Chargers Whip Brown in Cleveland
First Home Loss For Browns at Home in 2018
October 18, 2018
The Cleveland Browns were unbeaten at home in 2018 heading into Sunday’s game with the Los Angeles Chargers. The Browns were 2-0-1 at home and looking like a team that could become a factor in the AFC Central race. They were coming off an impressive division home win over the Baltimore Ravens. That was until the Chargers rolled into Cleveland and crushed their hopes.
Behind a running attack that averaged 6.8 yards per carry and gained a total of 246 yards on the ground, the Chargers rolled over the Browns 38-14 in an impressive road win in a place the locals call “The dog Pound.” In the process, the Chargers signaled to the NFL that they are no longer a one-dimensional offense.
The Chargers have struggled to run the football for the past decade. The Chargers have not had a top ten NFL rushing attack since 2007, when they finished 7th in the NFL in rushing yardage per game, averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
The 2018 Chargers are currently 6th in the NFL in rushing yardage per game and 3rd in average per carry at 5.1 yards. They still have their potent passing attack that led the NFL in passing yardage in 2017, but they now have balance in their offensive attack.
Charger Head Coach Anthony Lynn stated that, ““The running game was clicking. The guys up front were knocking them off the ball. We were giving them some misdirection and keeping them off balance to try and keep the linebackers on their heels and off their toes. We just did a good job. (Chargers Offensive Coordinator) Ken (Whisenhunt) did a great job of calling that game today and just keeping them off balance.”
Charger quarterback Philip Rivers added: “We had a heck of a plan and they executed it. We talk a lot about balance and I think that’s what helps some of those run actions. We haven’t had many days when we’ve ran more than we’ve thrown, from what I can remember. Those are fun. I’ll take those any time we can get them.”
Sunday’s performance was the best rushing performance by a Charger team since a 289-yard rushing game versus the Denver Broncos on December 28th, 2008. In that game, the Chargers were led by Darren Sproles and Hall of famer LaDainian Tomlinson.
Against the Browns, the Chargers were led by Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. The current two backs are the best backfield tandem in the NFL, leading the NFL in total yards from scrimmage.
Melvin Gordon, who had 132 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns in the game, was quick to credit the offensive line: “Hats off to everyone. The offensive line is playing well as a group. They understand the scheme and what’s going on. That makes it a lot better for me. The harder we run, the harder they block. We’re only getting better.”
The Charger offensive line, with the addition of three-time pro bowl center Mike Pouncey in free agency, has noticeably improved. The addition of tight end Virgil Green, one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL, has also helped.
It seems like everyone on the team, including Rivers, is making the additional effort to block and stay with their blocks until the end of the play. On an end around in the 3rd quarter, Rivers got enough of the defender to get Keenan Allen a first down. Allen jokingly called Rivers “a savage” for his effective lead block.
The Chargers had other significant contributors to the victory on Sunday. Wide Receiver Tyrell Williams caught three passes for 118 yards and two touchdown receptions. On a first down from their own 11-yard line, Rivers dropped back and connected with Williams for a 44-yard completion deep over the middle.
On the next play, Rivers threw another deep pass to Williams, who somehow beat three triple coverage and wrestled the ball away from a defender for the touchdown. An 89-yard drive in two plays.
Rivers completed 11 of 20 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. The defense did their part, sacking Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield five times and cornerback Desmond King intercepted Mayfield twice. The defense line had four of the five sacks, which is a good sign for the Chargers. The return of defensive tackle Corey Liuget has made a difference.
The victory moves the Chargers to 4-2 for the season. The Chargers travel this weekend to London for a “home game” against the Tennessee Titans. They are 3-3 for the season but have struggled offensively and are averaging just 14 points per game. They have also failed to score a touchdown in the last eight quarters and in three of their six games. They will need to score points to keep up with this Charger offense.