In 2016 the Chargers were the only team that lost to the Cleveland Browns. In 2015 the Chargers needed a field goal at the final gun to beat a Browns team that would finish 2-14. So maybe Cleveland is just a bad matchup for the Bolts.
Although it was by no means convincing a repeat of a year ago was not going to happen. The Chargers beat the Browns 19-10 in front of a surprisingly impartial crowd of 25,320 at StubHub Center that featured a lot more brown and orange than expected.
The first half was enough to scare the daylights out of the scant Chargers faithful, who got a lot of chances to see kicker Travis Coons. He was added to the team during the week to replace the injured Nick Novak. The Bolts had the ball four times, got inside the Cleveland 25-yard-line every time, and tried four field goals. The first one clanked off the uprights but Coons hit the next three.
The only touchdown of the half was scored by Cleveland when quarterback DeShone Kizer hit wide receiver David Njoku down the middle for a 28-yard touchdown.
In the second half the severe talent discrepancy became more pronounced. Chargers QB Philip Rivers found Keenan Allen for a 7-yard touchdown to make it a 16-7 game. Allen went over the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the season, the first time he’s reached a grand since his rookie season.
The TD pass was the 355th of Rivers’ career, moving him alone into 7th place on the NFL’s all-time touchdown passing list. Interestingly he passed Eli Manning, who did not have a chance to keep his spot because he was unceremoniously benched by the Giants this week.
Cleveland was trying to make it interesting. Down 19-10 in the 4th quarter Kizer led them to the 6-yard-line but defensive end Joey Bosa smashed him for a sack-fumble and the Chargers recovered to avoid another embarrassing loss.
The win, coupled with the Chiefs loss to the Jets, means the Chargers now don’t need any help to make the playoffs. If they win the rest of their games they will be AFC West Division champions.