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Week 13 Game Recap: Cleveland Browns 10, Los Angeles Chargers 19
What you need to know
It was a loss that Browns fans have become all too familiar with this season. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer
continued to struggle with the same issues that have plagued him throughout the season. Kizer's accuracy was inconsistent as he overthrew several of his receivers, including an open Josh Gordon
on several occasions. He also continues to turn the ball over too frequently, turning the ball over on back-to-back possessions in Chargers' territory in the fourth quarter. The Browns rolled out a puzzling game plan as they only gave their running backs 17 carries against a Chargers run defense that has struggled this season, even though the Cleveland defense was able to keep this contest close. Josh Gordon
's return was the main storyline here as he looked just as fast and athletic as he did back in December of 2014, the most recent time we saw him on a football field in a regular season game. Gordon instantly slid in as the No. 1 target in the passing game as he drew passing looks away from Corey Coleman
and Duke Johnson
, who had been operating as the team's top receivers previously. On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns lost two more starters to injury as Danny Shelton (ribs) and Jabrill Peppers (knee) both departed early.
is playing like the best wide receiver in the league, or is at least in the conversation. Once again, he appeared to be completely uncoverable by a defense, dominating the targets and getting open almost at will.
put up big yardage numbers, but had a little trouble getting the ball into the end zone. That being said, it was a very conservative gameplan against a vastly inferior opponent, and one got the sense that the Chargers could have done more if the game ever really got in doubt.
was off to a solid game, but left late in the contest with a leg injury. It appears he avoided serious injury, but be sure to check in on his status during the week to confirm.
|QB DeShone Kizer, 63 offensive snaps, Pass: 15 - 32 - 215 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 5 - 46 - 0|
t was a familiar story for Kizer, who made a few fantastic throws while mixing in several off-targets passes that could have gone for big gains had he put the throw in the right spot. In the fourth quarter, the rookie quarterback lost a fumble and then threw an interception on consecutive possessions in Chargers territory to finish out the game. On the team's second possession of the game, Kizer hit tight end David Njoku
with a great pass but Njoku dropped it. He then took a deep shot to Josh Gordon
, but it was underthrown. The incompletion was nullified due to a roughing the passer penalty Kizer drew from Joey Bosa. Kizer continued the trend of missing Gordon in the second quarter as he overthrew a wide open Gordon on a deep attempt. The play probably could have gone for a touchdown had it been on target. He recovered later in the second quarter to throw his only touchdown pass of the game, a 28-yard strike to Njoku. He made a perfect pass right down the seam to Njoku, who was barely able to stretch over the goal line for the score. In the second half, Kizer started to struggle a bit more. He was almost intercepted by Casey Hayward on his team's first possession in the third quarter. Hayward read Kizer's eyes and jumped the pass but dropped the interception. He then missed Gordon again with an underthrown pass, allowing the defender to break up the pass. On the second drive in the third quarter, he again overthrew an open Gordon on a deep shot down the field. On the plus side, Kizer does continue to show toughness when he chooses to run the ball. He can be a big, physical runner (for a quarterback) when he chooses to take on tacklers instead of sliding. The fourth quarter was Kizer's worst frame. He was able to get the offense moving, getting into Chargers territory twice, but he committed two straight turnovers to help Los Angeles ice the game. The first turnover came on a strip sack where he held onto the ball too long and was hit hard as he was backpedaling in the pocket. The second turnover came on the final offensive play of the game for the Browns, as Kizer forced a poor throw into triple coverage, handing an easy interception to the defense. In all, the return of Josh Gordon
gives Kizer's rest of season outlook a glimmer of hope as the two were a few overthrown balls away from posting huge games for the Browns. If they can improve their chemistry the offense could hit its stride over the final four games.
|RB Isaiah Crowell, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 41 - 0, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets)|
Crowell had a beautiful matchup against a Chargers run defense that had been struggling this season but he wound up seeing just 10 carries, even though the Chargers were never able to get up more than two scores. As has been the case this season, Crowell's usage was very vanilla. He mostly operated on run plays up the middle. His biggest run of the game came on the first drive where he ripped off a 16-yard gain. He was not emphasized in the passing game, seeing just one target, which he caught for three yards. Crowell only saw four carries in the second half of the game as the team elected to skew pass-heavy.
|RB Duke Johnson, 34 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 2 - 0, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (4 targets)|
Johnson turned in his slowest game of the season, totaling just 12 yards on nine touches. He simply couldn't find much space to operate, with the Chargers often bringing him down at or around the line of scrimmage. He was stuffed for negative yardage at least twice, including once on 4th-and-1. Johnson did see a fourth quarter red zone carry but it was nullified by an offensive holding call against Corey Coleman
. Better days are ahead for Johnson but it is concerning that he may become more marginalized on offense with Josh Gordon
|WR Josh Gordon, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 85 - 0 (11 targets)|
Gordon looked good in his first game since December, 2014. He still looks as fast and athletic as ever as he posted one of the best lines a wide receiver has mustered against the Chargers this season. He and quarterback DeShone Kizer
still have to work on their chemistry as Kizer missed him on several passes where Gordon was open. It could have been a huge game as Kizer overthrew an open Gordon on at least two deep attempts, one of which would have been a sure-fire 44-yard touchdown. His first catch came on a short slant on the first play of the game which he turned into a nine-yard gain. In the second quarter, Gordon made an impressive leaping grab down the left sideline for a 28-yard gain. In the fourth quarter, Gordon saw an end zone target on a crossing route from Kizer but the pass was too high and a bit behind him, resulting in an incompletion.
Whether it be due to the return of Josh Gordon
or the tough matchup against an excellent Chargers secondary, Coleman was held without a catch for the first time in his short NFL career. The second-year receiver had a few chances to get on the stat sheet throughout the game but just couldn't do much. He actually caught a ball for no-gain during the first quarter but the play was nullified by an illegal formation penalty on the offense. He later drew a deep shot down the field but the ball was thrown too close to the sideline. In the fourth quarter, Coleman was able to help his offense by drawing a 24-yard pass interference penalty against the defense. Hopefully Coleman will eventually benefit from the return of Gordon as defenses shift their attention toward him.
|TE David Njoku, 34 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 74 - 1 (6 targets)|
Njoku got off to a slow start, dropping a catchable ball down the seam. Later in the first quarter, he made what appeared to be an impressive leaping catch on the right sideline but just couldn't quite get both feet down inbounds. In the second quarter, Njoku hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer
. It was a perfect pass down the middle of the field and Njoku did a great job to stretch the ball just over the goal line. He wasn't done making splash plays, however, as he added a 33-yard reception in the fourth quarter. The Browns have slowly started to use Njoku more, as he's played over 50% of his team's offensive snaps in each of his past two games. The presence of Josh Gordon
should help to open up the middle of the field for him to do more damage over the final quarter of the season.
Los Angeles Chargers
|QB Philip Rivers, 70 offensive snaps, Pass: 31 - 43 - 344 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - -2 - 0|
Rivers could do almost no wrong in this game. For much of the afternoon, he stood tall in the pocket with a very clean jersey as the Browns mustered very little semblance of a pass rush. Rivers simply took what the defense was giving him, and that typically included a lot of time and at least 1-2 receivers open on every play. Early on, he was under a little bit of pressure. On one particular play, he had a lot of time to throw but still only barely got rid of the ball before being hit. Unfortunately, he released the ball at a bit of an awkward angle and he was hit low by a defender. It took him awhile to regain his composure, and even had to call a timeout to regroup. But he showed no ill effects after that. Soon after that play, he was hit as he threw and fumbled the ball. After bouncing around a bit, his own lineman managed to pounce on it to save a possible turnover. But aside from those two plays, just about everything else went extremely well for him. His chemistry with Keenan Allen
was again very evident, and that duo is as hot as any QB/WR tandem in the league right now. They connected another ten times in this game, including another touchdown. About the only blemish on Rivers' stat line is the lack of scores in the game. The Chargers had to settle for numerous field goal attempts (for instance, they had 254 yards of total offense in the first half, but just nine points - and zero touchdowns to that point). But what they lacked in punch, they made up for in volume and efficiency.
|RB Melvin Gordon, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 77 - 0, Rec: 4 - 29 - 0 (4 targets)|
The talk a few weeks ago of some sort of time-sharing situation between Gordon and backup Austin Ekeler
never came to fruition, and this game proved more of the same. Gordon had 23 touches, compared to just six for Ekeler. And while Gordon was largely bottled up in the first half, he seemed to run with more purpose in the second half. In short yardage situations, the Cleveland defense rose to the occasion more often than not. But that didn't stop Gordon from rumbling through the heart of the defense to about the 3-yard line early in the second half. And while Gordon was stuffed on second down for a loss, it didn't affect much since Keenan Allen
caught a touchdown on the very next play. Later in the half, Gordon picked up his best run of the game, a 29-yard gallop up the gut. He slowly worked sideways before spotting the hole, then darting through and driving through defenders by the end of it to pick up extra yardage. Gordon still lacks the consistency of some of the league's elite rushers, but he is an excellent fit for what the Chargers do. His receiving skills are a very underrated aspect of his game, evidenced by a first half reception along the sideline where he dragged his toes as well as any high-level wide receiver in the game would do.
|RB Austin Ekeler, 20 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 19 - 0, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (3 targets)|
Despite his relative success when he gets the ball in his hands, Ekeler is still the clear backup to Melvin Gordon
, as this is not a 1/1A type of situation like they have with the Saints or Jets. In this one, Ekeler showed some nice open field moves on a first half reception that went for 16 yards, and did an excellent job in the run game when they opted to go to him. The announcers revealed that, in conversations with the Charger strength coaches, the staff apparently said that Ekeler is the team's strongest player, pound-for-pound. It shows frequently, as he doesn't often go down upon first contact or from only one would-be tackler. In the second half, Ekeler dropped a swing pass that was laid out right in his hands, although based on the spot of the field, it's possible that he lost it in the sun.
|WR Keenan Allen, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 10 - 105 - 1 (14 targets)|
Over the last several games, Allen has staked his claim as arguably the best route-running receiver in the league, as well as one of the best overall just in general. He posted another outstanding stat line today, and appears to be nearly uncoverable. The rapport that he has with Philip Rivers
is something rare to see, and not many QB/WR combos in the league are on the same page as frequently as these two appear to be. It's almost a broken record at this point; Allen showed tremendous hands on a leaping catch away from his body where he snagged it out of mid-air. Allen continuously beat his man over the middle on crossing routes and slants. Allen is the focal point of one of the hottest offenses in the league, and yet still finds himself wide open time and time again. Twice he was targeted in the end zone on fade passes (on one of them, he had the ball in his hands and just needed to land, but the defender played it perfectly to knock it away just before his feet touched down), and once more he took a screen pass inside the 10-yard line where he just needed to beat one man for the score. And yet despite all these near-misses, he STILL managed to get into the end zone for his owners on a second half pattern. First he had to haul in the 26-yard gain on a 4th and 4 deep ball down the sideline (fortunately making a great individual effort to bring it in). And then once in the red zone, he made a tremendous break off the line to get his defender leaning one way before darting back the other direction for the wide open score over the middle. Late in the game, Allen caught a quick screen and had the ball jarred loose by a defender, but fortunately for Allen and the Chargers, Hunter Henry
was right there to pounce on the ball for the recovery. Allen was targeted on one more fade pattern in the corner of the end zone, but it was overthrown a bit and had no chance to be brought in.
After a disappointing inaugural season with the team (and a few dicey moments thus far already in season 2), Benjamin has come around in recent weeks. He was the team's third-leading receiver in this game, the majority of which came on one big first half catch. Facing a third and long, he made a short catch on a quick out before turning upfield to pick up 39 and get into Cleveland territory. The play featured some excellent downfield blocking by others, but he showed he's still got the good open field speed. He had one other early grab off of a deflection along the sideline, showing nice concentration. And was near the end zone late in the first half when he caught pass near the sideline, but lost his footing to go down just inside the 5-yard line.
Once again, the Charger offense put up big yardage totals and a ton of plays from scrimmage, and once again Williams wasn't invited to the party. He caught just one ball, showing very nice hands on a second half out route along the sideline to convert a third down. But he earlier dropped a wide open pass, attempting to turn upfield prior to actually securing the pass. And aside from that, his number wasn't called very frequently. He has gone from the team's best receiver in 2016, to perhaps the fifth or even sixth option in the passing game at this point.
|TE Hunter Henry, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 81 - 0 (9 targets)|
Henry had a very solid game, but ended with a damper when he was forced to leave the game with a leg injury. Henry made several tough grabs, mostly over the middle of the field. His first catch was a tough sliding grab over the middle with a defender right on top of him to convert a third down. He added a really athletic play later in the first half when he was cut down by a blitzer during a block out of the backfield. He quickly got to his feet as Rivers bought enough time on the rollout, before dropping it to Henry for the first down gain. He opened the second half by streaking down the left sideline as Rivers hit him perfectly in stride for 25 yards on what appeared to be a broken defensive assignment by Cleveland. But then on a late grab on the open field, a defender went low just as Henry was coming down with the ball. It didn't look like a typical "gross" injury or anything, but he remained on the ground for quite awhile and was in considerable pain. He was later seen walking around on the sideline which hopefully bodes well for the possibility of avoiding a serious injury, but nobody can make any assumptions until the team reveals his status one way or the other in the coming days.
|TE Antonio Gates, 27 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 32 - 0 (4 targets)|
After going two games without a reception, Gates was involved early in this one. His third reception of the game came with 11:20 still remaining in the first half, and he looked well on his way to a big game. That was his last reception of the game, however, although he may have gotten a chance to score late in the first half if not for a questionable no-call on a possible holding penalty just before halftime. He didn't break any big gains down the field, but he was at least involved. Gates has never been confused for one of the league's better blocking tight ends, so if he isn't catching passes, then his value on the field is minimal. Hunter Henry
has mostly usurped Gates as the primary pass-catching tight end on the team, but Henry went down with a scary-looking leg injury late in the contest. If he were to miss any time, Gates would be in line to pick up the lion's share of the tight end targets.