Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams (16) catches a touchdown as Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) defends during the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium.

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers rout shows Browns aren't contenders, yet

Weaknesses exposed on both sides of the ball in worst outing of the season

October 15, 2018
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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The arrival of the Cleveland Browns has been delayed.

The Chargers dumped a whole lotta yards, points and water on the blaze of positive momentum that began burning in Cleveland over the first five games of the season.

The raising of the Titanic as Sam Farmer so eloquently wrote about for the Los Angeles Times last week will have to wait because the Browns hit another iceberg Sunday afternoon named the Chargers, who routed them 38-14 in a game that never felt close.

Baker Mayfield did not look like the prodigy from the previous three weeks and the Browns did not look like a legitimate contender, at all.

With some fans – and talk show hosts – anxious to begin the conversation about playoff potential, the Browns showed Sunday they still have a ways to go before that can become a legitimate discussion.

Cleveland’s defense was gashed for – wait for it – 246 yards on the ground with Chargers running back Melvin Gordon doing 132 yards worth of damage on just 18 carries. Gordon dropped the hat trick on the Browns, scoring three rushing touchdowns.

In all, Los Angeles piled up 449 yards of total offense.

Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers only had to complete 11 passes. He threw it just 20 times for 207 yards. Three of those throws went to receiver Tyrell Williams for 118 and two touchdowns.

Nobody made a meaningful play Sunday on defense. Sure, Christian Kirksey’s interception that upped the takeaway count to 16 this season was nice and so were four tackles for loss but there were no definitive impact plays that turned the game around, and that was disappointing.

The defense was gashed three times for 20 yards to go with allowances of 24, 29, 44 and 45 yards.

L.A. won by 24.

The Browns are left licking their wounds from their worse defeat since a 31-7 beating administered Oct. 1, 2017 by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mayfield, who played through an ankle injury suffered in the first half, finished the day 22 of 46 for 238 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and a rating of 52.6. After averaging 21 points per half of football through his first six quarters, Mayfield has struggled over the last nine quarters with a total of 26 points.

For the first time since taking over for Tyrod Taylor, Mayfield was indecisive, and it resulted in him getting sacked five times and hit a total of nine times.

The offense had six trips inside the Chargers’ 40 in the first half and only came away with two field goals.

Receiver Jarvis Landry is having to play the role as a No. 1 wideout and it shows. He caught just two of nine targets for 11 yards – career lows for him. Landry has caught just 29 of 57 targets this season - a .508 percentage. His previous career low was .663. His second-lowest is .6956 and his career best is .750.

Antonio Callaway had a 40-yard touchdown from Mayfield go right through his hands in the end zone on third-and-16 late in the first quarter. Callaway at least was able to bring down the two-point conversion in the fourth quarter to make it a 35-14 game.

Damion Ratley dropped another would-be 33-yard TD off a flea flicker – a Mayfield handoff to Carlos Hyde, who flipped the ball back to Mayfield – on the next offensive possession.

It was nice to see tight end David Njoku catch a season high seven passes for 55 yards, including a two-yard touchdown, but by the time both of his feet came down in the end zone, the game was already over.  

Todd Haley seems to be inching closer to figuring out how to use Duke Johnson Jr., but that still appears to be a work in progress. Johnson racked up a season-best 109 yards from scrimmage – 73 receiving on four catches and 36 rushing on two carries.

Then there are the injuries, which are starting to pile up and are an ominous sign.

The neck stinger suffered by Rod Streater on special teams early in the first quarter left the Browns with just three active receivers.

The Browns lost their starting middle linebacker in Pro Bowler Joe Schobert to a hamstring injury and shortly after James Burgess Jr., in for Schobert, departed with a hamstring injury.

Once again the officials made their presence felt by missing the obvious false start by Chargers left tackle Russell Okung, who took three steps back before the ball was even snapped, and it could be debated whether or not safety Damarious Randall came down with the Rivers to Williams 45-yard touchdown first, but the officials ruled a tie and thus six points to L.A.

Those 14 points were big, but that is not why the Browns got run off the field, and they understand that.

The lack of attention to detail on special teams purists but at least Britton Colquitt is having quite the year punting the football, so they got that going for them.

Entering Sunday’s game the Browns were not a perfect team, but they found a way to be competitive and play some of the most entertaining football in the league.

Anxious to make the past few seasons feel like a distant memory, Sunday was an uncomfortable flashback. But as several players noted in the locker room after, it was just one game. 

With their weaknesses exposed by the Chargers, how they respond will define just what type of team they are. Will they bounce back like we saw the first five weeks or roll over like the previous three years?

There's still hope that the Titanic can still be raised in 2018, it just wasn’t ready Sunday.