Week 9 Game Recap: Cleveland Browns 25, San Diego Chargers 32
What you need to know
TE Kellen Winslow, who boasted this week about how he was the game’s best tight end, started slowly. He didn’t record his first catch of the game until just before halftime, but he came alive after that and outgained his counterpart (San Diego’s Antonio Gates) on the stat sheet. Winslow appeared to be shaken up late in the game and limped off, but was able to return.
Overall, QB Charlie Frye did not look good. He looked to be on his way to a productive game after a beautifully thrown 52 yard bomb to WR Joe Jurevicius on Cleveland’s first possession. However, Frye’s next 40 passes netted him just 178 yards (4.45 YPA).
WR Braylon Edwards had his most productive game in weeks. While he didn’t light up the stat sheet, he was targeted more than in any game yet and appears ready to build on his early season success.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson was the difference maker once again. As is often the case, the difference between winning and losing is that the Chargers have Tomlinson, and the opponent doesn’t. After a quiet first half, Tomlinson exploded for 129 yards and three second half touchdowns, each helping to put the game out of reach. After Donovan McNabb’s early season dominance, Tomlinson is quickly gaining steam in the league MVP race.
QB Philip Rivers wasn’t asked to do much, but looked poised and solid whenever he was called upon. The team isn’t afraid to let Rivers handle the big plays anymore, and the team employed a balanced approach. After a rough first half, Rivers settled down to go 9-12 in the second half and convert a key third down to aid in the win.
TE Antonio Gates was very quiet, ending a string of very productive games. He never really came close to scoring on either of his receptions, and wasn’t targeted in the end zone, either.
What you ought to know
|QB Charlie Frye, Pass: 25 - 43 - 236 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 5 - 27 - 0|
Frye was fortunate that his final statistics didn’t look much horrendous. Throwing for 236 yards and a touchdown doesn’t appear terrible, until you realize it took him 43 passes to get to those totals (5.5 yards per pass). And when factoring in that 52 of those yards came on one long pass on the first drive to Joe Jurevicius and the touchdown came late during garbage time, it was plain to see that Frye played very poorly in between. As the commentators mentioned numerous times, Frye appeared to lock in on his receivers for far too long. San Diego LB Donnie Edwards actually predicted earlier in the week that he would intercept a pass because it was easy to read Frye’s eyes and know where he was going with the football. Edwards held to his promise of intercepting Frye, but in reality that pass wasn’t Frye’s fault. It was intended for WR Braylon Edwards, and the ball popped out of his hands and into the hands of Edwards the LB. That was the only one the Chargers could hang onto, but there were several other passes that San Diego defenders had right in their hands only to drop the ball. Two of the near-interceptions would have gone for touchdowns the other way if the passes hadn’t been dropped.
On the bright side for Frye, he did demonstrate good elusiveness in the pocket and an ability to avoid tacklers when they were basically on top of him. However, he seemed to lack the peripheral vision to “feel” when the rush was coming and get rid of the ball (evidenced by the five Charger sacks). The closest he came to scoring outside of the one he actually got was during an early second quarter scramble, on which Frye was tackled at the four yard line. Frye also appeared to have thrown a touchdown pass to RB Jerome Harrison early in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated by a penalty on the Browns. Frye was spared a lost fumble when an illegal contact penalty against San Diego CB Quentin Jammer negated Frye’s lost fumble.
Considering he got 20 touches in the game, Droughns was about as big a non-factor as a player can be. His long run of the game went for just eight yards, and he averaged fewer than two yards per touch. The Browns attempted to establish the run game early by running right up the middle of San Diego’s defense, with absolutely no success. It was a completely nondescript game for Droughns.
Harrison’s big contribution to the game was fumbling away his second carry of the afternoon. Fortunately for him, it bounced right into the arms of WR Joe Jurevicius to maintain possession. Later in the drive, Harrison appeared to have scored on a 12 yard screen pass from Frye, but the play was negated due to a Cleveland penalty.
Edwards scored on a four yard touchdown in garbage time with San Diego already up by 14 points. The score itself was pretty nice, as Edwards fought off a couple of defenders and made his way into the end zone. Aside from that score, Edwards had a very solid afternoon. He showed why Cleveland made him a top pick a year ago when he dove and picked a low throw from Frye just above the ground for a first down reception. He also had a knack for getting open, and again showed no ill effects from last season’s injury. Edwards appears to be getting stronger by the week. The only blemish on his record in this game was an early pass from Frye that Edwards allowed to go off his hands and into the waiting arms of Chargers LB Donnie Edwards for an interception.
Jurevicius was surprisingly active in the game, especially early on. He hauled in a 52 yard bomb on the Browns’ opening possession and was much more involved in the offensive sets as the game went along. San Diego CBs had a lot of trouble with the bigger Jurevicius, twice getting called for penalties in addition to getting beaten on fade routes and deep balls on a couple of occasions. One of the penalties was especially costly, as it negated a Marlon McCree fumble recovery by the Chargers, and awarded possession back to the Browns. Jurevicius appeared to injure his lower back late in the game and came off the field for several plays, but was soon back in just in time to recover a Jerome Harrison fumble and save possession. On Cleveland’s lone touchdown drive that culminated in a Braylon Edwards’ touchdown, Jurevicius nearly scored one play earlier. On a high pass in the end zone, he leaped for the ball and actually had it in his hands momentarily as he was landing, but rookie CB Antonio Cromartie knocked it away at the last minute.
Winslow didn’t register a reception until there were 90 seconds left in the first half, but he more than made up for lost time in a hurry. Over the next minute and a half, he hauled in four passes, and in the second half he caught seven more. Winslow fumbled during a run after the catch early on in the fourth quarter, but fellow TE Steve Heiden was right on the spot to recover the ball and save the turnover. During the Browns’ touchdown drive, Winslow appeared to injure himself and was slow to get up. He eventually did, and returned shortly after.
Dawson had a huge game, setting a new franchise record for field goals in a game with six. Two of them were far from typical, however. Dawson’s second FG of the game, from 20 yards out, was partially tipped at the line but still managed to make it through. Dawson was lucky to have had an opportunity on his third kick. He originally missed from 54 yards out. However, Chargers rookie CB Antonio Cromartie had tried calling timeout for the second consecutive play, which is illegal. As per the rules, that resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which moved the Browns up 15 yards. Following a sack, Dawson lined up for a 42 yard field goal, which he nailed.
It was a tale of two halves for the Browns, as they held All-Pro RB LaDainian Tomlinson to 43 yards on seven first half carries, only to see him go off for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries after halftime. The Browns ended up allowing an average of 8.3 yards per carry to the Chargers, and that’s including the two kneeldowns by QB Philip Rivers. Suffice it to say, this was the main area of the game that was the turning point in the Chargers eventually being able to come back and win the game. The announcers mentioned the Browns employing a bend but don’t break mentality with regard to the defense. In the second half, the defense bent and eventually broke.
The Browns actually played fairly well in this aspect. S Brian Russell saved an early touchdown by knocking a pass away from Eric Parker in the end zone, and it started a trend of Cleveland defenders making plays all game long. At one point, the Browns forced four consecutive three and out possessions, and held the high-powered Chargers offense without a point for over two quarters. The Browns got decent pressure on QB Philip Rivers, particularly in the first half when they were still energized. As the game wore on, Rivers found himself with more time to throw. CB Leigh Bodden aggravated an ankle injury while making a tackle on the Chargers’ opening drive and did not return to the game.
|QB Philip Rivers, Pass: 19 - 28 - 211 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0|
Rivers’ stats look pretty pedestrian, and with good reason. In the first half, the Browns got good pressure on Rivers and made the entire San Diego offense look completely out of synch. At one point, the San Diego offense either punted or turned the ball over on seven consecutive possessions. So, his first half numbers weren’t too great. And in the second half, RB LaDainian Tomlinson absolutely took the game over, and Rivers wasn’t asked to make many plays. When his number was called upon down the stretch, however, he delivered. One of the biggest plays of the game came on a third down and eight at the Cleveland 30 yard line. Rivers bought himself enough time to avoid the rush, and eventually found WR Vincent Jackson down the left sideline for a huge 11 yard pickup. Tomlinson scored two plays later to put the Chargers up by nine, and the Browns never got that close again.
Tomlinson put up his third consecutive monster game, this time running wild on the Browns for 129 second half yards to go along with two touchdowns. It was Tomlinson’s third 100 yard rushing game of the season, and the 31st such game of his career. He broke the 100 yard mark with 12 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, so much of the production came at a time when San Diego needed it most. They had gone seven consecutive possessions that ended with either a punt or turnover before Tomlinson broke a 41 yard touchdown run up the left sideline to put San Diego up for good. His seven yard touchdown run later in the fourth quarter sealed the victory, and prompted commentator Gus Johnson to call Tomlinson not only an awesome player, but “an awesome man”. For good measure, Tomlinson came back in for an eight yard score to help San Diego go up by 14 and officially put the game out of reach.
Turner got a carry in the second quarter that he didn’t do anything with, and then broke a 21 yard run late in the fourth quarter as San Diego tried to run out the clock. Turner simply ran over CB Ralph Brown on his way down the sideline, but couldn’t keep himself inbounds and went out at the eight yard line. Tomlinson scored on the next play.
McCardell put up what has become a typical stat line for him. What made this game different is that he added a potentially costly fumble to the box score. With the Chargers up 10-9 and driving just before halftime, McCardell turned a 27 yard reception into a fumble when the ball was jarred loose during the tackle. The fumble led to a Browns field goal and a 12-10 lead for Cleveland heading into the half. The fumble may have had a silver lining, however, as it may have been the catalyst for HC Marty Schottenheimer’s angry halftime speech to the team that apparently fired them up for the second half.
Parker solidified his role as the de facto number one receiver in San Diego with another unspectacular but productive game. He did impress with a nice leaping grab late in the first half, showing great hands on the play. But as is often the case, the Chargers didn’t throw the ball much in the second half and Parker caught just one more ball after halftime.
Jackson’s stat line isn’t huge by any means, but he had two of the biggest receptions of the game for the Chargers. He hauled in an 11 yard reception on a key third and eight situation late in the fourth quarter, and snagged the two point conversion in the back of the end zone on a fade pass from Rivers soon after. Though these plays don’t light up the fantasy stat sheet, they do demonstrate Rivers’ willingness to look to the young WR even in the biggest spots.
Gates wasn’t looked to very often, and was pretty well covered up for the most part by Cleveland’s interior defenders. Even the catches Gates did make were tough to come by, as had to wrestle the ball away from defenders on each of his two receptions. For the most part, however, Gates was quiet (as evidenced by his stat line).
Kaeding connected on his only field goal attempt, from just 29 yards out. But he once again had a kickoff issue, as he sent the kick out of bounds following LaDainian Tomlinson’s first touchdown of the game. The penalty gave the Browns excellent field position, and led to a Phil Dawson field goal.
To put it bluntly, RB Reuben Droughns was invisible. The Browns tried to establish the run early by attacking the Chargers right up the middle, but Cleveland could never get anything going. This is definitely a case of the stats telling the whole story, as the Browns never were able to muster much of a threat on the ground, and by the second half they became far too one-dimensional.
Aside from a 52 yard bomb to Joe Jurevicius and late game garbage time touchdown drive, the Chargers held the Browns down for the most part. But it could have been a dominating performance if they had better hands. LB Donnie Edwards, who left the game with a leg injury but returned late, was the only player who was actually able to come up with a turnover. CB Quentin Jammer was whistled for an illegal contact penalty that negated a Marlon McCree fumble recovery, CB Drayton Florence dropped a potential interception and touchdown return midway through the second quarter, LB Randall Godfrey dropped a similar touchdown opportunity early in the third quarter, S Marlon McCree dropped an easy interception down the sideline late in the third quarter, CB Drayton Florence should have had an interception on Frye on a pass over the middle midway through the fourth quarter. These weren’t plays where the defensive backs managed to get a fingertip on the ball, mind you; these were balls that are caught by the lowest level football players, right in their hands. Not all opportunities were missed, however. Without LB Shawne Merriman to create havoc in the backfield, the Chargers relied upon Marques Harris to deliver. And he delivered in a big way, recovering a Charlie Frye fumble in the end zone for the Chargers’ only first half touchdown. Following the score, 231-pound Harris showed off his athleticism by completing a total back flip on the field in full equipment. In addition to the Edwards injury, DL Luis Castillo left with an injury late in the first half but no update was given on his condition after the game. For those in IDP dynasty leagues, CB prospect Antonio Cromartie was involved in three key plays in the game. He saved an early touchdown on a long punt return by Dennis Northcutt by taking a nice angle and forcing him out of bounds at the ten yard line. The Browns had to settle for a field goal. Later, Cromartie made a boneheaded play by trying to call a timeout during a Phil Dawson field goal. The problem was, the Chargers had just taken a time out on the previous play and Cromartie was called for a penalty. Dawson missed the original kick, but thanks to the penalty he was able to make the second. Late in the game, Cromartie saved a touchdown that WR Joe Jurevicius seemed to have firmly in his hands, but the rookie CB knocked it away at the last moment.