Herbert's 398 yards, Ekeler 3 TDs lead Chargers over Browns
By JOE REEDY
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers showed early in the season they can rally to win close games on the road.
On Sunday, they won a wild shootout in front of their home fans.
Herbert had his record 11th 300-yard game with 398 yards passing and tied a career high with four touchdowns as the Chargers rallied for a 47-42 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
"To win a game like this, one that turns into a track meet, you have to have a superstar quarterback to win it. That's what he is," coach Brandon Staley said. "Like I told the team in there, the reason why he's being able to play how he's capable of playing is because he has a really good team around him."
The game saw one tie and eight lead changes - four in the final 15 minutes when the teams combined for 41 points.
Herbert, has the most 300-yard games by any quarterback in their first two years in the league, likened it to a college football shootout.
"I thought it was a lot of fun to be a part of. The defense came up with some big stops when we needed them to and the offense came down and scored," said Herbert, who completed 26 of 43 passes and also ran in for a score.
Austin Ekeler had three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 3-yard score with 1:31 remaining for the go-ahead points. Mike Williams had 165 receiving yards and caught two TD passes for the Chargers, off to their first 4-1 start since 2014
Los Angeles, under first-year coach Staley, has won three straight and leads the AFC West after losses by Denver and Las Vegas.
Nick Chubb rushed for 161 yards for Cleveland (3-2). Baker Mayfield had his 10th career, 300-yard passing game in his 50th start after it was revealed earlier in the week he had a torn left labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.
According to Elias, the Browns are the first team in NFL history to lose a regular-season or playoff game when scoring 40-plus points with 500 yards and no turnovers.
Chubb went over the 100-yard mark for the 19th time on the opening drive of the third quarter with a 52-yard run to extend Cleveland's lead to 27-13 before the Chargers rallied.
"We didn't make enough plays to win the game, and that goes for everybody on our team. We didn't do that," said Mayfield, who was 23 of 32 for 306 yards and two touchdowns. "We haven't played a complementary football game yet."
After Ekeler's 19-yard screen pass score from Herbert drew the Chargers within 42-41 with 3:15 remaining, Tristan Vizcaino missed his second extra point of the game.
Cleveland went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, setting up the winning five-play, 48-yard drive. Herbert connected with Jared Cook for a 29-yard completion to the Browns 18-yard line. Four plays later, Ekeler went into the end zone.
THE MONEY DOWN
The Chargers were 3 for 3 on fourth down, and the offense is perfect on all seven opportunities. Unofficially they were 4 for 4 after Cleveland's A.J. Green was called for pass interference to give the Chargers a first down on the Browns 26.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett were not happy about the penalty.
"It was terrible," Garrett said. "You've seen pictures. You've seen videos. It was a terrible call. The refs are humans and they make mistakes. We get held to a high standard and a high degree of excellence and so should they."
UNDER FURTHER REVIEW
Ekeler tried to stop short of the goal line so Los Angeles could burn more time and possibly win on a last-second score. But Cleveland's defensive players shoved Ekeler into the end zone.
Staley said he needed further interpretation on that play; the league officiating office said there is no rule against aiding a player into the end zone.
Browns safety John Johnson said Cleveland practiced that before and it was good situational awareness.
Ekeler said he had a sick feeling to his stomach after scoring.
"I felt like I literally could have blown the game if the defense couldn't get a stop. So thank you defense for getting that stop because I'm sure we were going to try to just hold out and then kick a field goal with the last few seconds of the game," said Ekeler, who finished with 119 scrimmage yards (66 rushing, 53 receiving).
Williams had been the Chargers' deep threat the past two seasons, but had emerged as a short-route receiver in the new offense. That wasn't the case on Sunday as he had a career-high, 72-yard TD during the second quarter.
After Herbert' 9-yard keeper and 2-point conversion brought the Bolts within 27-21, the Chargers regained the lead when Williams was left wide open for a 42-yard score.
Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski attributed the two long touchdowns to busted coverages.
"It is obviously a miscommunication and we had too many of those. They had big plays. They got behind us on some broken plays, they had some DPIs, so we have to do a better job," he said.
Browns tight end David Njoku had 149 receiving yards, including a 71-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter that put Cleveland temporarily back in front 35-28. He is the first Browns tight end since Gary Barnidge in 2015 to go over 100 yards.
Browns: Rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah suffered a throat contusion and was taken to a local hospital after the game according to a team spokesman as a precaution and for further evaluation. ... Cleveland was already thin in the secondary with rookie CB Greg Newsome II inactive. It got even worse when cornerbacks Denzel Ward (neck) and Greedy Williams (right shoulder) were injured during the first half and did not return. The Browns were also missing both starting tackles after right tackle Jack Conklin suffered a knee injury in the third quarter. S M.J. Stewart had a hamstring injury in the second half and did not return. ... Ward, Conklin, Williams and safety M.J. Stewart (right hamstring) will undergo MRIs on Monday.
Chargers: G Oday Aboushi suffered a knee injury during the first quarter and did not return. Staley said Aboushi is undergoing further evaluation.
Browns: host the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday.
Chargers: hit the road to face the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday.
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Updated October 11, 2021