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Staley Nearly Blows Game For Chargers, Bolts Still Win

The Chargers came out on top 30-28 but was that a good performance? Can the Chargers put aside their mistakes from Week Five?

On Sunday, October 9th, the 2-2 Los Angeles Chargers traveled to Cleveland to face off against the 2-2 Browns. In what quickly became a high-scoring affair, the Chargers managed to sneak out with a narrow 30-28 victory against the Browns, after Brandon Staley made what many have considered an incredibly egregious 4th down play call with just 1:10 left in the game.

Browns Start Hot

The Cleveland Browns opened the game on offense and immediately began to pick apart the Chargers’ defense, as Jacoby Brissett led the Browns on a 5-play drive that was capped off by a 41-yard rushing touchdown from running back Nick Chubb.

To follow up the Browns’ touchdown drive, quarterback Justin Herbert and the rest of the Chargers’ offense managed to secure three first downs before turning the ball over by a loss of downs. This early decision to go for it on fourth down by head coach Brandon Staley set the Chargers’ tone for the remainder of the contest.

After the Chargers’ offense turned the ball over, the Browns took full advantage of their offensive possession. QB Jacoby Brissett led the Browns’ offense on a nine-play, 72-yard drive that was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Amari Cooper, who left All-Pro cornerback J.C. Jackson in his dust. This drive put the Browns up 14-0.

Chargers Gain Momentum

On the opening play of the Bolts’ next possession on offense, running back Austin Ekeler busted through the Brown’s defense for a gain of 71 yards. Despite being set up in a goal-to-go situation, the offense could not connect for a touchdown and had to settle for a field goal, which narrowed their point deficit to 3-14.

The team’s defense immediately forced a three-and-out from the Browns’ offense, shifting the game’s momentum to their side for the first time in the contest.

To follow up the terrific effort from the defense, QB Justin Herbert and wide receiver Mike Williams connected on a couple of big plays that helped the team travel 71 yards in just four plays. On first and goal, backup running back Joshua Kelley ran the ball into the endzone for a five-yard touchdown. The Bolts’ point deficit continued to shrink, with the score now at 10-14.

After the defense forced another quick three-and-out, the Chargers started their next drive on offense on the Browns’ one-yard line. Despite the horrendous field position, Herbert seemed completely unfazed. He proceeded to lead the offense 99 yards down the field, capping the drive off with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ekeler, who forced several missed tackles on his way to the endzone. This touchdown gave the Chargers their first lead of the contest with a score of 17-14.

Brissett and the rest of the Browns’ offense had no intentions of backing down. After a very well-balanced drive on the ground and through the air, which was capped off by another rushing touchdown by Chubb, the Browns immediately regained the lead. The Chargers trailed 17-21 and after a few more scoreless drives by both teams, the Chargers went into halftime trailing the Browns 17-21.

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An Electric Second Half

On the second half’s opening drive, the Chargers’ offense put together their most explosive drive of the entire contest. Williams and Herbert’s spectacular chemistry was on full display, as they connected for multiple 20+ yard completions, one of which being a MONSTER touchdown grab in the endzone that ended up being overturned after review. Fortunately, Williams isn’t the only reliable playmaker on the Charger’s offense. On the very next play, Ekeler burst through the Browns’ defensive line on his way to another highlight-level touchdown scamper. The Chargers retook the lead, putting the score of the game at 24-21.

The next three drives ended as follows; a Chargers field goal (27-21), a Browns touchdown (27-28), then another Chargers field goal (30-28).

With under ten minutes left in the game, the Browns’ offense had the ball, only needing a field goal to take the lead. Brissett and Chubb led the offense into the Chargers’ redzone, seemingly shifting the momentum back to their side once again. After a couple of unsuccessful plays, on third and seven, Brissett scrambled to his right and launched the ball into the endzone, targeting Cooper, when third-year safety Alohi Gilman intercepted the ball. This turnover completely silenced what had been a very rowdy home crowd up until this point.

Staley’s Questionable Decision Making

After Gilman’s clutch interception, the Chargers’ offense trotted back onto the with a two-point lead and just 2:44 left on the game clock. It seemed that this game was all but finished, but if you’ve been a Chargers fan long enough, you know there are no guaranteed victories. On the second play of the drive, the Herbert-to-Williams connection struck again for a 19-yard gain that appeared to set the Chargers to secure a road victory.

This game was no different than previous years’ late-game meltdowns, as the Chargers failed to secure a first down that would have guaranteed the team’s victory. In fact, after being forced into a fourth-and-one situation on their 46-yard line and 1:14 left to play, Brandon Staley decided to keep the offense on the field rather than punting the ball away. On fourth-and-one, Herbert went to his most trusted receiving option, Mike Williams, and was unable to connect for a game-sealing reception. The Chargers gave the ball back to the Browns with 1:13 left, on their 46-yard line, trailing by two points.

After gaining ten yards on five plays, the Browns sent out their kicker, Cade York, to kick a game-winning 54-yard field goal. York had missed his only field goal attempt of the game right before halftime when he missed a 45-yard attempt. On fourth and ten with the final effort to win the ballgame, York’s potential game-winning field goal went wide right, immediately putting any hopes of a Browns’ victory to bed. The Chargers win on the road, 30-28.

Final Thoughts

It was great that the Bolts were able to get the win and move on to a season record of 3-2, however, the team should have lost this game. They were giving the ball away to the Browns’ offense, who proved all afternoon that they were capable of moving the ball against the Chargers defense. At that stage of the game with that narrow lead, it was an egregious decision on behalf of HC Brandon Staley. The Chargers played a great game and deserved to win this contest, but Staley was bailed out by York’s missed field goal.

In Week 6, the Chargers host Russell Wilson and the Broncos on Monday Night Football in what should be an entertaining interdivisional matchup. Bolt fam, let’s ride.

Check out the rest of our website here for all things Bolts Break!


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