Chargers

Chargers Escape Fourth Quarter Gamble, Beat Browns 30-28 After Missed Field Goal Attempt

The Chargers beat the Browns 30-28 in Week 5 to improve their record to 3-2 on the season.

The Chargers escaped Cleveland with a dramatic 30-28 win at FirstEnergy Stadium that came down to a missed field goal by Browns kicker Cade York in the final 16 seconds of regulation.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley has built up a reputation for being an aggressive decision-maker, and when the game hit crunch time, he stuck to his process in what was a monumental gamble.

With the Chargers leading by two points, faced with a 4th and 1 from the Los Angeles’ 46-yard line and 1:14 left, Staley left his offense out on the field to go for it rather than bring out the punting unit.

“We believe in our process, we believe in our players on both sides,” Staley said. “We were coming out here on the road to win this game, not kick it and then go hope to win.”

In attempting the fourth down try, Justin Herbert dropped back and attempted a pass to Mike Williams, but the play was broken up by Martin Emerson Jr. to force a turnover on downs.

The Browns took over with 59 seconds left and moved the ball just 10 yards before attempting a 54-yard field goal try on fourth down that wound up wide right.

“I believed our defense would get a stop if we didn’t make it because I knew that we could cover them,” Staley said. “You got to live with it when it doesn’t go down. We went for it on the first drive and it didn’t go down, and we’re willing to live with that. But we know what that means to our group by playing that way. There’s no way I was taking our offense off the field at the end of the game.”

While the end of the game was nothing short of a gutsy call, the four quarters were largely dominated by each team’s running game, totaling 451 yards on the ground.

The Chargers hadn’t rushed for more than 81 yards in a single game this season entering Week 5. However, they blew past that threshold against the Browns, handling 34 carries for 238 yards and two touchdowns.

Austin Ekeler ripped off a 71-yard run, marking the longest rushing attempt of his career. He also collected his third game in which he’s gone over the 100-yard mark, totaling 173 rushing yards, 26 receiving yards and two touchdowns on Sunday.

“It was the story of the game for us,” Staley said of the Chargers’ running game. “We came in here and certainly there were a lot of questions about us being able to run the ball in the first four games and we had a lot of confidence in the plan, had a lot of confidence in who’s running the ball and who’s blocking for him, and I just think our offensive line came alive today.”

The Browns delivered similar results in running the ball. Across 31 attempts, they compiled 213 rushing yards. Nick Chubb created havoc all game, totaling 134 yards and two touchdowns.

“It was up and down,” Staley said of the Chargers’ run defense. “There were some really good stretches in there that I think we can definitely build off of, but there’s too many of these runs into loaded boxes that we have more than they have and whether we missed a tackle or we miss fitted up front, we’ve got to be better.”

The Chargers defense turned in a pivotal play at the three minute mark when Alohi Gilman picked off Jacoby Brissett in the end zone while the Browns were knocking on the door to take the lead.

Gilman received his first start of the season at free safety over Nasir Adderley. His interception took points off the board for Cleveland, preventing the Chargers from having to orchestrate a game-winning drive in the final minutes.

“We feel like Alohi had earned an opportunity to start,” Staley said. “We wanted to see that combination out there of him and Derwin [James] playing together with Nasir playing dime as the sixth DB. We felt like Lo had earned an opportunity to show what he can do.”

Milestones:

Ekeler now has eight career games with a rushing and receiving touchdown, marking the most in Chargers history.Ekeler is the only running back since the 1970 NFL-AFL Merger to catch multiple touchdowns in each of the first six seasons of a career.Mike Williams has registered 100 receiving yards in five straight road games, tying the longest streak in NFL history by an AFC player. (Chad Johnson being the other)

Injury Roundup:

Right tackle Trey Pipkins was shaken up in the first half and came out of the game with Storm Norton replacing him. Pipkins did, however, return in the second half and finished out the remainder of the game.

Looking ahead:

Now sitting with a record of 3-2, the Chargers will host the Broncos in Week 5 on Monday Night Football.

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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.

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