CARSON, Calif. (AP) — After Adrian Phillips’ late interception sealed the Los Angeles Chargers’ third straight victory, they left their new home field as a first-place team.
Their miserable 0-4 start to the season seemed as if it happened years ago.
The 0-12 Cleveland Browns’ nightmare still won’t end. Not even against the only opponent they’ve beaten in nearly two years.
Philip Rivers passed for 344 yards and hit Keenan Allen for a touchdown, and the surging Chargers moved into a tie for first in the AFC West with a 19-10 victory over the winless Browns on Sunday.
Allen had 10 catches for 105 yards in his third straight big game for the Chargers (6-6), who have won six of eight to pull even with Oakland and slumping Kansas City atop the division with four games to go.
“No one ever flinched,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “At 0-4, we still had a lot of football left, and that’s how we’ve always looked at it. To be in this position doesn’t surprise me at all, because guys have worked hard and they’re committed to the process. They never stopped believing.”
New kicker Travis Coons hit four field goals as the Chargers grinded out a win over the Browns, whose only victory in their previous 30 games was a 20-17 win over the then-San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve last season.
Cleveland trailed 19-7 entering the fourth quarter, and Zane Gonzalez hit an early field goal before the Browns mounted a long drive.
But Joey Bosa forced a fumble with a vicious sack of DeShone Kizer deep in Chargers territory, and Denzel Perryman recovered with 4:48 to play. The Browns had another drive deep into scoring territory, but Phillips’ pick ended it.
“They’re a good young team, but we make plays,” Perryman said. “We’re going into our fourth-quarter phase of the season now, and it’s time to finish. We control our destiny.”
Josh Gordon had four catches for 85 yards in his first NFL game since 2014 for the Browns. The talented receiver had been suspended for over 2½ seasons for numerous violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policies, but was reinstated last month.
“It was real familiar, man,” Gordon said. “Football is something I have been doing my whole life. New stadium, that’s about it, you know?”
Kizer passed for 215 yards and hit rookie David Njoku for a 28-yard TD late in the first half for the Browns, who took their 30th loss in 31 games since late in the 2015 season.
“All season, you can see that we’re very close to getting where we want to go,” said Kizer, who went 15-for-32 and was sacked three times. “But I can definitely sense in this locker room that close isn’t cutting it anymore. We need to get over that hill.”
The Browns are 1-27 under coach Hue Jackson, who broke John McKay’s NFL record for the slowest start to a coaching tenure with a franchise. Cleveland has four games left to avoid becoming the fifth winless team in NFL history and only the second in a 16-game season.
BIG GAME KEENAN
Allen made three catches on the Chargers’ only touchdown drive, and his 7-yard grab gave him four scores in three games. The fifth-year pro became the first player in NFL history with at least 10 catches for 100 yards and one touchdown in three consecutive games. He surpassed 1,000 yards for the first time since his rookie season in 2013. Allen directed praise back to Rivers.
“He’s so consistent,” Allen said. “He’s been amazing right now, getting us in the right place. He’s making the right reads. He has eyes in the right places all the time.”
BACK IN THE GAME
Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward had three tackles and two passes defensed despite missing the week of practice to be in Georgia with his family after his brother was killed in a car accident on Monday night. “When I got back out here, I just focused on football,” Hayward said.
Coons went 4-for-5 on field-goal attempts as the fourth person to attempt place-kicks for the Chargers this season. The former Browns kicker was signed this week to replace Nick Novak, who hurt his back last week against Dallas. Coons missed a 38-yard field goal on LA’s opening drive, but subsequently hit from 21, 40, 22 and 27 yards.
Browns: TE Randall Telfer was evaluated for a possible concussion during the game.
… Rookie DB Jabrill Peppers injured his knee in the second half. He will have an MRI on Monday.
Chargers: Rookie WR Mike Williams and starting DT Corey Liuget were inactive.
Browns: Return home to host the Green Bay Packers (6-6).
Chargers: Stay home to face the Washington Redskins (5-7) with postseason hopes in play.