Twas’ the night before Christmas and the Bolts were in Cleveland. Okay, that’s about as far as my rhyming skills go. In the first play of the game, Quarterback Philip Rivers sends a deep 50 yard pass to wide receiver Travis Benjamin. Rivers, who has openly shared his frustration with the team’s performance this season, was showing us that he came to play, and he was off to a good start. The Bolts’ opening drive culminated with tight end Antonio Gates’ 110th career touchdown and gave the Chargers an early 7-0 lead.
Once they had possession the Browns responded with a touchdown of their own. Cleveland’s first scoring drive in the first quarter included three defensive penalties against the Chargers. Browns running back Isaiah Crowell scored his first of two touchdowns of the game to tie up the score board.
In the first half Cleveland’s defense held San Diego to just three more points. Kicker Josh Lambo hit a 43 yard field goal with less than two minutes before the half. Standing in the tunnel between the two locker rooms at half time, you could hear the excitement from the Browns team as they headed into the second half of the game with their first lead in five games.
In the third quarter the Bolts tried to recharg their passing game. A couple of long balls to wide receiver Tyrell Williams put the Chargers in the red zone and set him up for a one yard touchdown catch. That score put the Chargers within three points of the Browns who were leading 20-17. However, that was the last time San Diego would see the end zone in this game. Since it is Christmas Eve, we’ll take a short pause in our story check in with Santa.
-Antonio Gates is now one touchdown away from tying Tony Gonzalez’s all time record for the most touch downs by a tight end in NFL history.
-Philip Rivers now has 4,000 passing yards in a season for the eighth time in his career. He is tied with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for third-most in NFL history. When asked how much it meant given the game’s outcome Rivers said, “Not a whole lot.” It was also his 51st-career 300-yard game to tie Dan Fouts for the most in franchise history.
-The Chargers defense collected nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss against the Browns. Rookie defensive end Joey Bosa and defensive end Damion Square led the team with two sacks each.
-The Chargers are the first team to lose to the Browns this season.
-Their loss in Cleveland also marks the end of the Chargers 20 game streak with at least one take away.
After the game the players said this loss doesn’t weigh any heavier on them than the rest. The fact that Cleveland had yet to win a game until they played the Chargers was of no consequence because as defensive tackle Corey Liuget put it, “They’re an NFL team. They’re a good team. They can win games just like we can.”
First Energy Stadium was at best 40% full on Christmas Eve, but the fans that were there to witness their first win of the season made it sound like a sold out crowd. In the fourth quarter the Chargers had two definitive opportunities to tie and possibly beat the Browns. The first shattered glimmer of hope was Josh Lambo’s blocked 32 yard field goal attempt. Then, with seconds on the clock Lambo was back out to kick a 45 yard field goal but it was wide right. He looked shocked as the Cleveland players stormed the field in celebration. I asked him what went through his mind in that moment: “I knew I let my team down. I knew I let my organization down. This weighs heavily on me. I’ll have to carry that” said Lambo about his ill-fated kick.
Next up the Chargers will face the Kansas City Chiefs on New Year’s Day in what many believe could be the Bolts final game at Qualcomm Stadium. If it sounds a lot like last year’s final game against Miami, well, you’re not alone. A win would be essential for a team that has had a controversial and frustrating season, especially with an uncertain future and an NFL deadline on the horizon.
Published at Sun, 25 Dec 2016 08:30:19 +0000