The Chargers took everything the Browns could throw at them and still managed to come out on top 47-42 in the closest thing that the NFL has to a “track meet,” as Brandon Staley called it postgame.
The Browns played the cleanest game of the two squads with zero turnovers while the Chargers lost an Austin Ekeler fumble. The turnover did little to blemish the confidence of Ek who responded by scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, alone.
While it wasn’t the prettiest game of the season, it was definitely hard-earned and deserved.
As always, these are the players that either “surged” forward with their play or stayed “static” due to their recent performance.
Let’s get into it.
QB Justin Herbert
Another week, another turnover-free game for Herbert. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year threw for 398 yards, four touchdowns, and rushed for another with 29 yards on the ground. He stood calm and collected in the pocket on numerous money downs, including a fourth-and-two on the Chargers’ own 24-yard line.
Through his first two seasons, no other quarterback has as many games with three touchdowns and zero interceptions (seven), as well as games with over 300 yards passing (11). What’s even more incredible is that there are 11 more games on the schedule for Herbert to further increase those marks.
WR Mike Williams
When Williams finished the Raiders game with just a single catch for 11 yards, it was understandable to think maybe his torrid start to the season was finally over.
Oh how wrong that was.
Williams bounced back to the tune of eight catches, 165 yards, and a pair of touchdowns on 16 total targets. Williams’ first touchdown of the day was a 72-yard strike from Herbert on a deep post route that looked to be aided by a blown coverage. His second was on an excellent play-call in which Herbert booted out to the right before throwing back to Williams who was streaking left on another post for a 42-yard score. This time, there wasn’t a defender anywhere within the frame of the camera.
Before the season, it was hard to argue that Williams was deserving of his $15 million salary this season. Now? He may actually be deserving of even more.
S Derwin James
James was everywhere against the Browns. He recorded a career-high 17 tackles and the team’s only sack of Baker Mayfield. Despite stripping the ball, the Browns were able to recover which limited the impact of the play. However, it was nonetheless vital in limiting Cleveland to a field goal on a drive that seemed unstoppable up to that point.
In a game where it seemed like no one could buy a tackle of either Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt, James was the lone enforcer during a first half where he collected 14 total tackles. Those 14 were the most in a first half in the past 15 years. He’s now tied for the sixth-most solo tackles by a player this year (26) after collecting nine on Sunday.
the only NFL player to have 14 tackles in any half of a regular or postseason game in the last 15 seasons?!— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) October 10, 2021
derwin james. pic.twitter.com/coO4YOpR0t
S Nasir Adderley
Adderley finished Sunday’s game with the defense’s fifth-highest overall grade with a 66.2. Early on it seemed like Adderley was going to continue exhibiting the marked improvements he’s made this season, but that whole notion immediately collapsed when the third-year safety single-handedly allowed a 71-yard touchdown to Browns tight end David Njoku.
Prior to the snap, Brandon Staley became extremely animated, likely attempting to point out a mistake within his team’s positioning. Surprisingly, a timeout was not called and Mayfield proceeded to hit Njoku on a dig route over the middle of the field. Adderley converged on the route immediately, but instead of wrapping up for the open-field tackle, he stumbled and then attempted to knock the 6’5 pass-catcher to the ground with...his forearms? As you should have predicted, Njoku bounced off the porous tackle attempt and sprinted untouched for the touchdown.
It was objectively one of the worst plays of Adderley’s career and an extremely humbling experience for the player many still have high hopes for.
CB Asante Samuel Jr.
Samuel was “benched” for most of the second half against the Browns due to a number of poor plays which resulted in him earning the defense’s worst-overall grade by PFF with a 28.1. He finished with a 30.0 coverage grade, a 27.5 in tackling, and a team-worst 28.7 in run defense.
On the 52-yard touchdown by Nick Chubb, Samuel was the last line of defense on the outside. He actually had prime positioning on Donovan Peoples-Jones to make that tackle, and yet he looked liked he was caught off guard by what was happening in front of him. Samuel is coached to shuck the defender and make the tackle but there wasn’t even a tackle attempt made. I’m not sure if this was a situation where he felt the play was going to be stopped before it ever got to him, but that’s no excuse for coming across like you’re not playing to the whistle.
Samuel was replaced by Tevaughn Campbell who finished the game with one of the team’s best tackling grades (75.1).