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Week 6 Game Recap: Los Angeles Chargers 38, Cleveland Browns 14


What you need to know

Los Angeles Chargers

The running back duo of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler continues to dominate. The tandem combined for 192 yards on 25 rushing attempts and three touchdowns. They ran over, around, and through Cleveland defenders while extending their NFL lead for the most scrimmage yards by a running back tandem. The Browns simply had no answers for either of them in this game, particularly Gordon who arguably had the best game of his career.

Philip Rivers was efficient in that he averaged over 10 yards per pass attempt and threw two touchdowns on just 20 passes, but he almost completed just eleven of them. And the team basically took the air out of the ball in the second half as they took to the ground to run out the clock and sealed the win.

It was Tyrell Williams, and not Keenan Allen, who broke out in this game. While Allen had just a handful of receptions for yet another week, Williams snagged two deep balls, one of which went for a score. And he added another tough reception for a score later in the half as well.

Cleveland Browns

It was a rough day for the Browns and Baker Mayfield in Week 6. A strong Chargers pass rush gave Mayfield and the offensive line fits. This game goes down as the first time Mayfield looked like a rookie in his young career as he uncharacteristically held onto the ball too long and made some poor throws. His wide receivers struggled to get open against the Los Angeles secondary, which caused Mayfield to hold onto the ball longer than he had been in previous games. Mayfield also injured his left ankle/knee on a scramble toward the end of the first quarter. He was seen limping throughout the game as a result, which may have played into his struggles. Rookie wideout Damion Ratley was pressed into service and was one of the team's few bright spots in the game.

Los Angeles Chargers

QB Philip Rivers, 53 offensive snaps, Pass: 11 - 20 - 207 - 2 TD / 1 INT
Fantasy-wise, Rivers was essentially a victim of his own team's success in this game. Despite coming into the game averaging over 24 completions per game, the Chargers were so dominant in this game that they really didn't need to take it to the air all that much. Rivers completed just eleven passes in the game, though he was very efficient in averaging over 10 yards per completion. The majority of his success came on two pass plays to Tyrell Williams on the same drive. With the Chargers backed up to their own end zone for the third time in the half, Rivers hoisted a deep ball down the seam to Williams. There was decent coverage, but Williams went up and made a terrific individual play on the ball. Shortly thereafter, Rivers again targeted Williams deep downfield, this time in the end zone. Despite three defenders surrounding him, and despite the fact that at least one of those defenders had his hands on the ball first, Williams went up and made one of the best catches of the 2018 season by wrestling it away from him and somehow maintaining possession as he came to the ground. Rivers did put it in a great spot for Williams to be able to make a play, but without that great individual effort, it would have almost certainly been a turnover. Later in the first half, Rivers threw another touchdown pass to Williams. This one he floated high in the end zone, but again Williams made a tremendous effort in skying over the defense to make the play. That play never should have happened, however, as Chargers lineman Russell Okung clearly committed a false start penalty prior to the snap. But every official somehow missed it, and the touchdown stood. In the second half, the Chargers took the air out of the football and opted to go with the combo of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to run out the clock. They even mixed in several wide receiver handoffs (one of which Rivers threw a block on), as the Browns seemingly had no answers for the Chargers ground game. Finally in the fourth quarter with the Chargers knocking on the doorstep of the end zone, Rivers fired a pass to Gordon on a quick slant. If the ball had been thrown in stride, it likely would have gone for an easy touchdown. But the pass was thrown a little too fast for such a short distance and it was also a little bit high. As Gordon leapt to catch it, the pass bounced off his hands and into the waiting arms of a Cleveland defender for the interception. It was Rivers' last pass of the game, as he was relieved by Geno Smith with just under seven minutes left to play in the game.

QB Geno Smith, 7 offensive snaps, Pass: 1 - 1 - 8 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - -2 - 0
Smith came on in relief of Rivers with 6:51 left to play in the fourth quarter and the Chargers leading 35-14. Smith threw just one pass attempt, a screen to Justin Jackson that went for an 8-yard gain on third and long.

RB Melvin Gordon, 38 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 132 - 3, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (4 targets)
Gordon had arguably the best game of his young career. He started off with his first run by bursting up the middle as if he was shot from a cannon, and he never let up after that. His first touchdown came on the team's opening drive, the first time the Chargers have scored a touchdown on the opening possession since the 2016 season. Gordon took the handoff, met a defender around the 4-yard line, and then dragged him the rest of the way in before reaching the ball over the goal line for the score. Throughout the contest, the offensive line and the tight ends were opening up gaping holes through which Gordon was picking up chunks of yardage. At one point, he was stood up short of the first down marker, but he pushed the pile ahead and ended up with a 14-yard gain. It was just incredibly strong running all afternoon. As usual, he also made his presence felt in the passing game. On a late first half reception, he took a quick reception to the outside. A Cleveland defender appeared to have him sized up for an easy tackle, but Gordon simply beat him to the edge and then tip-toed the sideline for another first down. In the second half, it was more of the same. Gordon was just dragging tacklers all over the field (that is, when they actually got a hand on him). Following an interception, a perfectly-designed play allowed Gordon to take the toss up the left side and go in virtually untouched. An underrated aspect of his afternoon was his patience and vision in this game, perfectly reading his blocks and angles all afternoon. On yet another toss play to the left, Gordon slipped back inside to avoid two would-be tacklers, but again he walted into the end zone otherwise untouched. Gordon went over 100 yards rushing early in the fourth quarter, but remained in a bit longer to keep compiling yardage with power runs. There was even one run where a defender grabbed and twisted his facemask (a penalty was called), but Gordon still got out of it and turned upfield for 15 more yards. Midway through the fourth quarter, he got a handoff from the 7-yard line but was wrapped up in the backfield. On the following play, he got wide open on a slant route for what should have been his fourth touchdown of the game, but the Rivers pass came in a bit too hot and a little bit high. The ball bounced off of Gordon's hands and into the hands of a Cleveland defender for the interception. If the ball had been thrown in stride, it likely would have gone for a score.

RB Austin Ekeler, 21 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 60 - 0
Ekeler didn't enter the game until early in the second quarter, and immediately needed to save the day. On an ill-advised flea-flicker throwback from Keenan Allen to Philip Rivers, the bad throw ended up on the ground with Cleveland defenders all around it. Ekeler smartly pounced on the football, at least saving possession for the Chargers. Ekeler didn't see an offensive touch until just over ten minutes remained in the third quarter. But he sort of made up for lost time with seven handoffs in the second half, breaking loose for long gains of 16 and 20 and generally picking up where Gordon left off. He once again did an incredible job of fighting off tacklers. On one carry, he was seemingly wrapped up until his excellent balance kept his feet moving into the open field. The duo is benefitting from some excellent blocking up front, but also showing tremendous individual efforts on a weekly basis.

RB Justin Jackson, 7 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 4 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets)
With the Chargers dominating late, Jackson came on in relief of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. There wasn't much room to run as Cleveland knew the rushing attempts were coming, though he did grab an 8-yard screen pass to get the team into field goal range late.

WR Keenan Allen, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 41 - 0, Rec: 4 - 62 - 0 (6 targets)
It wasn't the huge breakout performance his owners were hoping for, but Allen had a very effective afternoon overall. Nearly half of his yardage came on the ground, with four different end-around handoffs that Cleveland simply had no answers for whatsoever. He actually had a fifth handoff that went for 26 yards, but it was negated by a holding penalty on Virgil Green. The hold was in the area of the gain, but it seemed like Green could have just held his ground without holding and it still would have been a big gain anyway. Allen had a few nice gains in the passing game as well, but with the Chargers sticking to the ground so much there just weren't as many opportunities. Allen also had a few blunders in the game, none of which ended up costing the team anything. He made a very poor threw back to Philip Rivers on an attempted flea-flicker, which got away from him but eventually recovered by Austin Ekeler. Shortly after that, he muffed a punt return attempt but then recovered it himself. And finally, he took a quick screen inside and ran into his own blocker (pretty hard actually). But he managed to regroup enough to dart outside and pick up a nice gain for the first down.

WR Tyrell Williams, 49 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 3 - 118 - 2 (4 targets)
With the Chargers having so much success on the ground, Williams needed to be efficient with the targets he got. And efficient he was, going over 100 yards and two scores on a day where he saw just four targets. He made a tough grab on a deep ball down the seam from the shadow of his own end zone. Right after that, he was targeted on another deep ball in the end zone. Despite the fact that three defenders were surrounding him, one of them looked to be in position for an interception, and the other actually appeared to have his hands on it first, Williams skied high in the air to get his hands on it too and then wrestled it away from the defenders while they were on the ground. He added another touchdown later in the first half by again skying high above the defenders. It almost looked like he was floating to the ball, he was in the air so long. It was a perfect pass from Rivers, but Williams still made two phenomenal efforts for the pair of scores.

WR Mike Williams, 38 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 10 - 0, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (4 targets)
With the Chargers completing just twelve total passes in the game, there wasn't a lot of action for the secondary receivers. Williams was targeted on a deep ball from the shadow of his own end zone, but there was missed timing between he and Rivers. Williams did have a quick inside cross for a minimal gain on a second down slant, but that was his only catch of the game. With Keenan Allen having so much success running the ball, the Chargers opted to get Williams involved in the same way. He also picked up ten yards on his lone rush attempt, as the Browns were just powerless to stop that play.

TE Antonio Gates, 16 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (2 targets)
Gates had just one short reception in the game early in the contest, as the Chargers opted to use the run game for the majority of the afternoon. In fact, Gates saw just two total targets in the game.

TE Virgil Green, 48 offensive snaps
Green wasn't a component of the passing game whatsoever, but he was singled out multiple times by the announcers for his tremendous contributions to the run game blocking.


Cleveland Browns

QB Baker Mayfield, 74 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 46 - 238 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 8 - 0
Mayfield struggled for the first time in his young career as he held onto the ball too long throughout the game and didn't make the quick decisions in getting the ball out that he been making in previous games. A Charger pass rush that got after him often and forced him to move off of his spots in the pocket frequently played into that, as did his receivers struggling to create separation against the Los Angeles secondary. Mayfield did have a few good moments in the game and could have had a better final stat line if his receivers caught a few more catchable balls. He sent a deep shot into the end zone on the second drive of the game but rookie Antonio Callaway was unable to make the catch. The pass appeared catchable but Callaway had trouble tracking the ball. He may have lost it in the sun. On the third drive of the game, Mayfield picked up six yards on a scramble but he slipped on the first down marker on the sideline and tweaked his left knee/ankle on the play. He was seen limping and favoring his left leg throughout the game after that play. At the beginning of the second quarter, Mayfield took an end zone shot to Damion Ratley but the rookie didn't make the catch. He appeared to have lost the ball in the sun much like Callaway earlier. Mayfield almost threw an interception at the end of that drive as he was hit as he was throwing. He was seen getting checked out in the tent on the sideline following the drive but didn't miss any time. At the end of the second quarter, Mayfield made a few great throws to get the Browns into scoring position. He had a chance at a touchdown, targeting Callaway in the end zone but the pass was tipped by a defender. He then targeted David Njoku in the end zone but threw the ball way too high for the tight end to catch. Mayfield's first drive of the third quarter was cut short by an interception. He made a poor choice on the pass as he was throwing across his body. The defender undercut the route for the pick. In the fourth quarter Mayfield threw his only touchdown, a short completion to David Njoku where he threw the ball high and allowed Njoku to go up and get it. He also threw another interception on a pass which he threw right to the defender in the middle of the field. Mayfield was bound to have some struggles as a rookie and the combination of the Chargers' strong pass rush and excellent coverage in the secondary was too much for him to overcome.

RB Carlos Hyde, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 34 - 0
The Browns continued to use Hyde mostly on rushes up the middle on early downs. It was a slow day for Hyde, who was mostly ignored once the game got away from Cleveland. His best run of the day came in the first quarter and went for 20 yards but the play was nullified by a face mask penalty on one of his teammates. Hyde did get most of the red zone work, as usual, but was unable to find the end zone in this contest. He saw a red zone carry from the Los Angeles 19-yard line and was able to gain five yards. He later got a carry on 1st-and-goal from the Los Angeles one-yard line in the fourth quarter but was stuffed by the defense. Hyde was not targeted in the passing game as the Browns continue to mostly ignore him in that department. His weekly floor remains relatively low in weeks that he doesn't score.

RB Duke Johnson, 35 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 36 - 0, Rec: 4 - 73 - 0 (5 targets)
Johnson turned in his best game of the season, partially due to a pass-happy game script that was forced when the Browns got down several scores in the second half. Johnson finished as the team's leading rusher on just two carries and topped 100 all-purpose yards for the first time all season. In the first quarter, he ripped off a 32-yard catch-and-run. He was wide open in the flat after the Chargers called a safety blitz and was able to turn the short pass into a big gain. He picked up 25 yards on two receptions with the Browns in their hurry-up offense at the end of the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, Johnson picked up a 16-yard pass and also saw a goal line attempt. Baker Mayfield attempted a short shovel pass at the goal line but Johnson dropped the pass. Johnson looked explosive in the game and was hard to bring down at times. His usage was encouraging in this contest but it could have been a result of poor game script for the Browns.

RB Nick Chubb, 7 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 25 - 0
Chubb saw his typical three carries in Week 6. The rookie runner showed well in his limited chances, looking fast and powerful on his runs. He ripped off a 27-yard rush in the second quarter, but wound up just getting credit for a 19-yard gain after an offensive holding penalty was called downfield. Chubb continues to be the strict backup to starter Carlos Hyde but would be a factor if he saw starter's carries.

WR Damion Ratley, 65 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 82 - 0 (8 targets)
Ratley was forced into service after the injuries to Rashard Higgins and Derrick Willies in the previous two weeks. Ratley played well in the game, benefitting from the defensive attention paid to Jarvis Landry and David Njoku. He saw an end zone shot in the second quarter but was unable to haul in a catchable pass. He may have lost the ball in the sun on the play. He did bounce back with a nice over the shoulder catch which went for 27 yards in the second quarter. He came close to scoring in the fourth quarter, catching a 23-yarder and getting tackled at the Los Angeles one-yard line. He appeared to get shaken up on the low tackle but returned to action a few plays later. It appears he will serve as Cleveland's No. 3 receiver going forward.

WR Jarvis Landry, 73 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 11 - 0 (9 targets)
As has been the case of late, Landry and Baker Mayfield struggled to connect with one another. For the third straight week, Landry saw plenty of targets but was only able to finish with two catches, both of which came in the first half of the game. This is the third consecutive game where he failed to convert more than 50% of his targets into catches. Some of his struggles can be attributed to excellent coverage from the Chargers, who did a great job limiting the Cleveland passing attack. Landry was a popular target in the red zone on the first drive of the second quarter as he drew two red zone targets. The first was thrown too low and Baker Mayfield was hit as he threw on the second, which caused the ball to fall well short of Landry. In the third quarter, Landry dropped a pass when he attempted a one-handed catch. It appeared he could have gotten the other hand up on the play. Landry's usage remains encouraging and he should bounce back once he and Mayfield can start connecting more frequently.

WR Antonio Callaway, 72 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 (10 targets)
Callaway was a popular target of Baker Mayfield in Week 6, finishing second on the team with 10 targets. This is encouraging after the team scaled back his role in Week 5. Due to injuries to the receiving corps, the Browns didn't have a choice but to use the rookie often against the Chargers. Callaway could have had a big game but failed to haul in a few deep shots. He had an end zone target in the first quarter but just missed hauling the pass in. It appeared to be a catchable ball and Callaway may have struggled with the sun on the play. In the second quarter he saw another target in the middle of the end zone but he was double covered and the ball was deflected by a defender. He saw another deep shot in the middle of the field in the fourth quarter but dropped the pass.

TE David Njoku, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 55 - 1 (12 targets)
Njoku's usage with Baker Mayfield under center continued to surge in Week 6. The second-year tight end is emerging as one of Mayfield's favorite targets and the Browns finally utilized him in the red zone this week. Njoku caught a one-yard touchdown from Mayfield in the fourth quarter. Mayfield simply threw the ball up and Njoku leapt up and reached over the defender to snatch the ball out of the air. Njoku looked unstoppable on the play and he could become a red zone monster if Cleveland starts to feature him near the goal line. Earlier in the game he saw another end zone target but the ball was thrown way too high for him to catch. He did commit a drop in the fourth quarter.