Browns’ defense struggles again in loss to Chargers
SAN DIEGO (AP) — While he didn’t deliver a victory, Josh McCown of the Cleveland Browns might have hushed the furor over whether he should be starting instead of Johnny Manziel.
McCown threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns in the Browns’ 30-27 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, which was sealed when rookie Josh Lambo got a second chance and kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired.
“I thought he hung in there,” coach Mike Pettine said of McCown, who completed 32 of 41 passes. “There were a couple times early where I thought he took some throws down the field that he didn’t need to. He wanted to be aggressive. I thought he saw the field well. I thought he moved in the pocket when he had to.”
Perhaps most importantly, “he was good in crunch time,” the coach said.
McCown needed the good outing. He went down with a concussion in the opener. He had a miserable first half last week against Oakland, rebounded and rallied the Browns before throwing an interception in final minute.
The Browns had tied it at 27 on McCown’s 1-yard pass to Gary Barnidge with 2:09 to play and a 2-point conversion pass to Taylor Gabriel. That TD score was set up when the Browns won a challenge of McCown’s 19-yard pass to Barnidge that originally was ruled incomplete.
Philip Rivers then moved the Chargers down the field. Lambo was wide right on a 39-yard attempt with :02 left, but Cleveland’s Tramon Williams was whistled for offside. Lambo then hit his third field goal of the game.
McCown figured the team that had the ball last would win. He was right.
“I’m just disappointed,” McCown said. “It’s heartbreaking for obvious reasons. I feel like everybody battled and fought really hard. And when you know it’s a game like that going back and forth, it hurts when you don’t have a chance to have it last.
“You come home with a loss, it doesn’t reflect the effort that was put into that game.”
Rivers was 23 of 38 for 358 yards and three touchdowns. McCown was 32 of 41 for 356 yards and two scores.
Working behind a makeshift line due to injuries, Rivers threw TD passes of 28 yards to Keenan Allen in the first quarter, 19 yards to Ladarius Green for the go-ahead score in the third quarter and a 1-yarder to John Phillips in the fourth.
San Diego’s defense came up big. The Chargers (2-2) had only one sack coming in, but dropped McCown four times, including two by Jerry Attaochu. The Browns (1-3) lost their second straight.
With the Chargers leading 20-16, Attaochu threw McCown for a 12-yard loss from the Chargers 25. That forced the Browns to settle for Travis Coons’ 40-yard field goal.
The Chargers then moved downfield for Phillips’ score, set up by Dontrelle Inman’s 68-yard catch-and-run on a crossing pattern.
San Diego struggled early. After a drive stalled due to Rivers being sacked, the QB threw his helmet into the bench and aired out running backs coach Ollie Wilson, apparently because rookie Melvin Gordon failed to pick up the blitz.
The Chargers were playing without three offensive line starters, left tackle King Dunlap, left guard Orlando Franklin and center Chris Watt. The Browns were without cornerback Joe Haden. The first half ended 13-13.
San Diego took a 7-3 lead on a nice 28-yard scoring pass from Rivers to Allen in the front corner of the end zone late in the first quarter. The Browns came right back on McCown’s beautiful 34-yard pass to running back Duke Johnson Jr., who exploited a mismatch against linebacker Donald Butler.
Coons kicked field goals of 36 and 28 yards, and Lambo also was good from 46 and 45.
NOTES: On the Browns injury report were CB Tashaun Gipson (ankle), RB Shaun Draughn (back) and WR Brian Hartline (ribs, thigh). … Browns WR Dwayne Bowe dropped the only pass he was thrown. He has sat out two games with a hamstring injury and has yet to catch a pass after the team signed him to a two-year, $12.5 free agent contract, with $9 million guaranteed.
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