(Three points of interest in today’s game)
In order to take advantage of receiver Josh Gordon’s return, DeShone Kizer will need time to throw. That’s asking a lot against Chargers defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. They’ve combined for 19 sacks this season, as the Chargers are tied for fourth in the NFL with 32.
“That is not fair,” coach Hue Jackson said. “They are both really good players. They both go after the quarterback relentlessly. They have done it to every quarterback that they have played against. They hit the quarterback. We have to do everything we can to combat that. For three hours on Sunday, we have to be at our best.”
Bosa, the No. 3 pick out of Ohio State in 2016, is fifth in the league with 10.5 sacks. He had 10.5 as a rookie and set an NFL record with 19 in his first 20 games, including a pair against the Browns last year. Ingram is tied for 12th with 8.5 and has three against the Browns in three career games.
“He is just an overall good rusher,” left tackle Spencer Drango said of Bosa. “He is relentless with his rush so it just means that we have to keep blocking for as long as it takes.”
Drango and right tackle Shon Coleman will draw the difficult assignments, as Bosa and Ingram bounce between sides. Coleman has been steady in his first year as a starter, but Drango’s performance has fallen off since a strong start replacing Joe Thomas.
“It is like anything, the video tape, now people start to know who you are and how you play,” Jackson said. “People start to work on your weaknesses to try to accentuate those, so he has to do everything he can to play as well as he can, and we have to help him with some of the things we do.”
LEANIN’ ON KEENAN
Chargers receiver Keenan Allen likely cemented his first trip to the Pro Bowl with his last two games. In convincing wins over the Bills and Cowboys, Allen totaled 23 catches for 331 yards and three touchdowns. He’s the first Charger since 1995 with multiple games in a season with 10 catches, 150 yards and a touchdown.
“Man, we have been saying he is kind of like a basketball player out there,” said cornerback Jason McCourty, who will likely cover Allen. “He is kind of AND 1 Mixtape when you put the film on — in and out of breaks, off the line of scrimmage. His moves and the way he is able to move makes him a very, very tough challenge just to be able to cover one-on-one. He is just making plays all over the field. His last two games have been as good as any receiver in the league this year.”
Allen (6-foot-2, 206 pounds) ranks seventh in the NFL with 67 catches and is fifth with 927 receiving yards. He has four touchdowns. He’s at his best on third down, leading the league with 29 catches for 449 yards.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams raved about the relationship and trust between quarterback Philip Rivers and his favorite target, and Allen’s toughness. Jackson praised his route-running.
“His quickness, his suddenness, his ability to sink his hips and get in and out of breaks,” he said. “When you watch him move, his ankles are like he can stop and move and go in another direction really quickly and stay at full speed.”
The chances of the Chargers taking the winless Browns lightly plummeted last Christmas Eve. The Chargers, then based in San Diego, became the only team to lose to the Browns. The Browns were 0-14 before the Christmas Eve Miracle secured by Jamie Meder’s block of a last-second field goal. The Browns are 0-11 this season as they venture to the West Coast.
“I wasn’t here last year,” coach Anthony Lynn told reporters in Los Angeles, “but I’m pretty sure they remember losing to this team last year.”
The Chargers have much more to play for this season than they did in Week 16 last year, as they’ve won five of seven after an 0-4 start and are fighting for a playoff spot. They don’t appear to be looking past the Browns.
“Every NFL team, regardless of record, can come out and win at any point, so we can’t let their record impact how we play,” receiver Tyrell Williams said. “I feel like we’re on a roll right now, we have a bigger picture in our minds, so we’re coming out for every game with the same approach and going for the lead in that division. For us, that’s the only thing that matters.”
Jackson isn’t worried about a revenge factor.
“Let’s be honest, we are an 0-11 football team,” he said. “I think they are going about their business, working hard and they have something to play for.”
Scoring differential (118-41) for the Browns in the second quarter this season.
Defensive touchdowns scored by the Chargers in the last two games. The Browns have scored two touchdowns in the last two games.
Receiving yards Duke Johnson needs to become the first NFL running back with 500 in each of his first three seasons since Herschel Walker in 1986-88.
Josh Gordon makes a difference but can’t save the Browns from another loss against a superior team. Chargers 30, Browns 20.