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3 Big Takeaways: Browns battle through injuries, make adjustments on both sides of the ball

Cleveland entered Sunday’s matchup with some critical injuries and made some adjustments after a few more

Everyone's still catching their breath after a wild, 47-42 shootout in Los Angeles, and we're breaking down some of the top storylines after the Browns fell to 3-2 with their first loss since Week 1.

1. Browns battle through injuries, make adjustments on both sides of the ball

The Browns entered Sunday's matchup with some less-than-ideal injuries at a few critical positions. On defense, CB Greg Newsome II was out for his second straight game and DE Jadeveon Clowney was down with an elbow injury. Offensively, Cleveland was without Jarvis Landry for a third consecutive game and was missing both its starting (Jedrick Wills Jr.) and backup (Chris Hubbard) at left tackle.

Adjustments were made as the team prepared for the game, and many more were necessary after the Browns lost a number of key players throughout the back-and-forth shootout at SoFi Stadium. One thing was abundantly clear in the aftermath of Sunday's loss: Neither coach Kevin Stefanski nor any Browns players from either side of the ball were interested in excuses about the injuries.

It's part of the game, and the Browns had no choice but to adjust.

Defensively, the Browns were hit hard in the secondary, as CB Denzel Ward was lost in the first half to a neck injury and M.J. Stewart (hamstring) went out in the second half while Greedy Williams (shoulder) and Troy Hill were in and out with injuries of their own.

To adjust, second-year CB A.J. Green, who has starred on special teams, was summoned for significant duty and was essentially an every-down player. Hill, the Browns' top option in the slot, got some work on the outside, too, as the Browns struggled to stop Justin Herbert and the Chargers' prolific offense, which posted 398 yards and four touchdowns through the air.

"I hate to even mention injuries because they're part of the game, but we were into our depth in a couple of areas," Stefanski said. "I trust the guys who were in there, but we didn't come through."

On offense, the Browns were forced to play their final few series without All-Pro Jack Conklin (knee) at right tackle. Typically, that would be a moment for Hubbard, the Browns' sixth man, to step in and help fill the void. Instead, with Hubbard out and Blake Hance at left tackle, the Browns went with rookie James Hudson III, whose only experience at right tackle — for his entire playing career — came during parts of the preseason.

Asked about the Browns' play-calling late in the fourth quarter, when they clung to a 42-41 lead and faced a third-and-9 from their own 15 and 2:55 to play, Stefanski pointed to the situation at both tackle spots as an influence on his decision. The Browns opted to run the ball, came up short and were forced to punt. The Chargers scored the game-winning touchdown on the ensuing drive.

"With where we were at our tackle position, quite honestly, I didn't want to give a chance for something bad happening there," Stefanski said. "All these things, I need to do a better job and I share in that loss just like everyone else does."

Check out photos of the Browns against the Chargers in week five

2. Winning the turnover battle wasn't enough

For the first time during the Stefanski era, the Browns lost a game in which they won the turnover battle. 

Before Sunday, Cleveland was 14-0 when winning or tying the turnover battle. That changed in Los Angeles because the Chargers just kept on scoring, especially in the second half, and rendered Austin Ekeler's second-quarter fumble an afterthought.

The Browns cashed in Ekeler's fumble for a field goal as time expired in the first half to extend their advantage, 20-13. There was just a lot of football left. 

Cleveland thought it had another game-changer in the fourth quarter when LB Anthony Walker Jr. scooped up what looked to be a fumble by WR Keenan Allen and ran it back close to the end zone. The officials let the play come to a finish but ultimately ruled Allen had never caught the pass in the first place.

On the season, the Browns are now even on turnovers with four giveaways and four takeaways.

3. Some appreciation for Chubb and Hunt

This five-week stretch from Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb is worth recognizing.

Chubb and Hunt registered their best collective effort of the season Sunday, combining for 218 rushing yards and three touchdowns. They averaged better than 7 yards per carry to push the Browns over 200 rushing yards for the second time this season.

Chubb, who posted the third-highest yardage total of his career with 161 on 21 carries, is now averaging more than 100 yards per game with 523 on the season. Hunt has added 295 on the ground to go along with 149 through the air and five touchdowns.

The Browns came into Sunday's game leading the NFL in rushing and will almost certainly enter Week 6 with the same distinction. They now average 187.6 rushing yards per game

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