The Cleveland Browns of 2017 returned on Sunday. The Los Angeles Chargers dominated the Browns, 38-14, at FirstEnergy Stadium. The game became a rout pretty quickly in the second half as both the Browns offense and defense could not perform well against the talented Chargers. The Browns offense suffered from bad execution throughout the unit, as rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled to run a consistent offense all day. Cleveland’s defense was hurt through the air and on the ground. It was a complete disaster for the Browns.
The first half was a half of missed opportunities for the Browns. Cleveland controlled the clock by a wide margin. The Browns had the ball for just over 20 minutes, while the Chargers held it for just under 10 minutes. The Browns offense was given great field position throughout the half, but a combination of bad receiver play, bad blocking, penalties and a hobbled Mayfield caused the Browns to only muster two field goals in the half. Mayfield struggled to deal with the pressure of the Chargers, especially after he injured himself on a scramble. On the other side, the Chargers passing game sliced the Browns defense with big plays. It was rough half of football for the Browns as they entered the locker room trailing, 21-6.
The game was quickly decided in the second half as the Chargers took over the third quarter, outscoring the Browns, 14-0. The Browns offense couldn’t get going, while the defense was shredded by the running game of the Chargers. The Chargers run game ended up with a total of 246 yards. In the fourth quarter, the Browns offense added some stat-stuffing points. But, the game ended with the Browns falling to the Chargers, 38-14.
The Browns defense could not stop Chargers RB Melvin Gordon all day. In the winning effort, Gordon rushed 18 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns struggled to get off their blocks to get to Gordon, but when they were in position to make a stop, Gordon was tough to bring down. Here is one of the three touchdowns Gordon had on the day:
Browns Run Defense
The Cleveland defense was embarrassed by the Chargers run game. Los Angeles ran the ball 36 times for 246 yards. One of the biggest reasons for the run defense breakdown was the Browns poor edge setting. The Chargers tore up the run the defense on many outside run plays. Here is a touchdown run by Gordon where he was able to gash the edge and beat the defense around the edge:
Baker Mayfield had a game to forget. An early injury may have impacted his performance, along with little help from his receivers or blocking, but overall he was not good enough. He finished the game 22 of 46 for 238 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. This interception at the beginning of the second half was the beginning of the second half rout by the Chargers.
Browns Wide Receivers
With the Browns wide receiver corps down to just four players on Sunday, the Browns needed the healthy players to step up. But, they did not. The Cleveland receivers missed opportunities for big plays and had drops that derailed drives. The Browns receivers combined for just 10 catches for 102 yards. There were two passes in the first half that could have been touchdown passes, but both passes flew right through the hands of the awaiting Browns receivers. The unit had a bad day.
There was at least one little bright spot for the Browns on Sunday. Jabrill Peppers may have had his best game in his career as a returner. He returned four punts for 51 yards and three kicks for 71 yards. He averaged 12.8 yards per punt return and 23.7 yards per kick return. He looked confident and gave the Browns good field position on multiple drives in the first half.