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Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler lead Chargers to 47-42 shootout win over Browns

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Chargers running back Austin Ekeler scores on a 19-yard pass in front of Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Malik Jackson.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler scores on a 19-yard pass in front of Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Malik Jackson during the fourth quarter of the Chargers’ win Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler had seven TD’s between them as the Chargers scored 34 second-half points and overcame a 14-point deficit in a wild 47-42 win over the Browns.

Your Twitter highlight reel of all seven Chargers touchdowns

FIRST QUARTER:

SECOND QUARTER:

THIRD QUARTER:

FOURTH QUARTER:

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Browns get one last shot, Chargers hold on for wild win

The Chargers held on for a crazy 47-42 victory over Cleveland on Sunday when Baker Mayfield’s final Hail Mary pass attempt fell incomplete in the end zone.

The winning score came in the oddest of ways.

Trying to run out the clock, the Chargers instead scored a reluctant touchdown with 1:31 remaining, when Austin Ekeler was credited with a three-yard TD.

Their subsequent two-point conversion try was no good, leaving the Chargers up 47-42. The try was initially ruled successful but then overturned on review.

The Chargers had first and goal at the Cleveland three-yard line and the Browns were out of timeouts.

Instead of taking a knee and playing for a last-play field goal attempt, quarterback Justin Herbert handed to Ekeler, who stutter-stepped into the line of scrimmage and essentially was pulled into the end zone by the Browns defenders.

Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill was injured during Cleveland’s final drive and left the game.

Chargers 47, Browns 42, Final

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There will not be another NFL game like this in 2021

Chargers 47, Browns 42

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Austin Ekeler scores again, but Chargers miss extra point

Tristan Vizcaino missed the tying extra point, leaving the Chargers down 42-41.

The Chargers had a chance to tie the score after Austin Ekeler scored on a 19-yard screen pass from Justin Herbert.

Vizcaino has missed four extra points this season.

Herbert is 25 of 42 for 369 yards and four touchdowns.

Browns 42, Chargers 41, 3:15 left in fourth quarter

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It’s getting crazier: Browns (226 rushing yards) retake lead 42-35

The Chargers continued to struggle stopping Cleveland as the Browns drove right back to retake the lead on an eight-yard touchdown run by Kareem Hunt to make it 42-35.

Cleveland has scored on seven of 10 possessions and rolled up 506 yards of total offense. The Browns have 226 yards on the ground and 280 yards through the air.

Nick Chubb has 161 yards on 21 carries.

Browns 42, Chargers 35, 4:45 left in fourth quarter

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It’s getting crazy: Austin Ekeler ties it at 35-all with rushing TD

The Chargers converted another key fourth down en route to tying the game 35-35 midway through the fourth.

Coach Brandon Staley decided to go for it on fourth-and-eight at the Cleveland 24-yard line. Justin Herbert passed to Keenan Allen for a 20-yard gain.

On the next play, Austin Ekeler ran four yards for the touchdown and then Tristan Vizcaino added the tying extra point.

The Chargers also converted another fourth down during the drive when the Browns were called for pass interference.

The Chargers are three for three on the day and seven for seven on the season on fourth down. They’ve also converted two other fourth downs on opponent penalties.

Chargers 35, Browns 35, 7:24 left in fourth quarter

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Baker Mayfield matches Justin Herbert with his own big, go-ahead play

Cleveland jumped right back on top when Chargers safety Nasir Adderley missed a tackle leading to a 71-yard touchdown reception for David Njoku.

The play, followed by a two-point conversion when Baker Mayfield passed to Austin Hooper, gave the Browns a 35-28 lead.

Mayfield, playing with an injured left (non-throwing) shoulder, is 18 of 22 for 271 yards and a rating of 148.3.

The Chargers have given up 446 yards.

Browns 35, Chargers 28, 10:40 left in fourth quarter

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Justin Herbert and Mike Williams hook up on second TD bomb

The Chargers took their first lead of the second half when Justin Herbert connected with Mike Williams on another long touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.

Herbert hit a wide open Williams for a 42-yard score. Tristan Vizcaino’s extra point made it 28-27.

Herbert and Williams connected on a 72-yard touchdown in the second quarter when Williams again got (way) behind the Cleveland secondary.

Williams has seven catches for a career-high 155 yards.

Chargers 28, Browns 27, 11:22 left in fourth quarter

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Justin Herbert runs it in to make it a one-score game

Down two scores, the Chargers put together a 14-play, 84-yard drive and a two-point conversion to make it 27-21.

Justin Herbert scored on a nine-yard scramble and then passed to Donald Parham Jr. for the two points.

The Chargers converted two fourth downs on the possession, including a a fourth-and-two in their own territory and a fourth-and-seven when Herbert hooked up with Keenan Allen for a 12-yard gain to the Cleveland 10.

Browns 27, Chargers 21, 6:25 left in the third quarter

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LA-Cleveland dual citizen LeBron James in the house today

NFL schedule makers did not do the Chargers any favors, scheduling three opponents in the first five weeks whose fan bases travel especially well: the Cowboys, Raiders and Browns (with the Patriots and Giants still to come).

At the very least, it’ll fill the seats, with A-listers, no less. And we’re not just talking Pat Sajak.

The Colossal spaceship of a SoFi scoreboard showed James in the first half demonstrating something animatedly to a suite crowd that included Klutch Sports head and fellow Ohioan Rich Paul. Less clear is where James’s allegiances lie today, with the city where it all began for him or his current home.

James, of course, is a well-known Cowboys fan.

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Nick Chubbs takes it to the house from 52 yards out on opening drive of second half

Nick Chubb went over the 100-yard mark and gave Cleveland a 27-13 lead with a 52-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half.

Chubb has 128 yards on 18 carries with 12:18 remaining in the third quarter. He stiff-armed Derwin James Jr. out of the way during his 52-yard scoring dash.

The Browns haven’t punted and have scored on five of six drives. Cleveland is up to 172 yards on the ground.

Browns 27, Chargers 13, 12:18 left in third quarter

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LeBron James and the first half of the Chargers-Browns game in six highlights

For your halftime entertainment, here’s the story of the first half told in six highlights, with a LeBron James cameo:

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Browns retake lead in final minute of half on Kareem Hunt TD run

Cleveland retook the lead in the final minute of the first half on a three-yard run by Kareem Hunt, the run coming on fourth-and-one.

The Browns also converted two third downs on the series, both on the ground, to take a 17-13 edge. Cleveland has rushed for 112 yards on 22 carries.

On the ensuing series, the Browns got the ball back on an Austin Ekeler fumble with 38 seconds remaining. Ekeler lost the ball at the end of an eight-yard completion from Justin Herbert.

It was just the Chargers’ second lost fumble of the season and Ekeler’s first since Oct. 6, 2019, in a loss to Denver. Chase McLaughlin then booted a 35-yard field goal as time expired to give the Browns a touchdown lead going into the locker room.

For the Chargers, Tevaughn Campbell replaced Asante Samuel Jr. at cornerback during the possession. Samuel appeared healthy while remaining on the sidelines.

Cleveland’s previous series included a 42-yard completion from Mayfield to Donovan Peoples-Jones. Samuel was beaten on that play when the attempted to come over Peoples-Jones to make a play on the ball.

He also looked to be part the confusion that led to the Browns’ first touchdown. Chris Harris Jr. immediately went to Samuel for a discussion after Rashard Higgins was left uncovered on a seven-yard scoring pass.

Safety Derwin James has been credited with 14 tackles and a sack. He’s the first NFL player with 14 tackles in any half over the past 15 years.

Browns 20, Chargers 13, Halftime

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Chargers retake lead on Herbert to Mike Williams bomb

After falling behind 10-7, the Chargers struck right back when Justin Herbert hit Mike Williams for a 72-yard touchdown.

Williams split two Cleveland defensive backs and ran free in the secondary. Herbert dropped the pass into this waiting, wide-open arms.

Tristan Vizcaino missed another extra point —his third of the season—to leave the score 13-10.

Lot of big plays in this one so far.

Chargers 13, Browns 10, 11:43 left in second quarter

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Cleveland retakes lead on Baker Mayfield TD pass

Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield improved to five for five on the day with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins to make it 10-7.

Higgins was wide open as the Chargers had a busted coverage.

Mayfield has passed for 81 yards and the Browns have 66 yards on the ground. They’ve scored on their first two possessions.

The series was aided by a third-down pass interference penalty on linebacker Drue Tranquill. On the same play, edge rusher Joey was called for roughing the passer.

Browns 10, Chargers 7, 12:46 left in second quarter

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Justin Herbert connects with Donald Parham Jr. on TD pass

The Chargers took their first lead of the game on a Justin Herbert-to-Donald Parham Jr. touchdown pass that covered 22 yards.

They went 85 yards in 10 plays, with Herbert hitting Parham on a screen pass and the tight end running the ball in.

Right guard Oday Aboushi left the game on the drive because of a knee injury. The Chargers announced that his return to the game is questionable. Aboushi was replaced by veteran Michael Schofield III.

Chargers 7, Browns 3, 2:44 left in first quarter

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Browns take 3-0 lead behind power running game

Cleveland took the first lead of the game on 35-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin.

The kick, coming at the 7:39 mark of the first quarter, capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive after the Chargers went three-and-out on their opening drive.

The Browns, the NFL’s No. 1 team rushing the ball, gained 53 of those yards on six carries, which included four runs of at least nine yards. Nick Chubb had 32 yards on three carries and Kareem Hunt 21 yards on three attempts.

Browns 3, Chargers 0, 7:39 left in first quarter

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Actives/Inactives: Kelley suits up, Harris Jr. back; Clowney out for Browns

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Browns beware: Versatile Derwin James Jr. is Chargers’ safety valve on defense

Chargers free safety Derwin James celebrates after stopping the Raiders on third down in the first half of Monday's win.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

He has gone from playing nowhere to playing everywhere, Derwin James Jr. once again visible all over the Chargers’ defense.

He has been on the field for 97% of the team’s defensive snaps through four games, missing only a brief stretch against the Kansas City Chiefs after he dislocated his shoulder and had to pop it back in place.

Under new coach Brandon Staley and now healthy, James is second on the team with 26 tackles and sealed a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday with a late interception.

“We came together, me and him, before in the fourth quarter,” edge rusher Joey Bosa said. “We’re like, ‘This is on us, man. We got to do this.’ For him to come up with it was awesome.”

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Brandon Staley’s high school buddies in Ohio are Browns fans every week but this one

Brandon Staley as a kid, dressed in a Cleveland Browns Bernie Kosar uniform.
(Courtesy of Staley family)

Until he started a family, he was a Cleveland Browns season-ticket holder.

Nothing, however, could make Mike Erkkila stop investing in his lifelong friend.

“I’m a Browns fan, yeah,” Erkkila said. “But I’m a Brandon Staley fan first. I know all the work he’s put in to get to where he is. My fandom goes aside because of loyalty to Brandon and all that work.

“Besides, I think the Browns can make the playoffs at 15-2.”

Staley and the Chargers play Cleveland on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. It’s a home game for the head coach and a hometown game for him, too.

Staley grew up in Perry, Ohio, about 45 minutes east of Cleveland, just up the Lake Erie coast.

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Chargers vs. Cleveland Browns: NFL betting picks, odds and analysis

The Chargers are certainly gaining a lot of bandwagon jumpers with their 3-1 start and back-to-back wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Raiders. But the Browns are also 3-1, with a defense to match the Chargers. The Browns have allowed just 16.8 points per game compared to 18.5 point per game for the Chargers, though it should be pointed out the Chargers have faced much better offenses (both have faced Kansas City, but the Chargers have also had to contain Washington, Dallas and Las Vegas while the Browns have faced Houston, Chicago and Minnesota).

This really should be a back-and-forth battle, but not in typical shootout mode. I see both defenses stepping up and for this game to be about 20-17 or 23-20.

Chargers fans will be tempted to take the six-point teaser and apply it to the Chargers -2 and turn that into Chargers +4, but the mathematically better way to tease this game is to take the Browns from +2 to +8 because you also win the bet if the Chargers win by a touchdown.

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Chargers vs. Browns matchups: Can offensive line protect Justin Herbert?

Chargers offensive tackle Rashawn Slater warms up before a game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 19.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Chargers (3-1) and the Cleveland Browns (3-1) match up heading into their game at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The game will be carried on CBS (Channel 2).

When Chargers have the ball: Most prominent among the offseason upgrades for the Chargers has been the offensive line, which — with right tackle Bryan Bulaga (back) on the injured reserve list — has five different starters than a year ago. Veteran center Corey Linsley and rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater have led the group, both ranked among the top 10 at their position by Pro Football Focus. Cleveland, however, arrives with what Chargers coach Brandon Staley called “one of the elite [defensive] fronts in the league.” The Browns feature end Myles Garrett, who is ranked No. 3 at his position by PFF. Garrett entered Week 5 leading the NFL with six sacks. “I don’t know if there’s a better defensive end pass rusher in the NFL,” Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “He’s a guy that can ruin your day by himself very quickly.” Garrett figures to seek out right tackle Storm Norton, who is filling in for Bulaga and will be making just his seventh NFL start. Quarterback Justin Herbert’s ability to feel pressure and get rid of the ball quickly figure to again be keys to the Chargers sustaining possessions. Austin Ekeler is coming off a career game running the football, finishing with a 117-yard performance against Las Vegas. Cleveland’s defense is third best against the run and pass, and fourth in points allowed. The Chargers will have to earn what they get in this game.

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