Neither team scored for the first eight minutes of the game, trading punts and turnovers. Neither team looked impressive. A Cleveland Browns field goal opened scoring, and the Chargers countered shortly after with a perfect 26-yard strike from Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen who made a very nice catch on the play.
The second quarter saw a little more scoring with three field goals (two by the Chargers and one by the Browns). A Duke Johnson touchdown reception was the biggest play of the quarter and the primary reason the first half ended in a tie.
The second half opened with a prolonged Chargers drive that crossed midfield. A Stevie Johnson injury that appeared to be a hamstring left the Chargers thin at receiver (only Dontrelle Inman and Keenan Allen remained after an earlier concussion suffered by Malcom Floyd). Multiple false starts by the offensive line helped to stall the drive. A Mike Scifres punt out of bounds at the 17-yard line that was good for only 22 yards of field position. It would have been a long 4th down attempt or a 56-yard field goal attempt. Still, the punt accomplished nothing other than signaling a lack of faith in both the kicker and the offense.
The Cleveland Browns quickly got past the 39-yard line from which the Chargers punted. From there, they moved down the field in large chunks thanks to awful, awful tackling by Brandon Flowers and others. Once they reached the red zone, the defense seemed to stiffen, and they forced a field goal attempt after sniffing out a nifty screen play that was poorly blocked.
With the ball back, the Chargers quickly crossed the 50 and entered the red zone on a great catch and run by Danny Woodhead. From the 19, Rivers saw a matchup he liked, audibled, and threw a perfect lob pass to Ladarius Green in the endzone.
The Chargers kicked off to the Browns and the defense held for another 3-and-out. Following a long punt, the offense came back onto the field with a chance to build on their lead. A short run, a delay of game, and 3-yard pass play brought up a 3rd-and-long. It looked grim, but Inman ran a nice route past the sticks, caught the ball and got out of bounds. On 3rd down at midfield, the Chargers called timeout, then came back and promptly allowed a sack which forced a punt. Travis Benjamin returned that punt almost all the way back to the original line of scrimmage.
The Browns again moved the ball with little difficulty across midfield, but then they left Jerry Attaochu unblocked and he killed their drive. Coons then added yet another field goal to pull the Browns back within one point.
Philip Rivers then reminded everyone why he's incredible. Knowing he was about to get drilled, Rivers delivered a strike to Inman who nearly took it all the way in for a score before getting tripped up. The Chargers then lined up to try to run the ball up the middle. They did so and failed. Then they did it again but faked to Gordon and threw an easy score to John Phillips who was all alone.
Another drive of bad angles and bad tackling got Cleveland back into the red zone. A couple of nice grabs by Gary Barnidge got the Browns six before they lined up for the 2-point conversion which they easily converted for the tie.
Needing only a field goal to win, the Chargers began their drive with a run by Danny Woodhead. A pass to Ladarius Green got another chunk. Then, Woodhead put them in field goal range. The Chargers then started running to use up Cleveland's timeouts before the game-winning field goal attempt that would leave no time on the clock. Josh Lambo missed it, but the Browns jumped offside. From five yards closer, Lambo made it to win the game.