A combination of a good defensive effort and a flat-out terrible showing by the San Diego Chargers offense led the Cleveland Browns to their second win of the season. The 7-6 victory in the rain and the wind was ugly but not unwelcome for a young team that simply needs to notch as many W's as possible now that the season is half over.
Aside from the defense, which was led by linebackers D'Qwell Jackson, with 14 tackles, and James-Michael Johnson, with 11, the other bright spot for the Browns was running back Trent Richardson.
Richardson, who suffered bruised rib cartilage in Week 6, was ineffective in last week's loss to the Indianapolis Colts, with just eight runs for eight yards. He practiced in a limited capacity all week, causing lingering doubts about his health heading into Sunday's contest.
Clearly, Richardson was feeling significantly better, rushing 24 times for 122 yards and a first-quarter touchdown; he averaged 5.1 yards-per-carry in a game that wasn't well-suited for passing, for either team. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden threw the ball 27 times, with just 11 completions and 129 yards.
The run game paid off more dividends for the Chargers, as well. They had 117 total yards of rushing offense, with 95 of those yards belonging to Ryan Mathews on 24 carries. With the weather conditions as they were, it's not surprising that both Rivers and Weeden struggled.
It wasn't for lack of trying, of course. Weeden targeted nine different receivers, though six of them had just a single catch on the day. San Diego's top receiver was running back Ronnie Brown, who caught seven of eight passes thrown his way, for 85 yards.
Brown had to have the ball thrown his way, because nothing was coming for Rivers when he looked elsewhere.
Cleveland's defense made his favored target, tight end Antonio Gates, relatively useless—he was thrown to only four times, and came away with two catches and 14 yards. Malcom Floyd, the team's leading receiver heading into this week, put up only 43 yards on four receptions and Dante Rosario added just 11 yards on his two catches.
Though he was held without a touchdown this week, Browns rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon continued to make the case for him being the team's uncontested No. 1 wideout, even once Mohamed Massaquoi returns from his hamstring injury. His 46 receiving yards on three catches was the best of Cleveland's receiving corps and represented nearly a third of Weeden's yardage.
There's no mistaking the ugliness that abounded in this contest. Weeden was clearly affected by the weather, three Browns fumbled the ball (though helpfully did not turn it over), and there were key drops by Browns receivers and a failed double-reverse at the end of the first quarter cost the Browns 20 yards.
Cleveland's only points came in the first quarter, and after that, they didn't come close enough to the end zone to even warrant a field-goal attempt.
Luckily for Cleveland, the Chargers played far worse than they did this Sunday. It wasn't a statement win, it wasn't an effective argument for head coach Pat Shurmur to keep his job beyond this season—it was a solid defensive outing that also benefited from the ineptitude of the opposing offense.
But, more important than any of that, is that it was a win. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how a team gets a victory, it's just that they do—and for a team like the Browns, who had just one win on the season heading into Week 8, they'll likely take games like this every week as long as the outcome is the same.