Game Primer: Chargers vs. Browns

Will the Chargers rediscover their winning ways in Cleveland? Or is another mid-season slump in the cards? To shed some light on the matter, we break down every phase of Sunday's battle with the Browns.

When The Chargers Run

Ryan Mathews averages 5.4 yards per carry on the road. The Chargers' confidence in Mathews continues to grow as the season progresses. He continues to get more touches with each passing game, posting a season-high two weeks ago with 22.

San Diego has been outscored 52-7 in the second halves of the past two games. The Chargers need to give more attention to the rushing game late in contests. Mathews needs time to establish a rhythm. It would only be appropriate to have a Marty-ball revival in Cleveland, the former home of ex-Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

The Browns lost Scott Fujita for the season, yet they still hope to hit hard with the duo of D'Qwell Jackson and Sheldon Brwon. Jackson has a team-high 46 tackles this season, while Brown led the way with 10 tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery last week against the Colts.

When The Chargers Pass

Philip Rivers has eight turnovers in the past two games with only four touchdowns. Luckily, Rivers has never thrown an interception against the Browns. Norv Turner stated this week he plans on playing a much more conservative style, preaching ball security by focusing on Rivers throwing shorter, more accurate passes.

Antonio Gates has had success against the Browns. In their last meeting, Gates recorded a career-high 167 yards. Gates caught two touchdowns in Week 6, which were also his first two scores of the season. San Diego is 13-2 when Gates catches two or more touchdowns.

The Browns lead the league with 10 interceptions. Ball hawk Joe Haden recently returned from his suspension. In three games, he already has two interceptions.

Cleveland's 18 sacks lead the AFC North. The Chargers' offensive line has given up 12 sacks in the past three games. Jared Gaither had a week of full participation in practice despite a groin injury.

When The Browns Run

First-round pick Trent Richardson leads all rookies with 348 rushing yards and leads the team with 24 receptions. However, Richardson is questionable with a rib injury.

The Browns have said Richardson will not be limited if he chooses to play, but after Thursday's practice, it seems Shurmur is preparing backups Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya to split the load.

The Chargers go into Week 8 as the second stingiest defense versus the run, allowing 71.2 yards per game, trailing the Chicago Bears by only 0.2 yards.

When The Browns Pass

Despite being a 29-year-old rookie, Brandon Weedon has brought stability to the quarterback position. In a season with five starting rookie quarterbacks, Weedon leads them all with nine passing touchdowns. Weedon has thrown two touchdowns in three straight games.

The third piece to Cleveland's rookie core is WR Josh Gordon. Gordon has caught at lease one touchdown in three straight games and leads all rookies with 333 receiving yards. He is averaging 23.8 yards per reception, the best average in the league.

The Cleveland offensive line has given Weedon plenty of protection. Weedon has only been sacked three times in the past four games. The Browns will be without starting left guard Jason Pinkston, who has been sidelined with a possibly life-threatening blood clot in his lungs. The Chargers, who had zero sacks against the Broncos, will need to reclaim their toughness and put pressure on Weedon. Shaun Phillips has two sacks in two career games against the Browns.

Just For Kicks

The Chargers made a difficult decision to put Nate Kaeding on the injured-reserve list and have stated their intent to cut him when he becomes healthy. Kaeding made all seven field goals this season before succumbing to a groin injury that wasn't healing fast enough. Nick Novak has taken over as the full time kicker. He is 5-of-6 in three games this season.

Browns PR Josh Cribbs is third in the NFL with 14.3 yards per return. Unfortunately for him, Mike Scifres already has nine punts inside the 20-yard line with only two touchbacks.

Brian Ducoffe is in his second year of covering San Diego sports. He has been previously published in University Link Magazine and wrote as an NBA columnist for Gacksports.com. Follow Brian on twitter @brianducoffe.


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