Week 5 of the NFL season is behind us, and there were a number of exciting games and upsets. The Eagles overcoming a 15-3 deficit against the Carolina Panthers. The Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals going back and forth into overtime. The Baltimore Ravens mounting a 25-9 deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. It was truly a magnificent week for football fans that love excitement and drama. However, arguably the best game of the weekend was the throwdown between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cleveland Browns.
The Chargers hosted the Browns at SoFi Stadium, and going into the game, it was clear that it was going to be a competitive game. Both teams were sitting at 3-1 and were playing like true playoff contenders. But how did the game go? What went well for the Chargers, and what needs to be worked on? These are the Chargers’ takeaways from NFL Week 5.
A True Nailbiter, All the Way Through
This game was a true delight for any NFL fan to bear witness to. It had eight lead changes, four of them coming in the fourth quarter alone, kept spectators on the edge of their seat. The Browns opened the game strong, scoring 17 points in the second quarter to give them a 20-13 lead at the half. Nick Chubb was a menace for the Chargers’ defense, running for 161 yards on 21 carries (7.7 ypc) and a touchdown. Very little changed in the third quarter, ending with the Browns leading 27-21.
Then, the fourth quarter came. Defense was essentially a non-factor in the fourth quarter. With 41 total points and four lead changes; this quarter had it all. Eventually, there needed to be one team’s offense to break, and that ended up being the Browns. The Chargers’ defense was able to make two crucial stops in the final three minutes of regulation, while the Browns’ defense was unable to do the same. The Chargers, after forcing a punt by the Browns just before the two-minute warning, were able to march down the field and take the lead, 47-42, on an Austin Ekeler run for three yards. The Browns got the ball back with 1:31 left on the clock, but were unable to make any progress and turned the ball over on downs with 14 seconds on the clock. After that, the Chargers took a knee to run out the clock, and the Chargers finished with a hard-fought victory.
What Went Well
Justin Herbert was arguably the best player on the field on Sunday. Herbert completed 26 passes on 43 attempts (60.5%) for 398 yards and four touchdown passes, which earned him a 122.0 passer rating. On top of that, he also finished with four carries for 29 yards (7.3 ypc) and a touchdown run. Herbert’s heroics in the fourth quarter were the catalyst for the Chargers’ comeback. With this game, Herbert fully implemented himself into the MVP race, and deservedly so.
Fun fact: Herbert broke two NFL records in this game. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to have seven games with three touchdowns and 0 interceptions in a game through his first two seasons. Also, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to have 11 300-yard passing games through his first two seasons.
If there was anyone who benefitted from Herbert’s heroics, it was Mike Williams. With yet another amazing performance in his renaissance season, Williams appears completely ready for a massive payday. Williams finished the day with eight receptions for 165 yards (20.6 ypc) and two touchdowns.
It’s great to see Williams being utilized the way he was meant to be in Staley’s offensive scheme. Williams’s large frame, along with his impressive top-end speed and big hands, is now being used as a primary option, rather than a second fiddle to Keenan Allen. While Allen’s performance has dropped slightly due to Williams’s resurgence, Allen is still a primary target for Herbert. That speaks to just how good Allen really is. The Chargers should be willing to break out the money bags for Williams, because if the team can keep both Williams and Allen in the powder blues, then the Chargers should continue to be playoff contenders for years to come.
What Did Not Go Well
The Entire Defense
The Chargers and Browns each had explosive offensive performances. However, the flipside of that means that their defenses played terribly. The Chargers’ defense allowed 42 points, along with 535 total yards of offense to the Browns. Sure, a big rushing day for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt was expected, who combined for 222 yards on 33 total carries (6.7 ypc), but what wasn’t expected was quarterback Baker Mayfield joining the fun. Mayfield completed 23 of 32 passes (72%) for 305 yards and two touchdowns, which earned him a 122.5 passer rating. That passer rating is even higher than Justin Herbert’s, likely due to his higher completion percentage.
With that in mind, it’s worrisome how this Chargers defense will hold up against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. After a fantastic Monday Night Football performance against the Indianapolis Colts, it’s possible that Jackson completely shreds the Chargers defense both in the air and on the ground. Hopefully, the Chargers do something soon to remedy this, or else their matchup against the Ravens next week will be painful to watch.
Yet again, Vizcaino delivers an underwhelming performance for the Chargers. Thankfully, the Chargers never needed to attempt any field goals, so he finished 0/0 in that regard. However, on extra-point attempts, Vizcaino finished 3/5. One missed extra point is understandable, but two? They’re supposed to be chip shots for NFL kickers, so how does a kicker miss two?
The Chargers need to start looking at bringing in another kicker to at least challenge Vizcaino for the starting job. Otherwise, the team may be stuck with a kicker who makes extra points seem like a coin flip. The Chargers’ kicker curse continues, I suppose.
The Chargers’ offense played their heart out on Sunday, and that heart allowed them to steal what looked to be an unwinnable game off the Browns. While negative things were written here about the defense’s performance, they did still manage to come in clutch when it mattered most. Shutting down that Browns offense twice in the final four minutes, after they had been torching the Chargers’ defense through most of the game, deserves some praise. The Chargers travel to Baltimore to face off against the red-hot Ravens next Sunday, and the Chargers will need to prepare just as much, if not more so, for them as they did for the Browns. These were the Chargers’ takeaways from NFL Week 5.