The Cleveland Browns have defeated the San Diego Chargers. Yes, you read that correctly. For the first time in 378 days (as of Christmas Eve, 2016) the Cleveland Browns have won. Running back Isaiah Crowell rushed for two touchdowns on the day. Quarterback Robert Griffin III played his best game as a Brown, and it came at exactly the right time. Cleveland’s often-hapless defense played like a true NFL defense for most of the game. Additionally, Cleveland’s own Jamie Meder blocked a Charger field goal to protect the lead. And perhaps most importantly of all, Chargers kicker Josh Lambo missed a field goal that would have sent the game to overtime. It’s a Christmas MiraCLE, and the Browns have defeated the Chargers.
Avoiding Total Imperfection: A Cleveland Browns Christmas Miracle
Many Browns fans considered 2016 to be a “lost season.” Packing up shop for the year, they accepted that the Browns just might go 0-16 in Hue Jackson’s first year, and Cleveland would get next year’s first overall pick. However, on December 24th of this year, the Browns rewrote that narrative. With the combination of a clicking offense, a functioning defense, and at times, just dumb luck, the Browns have finally won. So let’s take a look at what led to that win.
RGIII‘s Best Game as a Brown
Head coach Hue Jackson personally picked Robert Griffin III as “his guy” in free agency. And while many fans had considered him a filler until now, Griffin finally came through against the Chargers. RGIII went 17 of 25 on passing for 164 yards before heading out with a concussion. Then, quarterback Cody Kessler went 2 of 3 for 11 yards. This was the first time as a Cleveland Brown that Griffin played like a functioning NFL quarterback, and it happened at just the right moment. At times, San Diego’s defense looked almost clueless, which only helped the Browns even more. In addition, Isaiah Crowell ran all over the Chargers for two touchdowns, taking pressure off Griffin and Kessler.
A Proper Defense
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers connected with receiver Travis Benjamin for 50 yards on the first play from scrimmage. No, really, that happened. But after that play and a touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates, the Browns defense proceeded to lock down San Diego’s offense. Chargers running back Kenneth Farrow had a long of just nine yards, and in the absence of lead rusher Melvin Gordon, San Diego’s running game looked helpless. While Philip Rivers passed for 322 yards on a 23 of 46 passing performance, he never looked truly settled in. He was intercepted by Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor on an underthrown pass, which was the turning point of the game, giving the Browns the momentum boost they needed. Cleveland’s defense truly looked functional today after 14 games of giving up at least 25 points per game.
Blind Faith and Dumb Luck
Luck be a lady, and tonight she was on the side of the Cleveland Browns. During the final drive of the game, Philip Rivers and the Chargers were marching down the field when suddenly, they seemed to stall. On a crucial third down, Rivers missed Antonio Gates and the Browns were able to force a field goal from San Diego. Enter Chargers kicker Josh Lambo. With the game on the line, Lambo attempted a 45-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. As Browns fans held their breath, Lambo’s kick went wide right, and a desperate FirstEnergy Stadium exploded into joy.
The Browns have won a game. It’s a Christmas MiraCLE! After taking this game by a score of 20-17, the 1-14 Orange and Brown pay a visit to Pittsburgh and the Steelers on New Year’s Day.