Tramon Williams does not deserve to be compared to Dwayne Rudd.
After all, Williams was doing his best to prevent yet another excruciating loss when he jumped the gun and gave San Diego kicker Josh Lambo a second crack at the game winning field goal on Sunday. Rudd’s helmet heaving antics back in 2002 were a different level of stupidity. Unfortunately, the Browns are a team that finds so many ways to lose that Williams’ untimely penalty is now destined to find a place in team lore. Lambo took advantage of his second chance, allowing the Chargers to escape 30-27 from a Browns team that played them surprisingly close.
Williams signed a three year free agent contract with the Browns during the off-season, but has yet to live up to it. Along with the disastrous off-sides penalty, he was victimized repeatedly by San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, including several times on chunk plays that extended Chargers drives. Williams was also flagged for defensive holding, giving the Chargers a first down to extend an earlier scoring drive. As overpriced as Williams might currently seem, though, his deal looks like a bargain compared to the one the Browns gave Dwayne Bowe, who was targeted only a single time on Sunday and dropped the pass.
Browns quarterback Josh McCown threw for over 300 yards for the second consecutive game, connecting on scoring strikes to rookie running back Duke Johnson and tight end Gary Barnidge. McCown’s performance was even more impressive considering he managed to avoid heavy pressure and hit safety valve receivers for big gains several times. On the day, he committed only one turnover, which resulted in no points for the Chargers. He led the Browns on an impressive game tying drive late in the 4th quarter, culminating with the touchdown pass to Barnidge and a successful two point conversion pass to Taylor Gabriel.
McCown’s heroics were ultimately nullified by the continued struggles of the Browns defense. A week after allowing 5 drives of 70 or more yards to the Oakland Raiders, the unit allowed the Chargers three such drives, as well as two other scoring drives over 50 yards. After the tying touchdown, Rivers easily moved the chargers 49 yards into field goal range in only four plays. On the day, Rivers carved up the Browns secondary for 358 yards and 3 touchdowns, mostly targeting the injured Joe Haden’s replacement Pierre Desir and Williams. Rivers adjusted to the defensive scheme quickly after being frustrated in the Chargers’ first two offensive possessions. In each of the Browns’ three losses this season, the defense has surrendered 27 or more points after only allowing 27 or more three times in all of 2014.
Rivers came into the game not having completed a pass longer than 60 yards since 2012. He completed two against the depleted Browns secondary in the second half, both of which led to touchdowns. Danny Woodhead carried the ball 8 times for 54 yards and caught 4 passes for 84 yards for the Chargers. Sunday’s game marked the first time this season that the Browns’ defense has not created at least one turnover.
With two seconds left in the game, Chargers Kicker Josh Lambo’s kick to win the game sailed wide of the upright, seemingly forcing the game into overtime. However, Williams jumped across prior to the snap in an effort to block the kick, giving the Chargers’ kicker a second chance that he did not miss.
Other Key Moments:
– Coming out of the two minute warning, with momentum on the Browns’ side after McCown’s game-tying touchdown drive, Rivers hit tight end Ladarius Green for a 17 yard gain that put the ball at the 50 yard line. Two plays later, the Chargers were at the Browns 24.
– On 3rd and 5 on the San Diego 31 at the mid-point of the 4th quarter, with the Browns just having pulled to 20-19, Rivers hit back wide receiver Dontrelle Inman with a short pass that Inman took 68 yards to the Browns 1 yard line. The Chargers would quickly score, leaving the Browns in a position where they could only tie the game.
Keys to the Defeat:
Penalties – In addition to the second crack at the game winning field goal, the Browns gifted the Chargers with 5 first downs on penalties over the course of the game. Overall, the Browns committed 12 penalties for 91 yards.
Chunk Plays and Explosive Plays – The defense allowed 11 plays of 15 yards or more, with 5 of them going for more than 20 yards. This defensive unit has proven that it cannot recover from that.
The Lack of Running Game – Although the team did gain 100 yards on the ground, if barely, it has still not hit its stride as one that claims to be dedicated to the run. This allowed the Chargers to hold the ball for over 35 minutes. In addition, though McCown has passed for over 300 yards in consecutive games, he has thrown the ball 90 times to achieve that. This team cannot win if Josh McCown has to throw 45 passes a game.
Lack of Pressure – Despite Rivers having to playing behind a makeshift offensive line, the Browns rarely put him under duress after the first two series. The defensive front only managed two sacks on the day, often leaving Desir and Williams exposed in the secondary.
The Browns travel to Baltimore to open their divisional schedule against the resurgent Baltimore Ravens, who are coming off their overtime victory at Pittsburgh. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has had an erratic start to 2015, posting a season passer rating of 80.5 with 5 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions in 4 games. The Ravens lead the all time series with the Browns 24-8 and won both matchups in 2014. At one point, the lifetime series between the two teams was relatively close, but the Browns have won only once out of the last 14 games since sweeping the season series in 2007.