A Christmas miracle for the Browns
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns on Saturday avoided the stigma of becoming just the second team in NFL history to go 0-16, but winning was not easy.A stout defense and a blocked field goal late in the fourth quarter helped the Browns hold off t...
CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Browns on Saturday avoided the stigma of becoming just the second team in NFL history to go 0-16, but winning was not easy.
A stout defense and a blocked field goal late in the fourth quarter helped the Browns hold off the San Diego Chargers 20-17 for their first victory of the season.
The 2008 Detroit Lions are the only team to lose all 16 regular-season games.
Defensive end Jamie Meder blocked a 32-yard field goal try by Josh Lambo with 3:45 left to help Cleveland (1-14) win for the first time since Dec. 13, 2015.
“My teammates played their hearts out,” said Browns linebacker Chris Kirksey. “It’s just a wonderful feeling to get that monkey off our backs.”
San Diego (5-10) had one more possession, taking over with 1:46 to play and no timeouts, but Lambo rushed out onto the field and missed a 45-yarder wide right with no time remaining. The Chargers have lost four straight.
“You rely on your steps, and I didn’t have time to properly do that,” Lambo said. “I let down my teammates, my organization and I let down the fans. That’s going to be heavy on me.”
Browns starting quarterback Robert Griffin III was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the fourth quarter. He refused to answer questions as he left the locker room.
The Chargers took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards, highlighted by a 50-yard pass from quarterback Philip Rivers to former Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin on the first play of the game. Rivers capped the drive with a 1-yard pass to tight end Antonio Gates, the ninth straight time the Chargers scored a touchdown on their opening drive.
The Browns answered with a 10-play drive that ended with an 8-yard scoring run from Isaiah Crowell. The Chargers committed three defensive penalties on the drive in a sign of things to come.
Lambo’s 43-yard field goal gave the lead back to San Diego at 10-7 with 1:49 to play in the first quarter. Again, Cleveland responded with a touchdown.
Crowell crashed over right guard into the end zone from the 4 and Cody Parkey added the extra point for a 14-10 lead.
The key to the drive was pinpoint passing by Griffin. A short pass to running back Duke Johnson pushed the ball to the Chargers’ 25. Griffin threw a frozen rope 21 yards to tight end Seth DeValve on the next play to set up Crowell’s second touchdown of the game and seventh of the season.
“We stopped the run - we did great on defense,” Crowell said. “On offense, we just executed the whole game. Everybody came to play. Everybody did a great job. The offensive line did a great job.
“We’ve got to keep it going. We can’t stop here. One win isn’t enough. We’ve got to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s the next game up and it’s very important.”
Penalties were a key factor in the game. The Chargers committed three defensive penalties totaling 36 yards on the Browns’ first touchdown drive. San Diego was flagged a total of nine times for 92 yards, compared to the Browns being penalized four times for
“Give (the Browns) and their staff credit for what they did today,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “In the second half they did a nice job making some adjustments. Unfortunately, we had the kick blocked and then we missed one at the end.”
The Browns expanded their lead 20-10 on a 49-yard field goal on their third possession and a 27-yard field goal by Parkey on their opening possession of the third quarter. The Chargers stormed back on a 1-yard touchdown pass to Tyrell Williams with 6:04 left in the third quarter.
San Diego had a chance to take the lead late in the third quarter, but Cleveland’s pass rush applied pressure and forced Rivers to throw the ball away three times.
The Browns forced another three-and-out the next time the Chargers had the ball and stopped them one more time.
Rivers completed 12 of 28 passes in the second half. One was the 1-yard touchdown pass to Williams with 6:04 left in the third quarter that proved to be the final points of the game.
San Diego, trailing by a field goal at 20-17, got the ball on the Browns 33 with 4:49 left. The Chargers made one first down and the defense stiffened again before Meder blocked Lambo’s attempt to tie the score.