LOS ANGELES — The Browns’ lone win over the past two seasons came against the Chargers on Christmas Eve in 2016. But leading up to a rematch in Los Angeles this weekend, they played down that triumph and shrugged off the idea of revenge.
“Let’s be honest, we’re are an 0-11 football team. I don’t think they're looking for revenge per se,” coach Hue Jackson said earlier in the week. “They have something to play for."
That was indeed the case as the Chargers overpowered the Browns, 19-10, Sunday afternoon at the StubHub Center.
Trailing 19-10 with under five minutes to play, Cleveland (0-12) rallied before defensive end Joey Bosa dashed those hopes, strip-sacking rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer on third-and-goal. [
It was Chargers (6-6) quarterback Philip Rivers and his team’s high-flying offense, however, that stole the show. They rolled up 421 yards — including 344 through the air — while the Browns struggled on both sides of the ball in what was also wide receiver Josh Gordon’s much-anticipated debut.
Gordon, who was reinstated last month after multiple suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, played his first regular-season game in almost three years. The NFL’s leading receiver in 2013, he showed flashes of that talent Sunday, catching four passes for 85 yards on 11 targets.
But generally speaking, Cleveland’s offense struggled throughout the afternoon despite bright moments from Gordon, running back Duke Johnson Jr. and tight ends David Njoku and Seth DeValve, who combined for 107 yards on six catches.
Meanwhile, the veteran Rivers completed 31-of-43 attempts for 344 yards and a 7-yard touchdown to wide receiver Keenan Allen that punctuated a tide-turning drive to begin the second half.
That play was part of a span that saw Los Angeles score 13 unanswered points en route to earning a sixth win in eight games. Allen, who has played a pivotal role in powering that stretch, led the Chargers with 10 receptions for 105 yards.
To be certain, Rivers’ favorite targets on this afternoon were, at times, his tight ends. Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates combined for nine catches for 100 yards on 13 targets (including six receptions for 62 yards on the team’s two first two possessions).
Still, the Browns’ defense employed a bend-don’t-break sort of effort against Rivers and a high-powered offense. While the Chargers outgained Cleveland, 254-124, in the first half, they couldn’t turn that production into points. Instead, they settled for three field goals.
Trailing 6-0 late in the first half, the Browns took their first and only lead when rookie quarterback Kizer tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Njoku. That drive — a five-play, 65-yard march down the field — was helped by Gordon, whose acrobatic 28-yard catch put the team in scoring distance.
Kizer, who has gone through a rollercoaster of highs and lows in his first NFL season, finished with 215 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 15-of-32 attempts. The rookie added 46 yards on five carries.
Still in search of their first win, the Browns next host back-to-back games against the Packers and Ravens. They finish on the road against Chicago and Pittsburgh.
The Browns play the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13.