goal, and he pushed it to the right again, no good. Ugh again.

Up next, the Browns will host the New England Patriots.

Quick Hitters

  • QB Jacoby Brissett: 21-of-34 for 230 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 3 rushes, 32 yards.
  • RB Nick Chubb: 17 carries, 134 yards, 2 TD.
  • RB Kareem Hunt: 11 carries, 47 yards, 1 TD.
  • WR Amari Cooper: 7 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD.
  • TE David Njoku: 6 catches, 88 yards.
  • K Cade York: Missed 2 field goals.