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Browns don't 'make enough plays to win' in a game that needed a lot

Whenever the Browns made a play, the Chargers always seemed to have a response

LOS ANGELES — Kevin Stefanski summed it up perfectly at the podium Sunday at SoFi Stadium after the Browns fell on the wrong side of one of the wildest finishes of the current NFL season.

The Browns lost, 47-42, to the Chargers after both sides combined for eight second-half touchdowns and 1,024 total yards. The game featured the most points in an NFL contest this year, and the Browns were simply out of time to find even more points once time expired.

"We didn't come through there in a couple spots," Stefanski said. "I'm sure there are 1,000 reasons why."

Stefanski couldn't pinpoint one reason to sum it up. Defensive struggles on key downs, a slowdown of momentum from the Browns' offense and injuries to every cornerback on the roster were among the reasons why the Browns failed to stay ahead — but Stefanski, of course, wasn't in the mood for excuses.

The Browns had plenty of chances to beat a Chargers team that had established themselves as one of the best in the AFC prior to Week 5. They led at two separate points in the fourth quarter but failed to hang on with their defense and add cushion with their offense.

Two touchdowns by Chargers RB Austin Ekeler in the final 4 minutes put the Chargers ahead for good and erased the work from the Browns' 531 total net yards. Los Angeles, meanwhile, converted on all three of its fourth down attempts and amassed 492 total net yards of its own.

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

When the Browns found a big play, the Chargers always had a response.

"We just had some busts," safety John Johnson III said. "We had some guys who weren't really doing our job. I feel like we just didn't get our depth in and finish the plays. Guys were just wide open."

Chargers WR Mike Williams was the one who benefited most from these breakdowns. He finished with 165 receiving yards and caught two touchdowns, one for 72 yards in the first half and another for 42 yards to open a fourth quarter full of offensive fireworks, which highlighted the issues the Browns faced from a communication standpoint at several moments of the afternoon.

His big plays — as well as the 398-yard, four-touchdown performance from Chargers QB Justin Herbert — spoiled any of the progress the Browns seemed to make on offense. 

RB Nick Chubb sprinted for a 52-yard touchdown at the beginning of the second half. TE David Njoku raced ahead of the Chargers defense for a 71-yard touchdown three possessions later. And on the next drive, Kareem Hunt scored his second touchdown of the day on an 8-yard sprint.

All of those put the Browns ahead of the Chargers by at least a touchdown. None of them, however, were enough in the end.

"We didn't make enough plays to win the game," said QB Baker Mayfield, who passed for 305 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers. "That goes for everybody on our team."

The defense attempted to hold the Chargers out of the end zone late despite the fact that all five of its cornerbacks spent time in the injury tent at one point during the game. 

Greedy Williams (shoulder) and Denzel Ward (neck) didn't finish the game and will both undergo MRIs on Monday. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah also sustained a throat contusion and was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation after the game. 

Troy Hill, M.J. Stewart Jr., and AJ Green all filled in considerable roles and had the trust of Stefanski to perform well, but the Chargers — who boast one of the top offensive playmaking trios in the league in Williams, WR Keenan Allen (six receptions, 75 yards) and Ekeler (119 yards from scrimmage) — was too difficult to handle.

"We'll win as a team and we'll lose as a team," Stefanski said. "We've got to find ways to get stops, and we have been doing that as a defense. We didn't do it today."

The Browns know they're capable of being better. 

They held opponents to single-digits in consecutive games for the first time since 1995 before this week, while the offense rebounded with their highest scoring performance of the season after struggling to consistently find points last week in Minnesota.

"We've got to do a better job," Stefanski said. "With all these things, I would tell you that I need to do a better job, and I share in that loss, just like everybody else."

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