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Chargers-Browns Recap: Bolts outlast Browns in another wild finish in Cleveland

The Chargers and Browns traded leads five times in thrilling Week 5 showdown.

Los Angeles Chargers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Commentator for today’s game, Adam Archuleta, stated that if the Browns and Chargers play each other again in 2023, the game MUST be on primetime. After yet another wild and outlandish finish to today’s 30-28 win for the Bolts, I think all of the football world would have to agree.

The Chargers (3-2) and Browns (2-3) traded leads five times, which was the most within any game so far this NFL season. Nick Chubb started the game with a huge 42-yard run and proceeded to do his usual thing as he finished with another 100+ game and two touchdowns. But could anyone have expected that Austin Ekeler would out-rush him today?

Ekeler’s career-high 173 yards rushing was highlighted by a massive 71-yard gain in the first quarter. He scored twice on the day with a 22-yard rushing touchdown and a 12-yard reception through the air.

Despite only three total points being scored in the fourth quarter, that’s where all the drama took place. The Chargers began the quarter by kicking a field goal and snatching back the lead. The Browns did their best to respond, but Jacoby Brissett was forced to make a play at the goal line and pulled the trigger on an ill-advised pass which was intercepted by Alohi Gilman.

That was the ball game, right? Well, not so much.

The Chargers attempted to put the game away by going for it on fourth down at their own 46-yard line but it fell incomplete without much of a chance. With the game seemingly in their hands, the Browns moved the ball just 10 yards before attempting a 54-yard kick. Cade York pushed it right and somehow, someway, the Bolts survived to head home above .500 for the first time since week one.

To check out the entire four-quarter recap, check it out below.

First Quarter

The Browns received the opening kickoff and wasted almost no time in finding the end zone. It took just four plays and three carries by Nick Chubb for him to find the end zone on a 41-yard jaunt that included several missed and broken tackles by Chargers defenders. With fans still getting into their seats, the Browns were already up 7-0.

The Chargers responded with a 10-play, 55-yard drive that go them within field goal range, but Brandon Staley chose to roll the dice on a fourth-and-two at the Cleveland 28-yard but came up short as Denzel Ward broke up a pass intended for Mike Williams near the left sideline.

The connection between Jacoby Brissett and Amari Cooper was on full display during the Browns’ second offensive drive of the game. Cooper caught a 20-yard pass to begin the drive and capped it off with a touchdown to put the Bolts down 14-0 in the first quarter.

On the first play of the ensuing Chargers drive, Austin Ekeler ripped off one of the longest runs of his career, taking the ball 71 yards inside the Browns five-yard line. All the momentum was for nothing in the end as the Chargers ran three plays to gain zero yards before kicking a field goal.

Before the first quarter ticked away, the Bolts forced a much-needed three-and-out by Cleveland.

Second Quarter

The Chargers retained possession into the second quarter and it only took three players into the period for Joshua Kelley to find the end zone on a five-yard run where the entire defense lost track of him.

Early in the second quarter, the Chargers still trailed 14-10.

The Browns once again struggled to get much going on their offensive drive and were forced to punt after a quick three-and-out forced by the Chargers. Unfortunately, Cleveland was able to pin the Bolts all the way back to their one-yard line.

Through a reinvigorated run game, the duo of Ekeler and Kelley combined to help march the Bolts down the field with a healthy mix of runs and receptions. But on the 10th play of the drive, right tackle Trey Pipkins got rolled up on from behind and looked to be in some pain. Storm Norton stepped into replace him as trainers tended to #79.

Two plays after returning to play, Ekeler took a screen pass, made a man miss, and strutted into the end zone to take the lead 17-14.

The Browns found their groove on their next drive by only taking six plays to go 75 yards and punch the ball in for a score via Nick Chubb.

Now facing a 21-17 deficit, the Chargers needed to respond once again. However, Mike Williams took a short route for what looked like an easy first down gain, but he chose to bounce the run and fell short by a yard. The Bolts were stood up on the next play and were forced to punt. JK Scott halfway shanked the kick for just 37 yards which gave the Browns good field position.

Both Chubb and Kareem Hunt got the Browns moving smoothly into Chargers territory before stalling out. Cade York attempted to push Cleveland’s lead to seven but he pushed it right.

Instead of being down a full score, the Bolts trailed by four entering the midway point.

Third Quarter

The Chargers burst out of the gates in the second half with a nine-yard, 75-yard drive that ended in a 22-yard rushing score by Ekeler to push them back on top 24-21.

They carried that momentum onto the defensive side of the ball by forcing a turnover on downs with a huge tackle for loss on Kareem Hunt by Christian Covington inside Browns territory.

A few quick plays and the Chargers were inside the Browns 10-yard line. The offense stalled following a false start penalty by Donald Parham Jr. which forced another Bertolet field goal. With a little under six minutes left in the third quarter, the Chargers led 27-21.

The Browns snatched the lead back from the Chargers with a two-yard leaping score from Hunt. They responded to a rough start to the half with an 11-play, 75-yard drive. Heading into the final quarter, the Browns held on to a 28-27 lead.

Fourth Quarter

The Chargers matched Cleveland’s energy with a long, sustained drive of their own. It took 13 plays, but the Bolts moved 66 yards and took just under six and a half minutes off the clock before kicking a field goal to change leads once again. With under 10 minutes to go in regulation, the Bolts led 30-28.

Needing a stop in a big way, the Chargers defense came out flat despite enjoying their longest break of the game. The Browns moved into the red zone with some nifty plays from Brissett, including a 20-yard scramble that looked like a sure-sack before he broke out of a pile. But the Browns’ momentum quickly evaporated when Brissett attempted an ill-advised pass across his body into the end zone only to have it intercepted by Alohi Gilman. Gilman is in his first start of the season after Nasir Adderley was benched for poor tackling in recent games.

The Chargers attempted to win the game on their next drive by going for it on fourth-and-two still inside Browns territory. Instead of punting they attempted a slant to Mike Williams and he was covered up the whole way.

But despite the mind-boggling decision not to punt the ball to the other side of the field, Browns kicker Cade York pushed a game-winning 54-yard field goal wide right and the Bolts would go on to kneel the rest of the game out.

Justin Herbert finished with 228 yards passing and a lone touchdown on 22-of-34 passing.

Austin Ekeler recorded 173 yards rushing and a touchdown on 16 carries. He also chipped in 26 yards receiving and another score on four catches.

Mike Williams led the team with 10 catches for 134 yards and a near-touchdown that was overturned.

Derwin James led the defense with 14 total tackles and a tackle for loss. Khalil Mack and Christian Covington each recorded a TFL, as well.

The Chargers will be on Monday Night Football next week to face the Broncos in their first matchup of the season.