Chargers Win! Chargers Win!

Cleveland- The San Diego Chargers went into Cleveland looking for their first victory. Powered by a stout defense, the Chargers held their ground. Terrible play on special teams by the Chargers gave the Browns life over and over again. In the end, the defense prevailed and gave the Chargers their first victory, a 26-20 win. LaDainian Tomlinson powered the offense, gaining 200 yards on the ground.

The opening drive saw the Chargers defense come up with a stop, just when they needed it. In Chargers territory, the Bolts stopped Cleveland on third and seven and Phil Dawson missed the ensuing 46 yard field goal attempt. The drive was setup by a 24 yard pass on a flea flicker from Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson. Couch laid a beauty of a pass in to Johnson who was trailed by Sammy Davis.

The Chargers took a first quarter lead when Steve Christie hit a 44 yard field goal. The play was setup by some strong running by LaDainian Tomlinson and a pass interference on a crucial third down play. On the play, Drew Brees threw high to Tim Dwight and the ball looked to be uncatchable. Lewis Sanders was called on the pass interference giving the Chargers an automatic first down. Two minutes later, Christie hit to put the Bolts up 3-0.

Defying the odds, Christie hit his longest field goal of the year on the very next drive. Set up by a 27 yard run by Tomlinson, who ran in the center-guard gap, behind a headhunting Lorenzo Neal, taking it outside before going down in Cleveland territory. David Boston then took a wide receiver screen and went 11 yards. Tacking on a five yard face mask penalty, it put Christie on the spot. From 50 yards out, Christie nailed one to put the Chargers up 6-0.

Starting a drive at the 44 of the Chargers after a James Jackson 39 yard return, the Browns quickly entered field goal range with a William Green 11 yard run. Adrian Dingle was then caught offsides negating a fumble recovery by Quentin Jammer that could have ended the drive. A big stop on third down by the Chargers setup fourth and nine. The Browns went for it. A missed pass to an open receiver ended the drive on downs.

With six minutes left in the half, Kwamie Lassiter telegraphed a Couch pass and took it 38 yards to the house to put the Chargers up 13-0. Couch never looked off the safety on the play and Lassiter read it well, tipping the ball to himself before running in untouched.

Carlos Polk helped the Cleveland Browns, not once, but twice on the Browns final drive of the half. Polk committed two penalties on fourth down that gave the Browns first downs. The defense continued to hold its ground, but could only do so much with so many chances. A 16 yard pass to Dennis Northcutt put the Browns in field goal range and Phil Dawson hit from 47 yards out to make the score 13-3. If nothing, the defense bailed out Polk with solid play.

After a short kick by Cleveland, Brees hit three straight passes, a timeout used after each, to put the Bolts into field goal position. Brees hit Eric Parker for 6, again for 16, and then Tim Dwight made a great catch for 17. With :05 seconds left, Christie missed a 43 yard field goal, hitting the left upright.

On the first play of the third quarter, Brees threw a ball high to Josh Norman who got a hand on the ball and it jumped in the air, into the waiting hands of Earl Little who went down with the interception at the San Diego 32. The Chargers defense again came up big and held the Browns to a 42 yard field goal by Dawson, closing the score to 13-6.

Tomlinson came back with his own answer on the first play from scrimmage on the next series. Tomlinson, running left, broke two tackles, one by Andra Davis and another by Robert Grffith, to go 70 yards for a touchdown putting the Chargers up 20-6.

After a three and out, Parker took a punt back 49 yards to the Cleveland 22. The Chargers proceeded to go backwards and had to settle for a field goal attempt. A botched snap between David Binn and Darren Bennett ended any chance of a field goal. Bennett could not hold onto the high snap and had to pick the ball up and throw it away.

Terrence Kiel came up with a big play following the miscue on special teams. Kiel intercepted a Couch pass and took it back to the Cleveland 32. Couch threw the ball right to Kiel as no receiver was in the area. After failing to convert a first, Christie set up for a 42 yard field goal and nailed it to put the Chargers up 23-6.

Kelly Holcomb replaced Couch for the next series. He immediately hit Quincy Morgan for 13 yards to bring the crowd back into the game. Jackson then had a run of 16, caught a ball for 7 and had another short run. On third and short, Holcomb found Andre Davis in one on one coverage deep down the left sidelines with Sammy Davis. Davis was flagged for pass interference and the ball was spotted on the 8 yard line. Holcomb then hit Northcutt over the middle of the field for a touchdown. With the crowd now alive, the Browns have closed to within 10, 23-13.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tim Dwight fumbled the ball, recovered by the Browns at the 35. The defense again came up big and forced the Browns to go for it on fourth and six. Holcomb hit Johnson across the middle against Jerry Wilson, who was three steps behind, to make a 16 yard catch for a first. A pass to Steve Heiden put the Browns inside the five with first and goal. One play later Holcomb hit Darnell Sanders for a touchdown in the right corner of the end zone and the Browns needed just five minutes to get back into the game, 23-20.

The Chargers were helped out by a blow to the head call on Brees by Davis giving them a first down on a missed third down play. Tomlinson did the rest. He gained 62 yards on the drive with a long of 16. On third and goal from the one, Courtney Brown snuffed out a faked handoff and sacked Drew Brees. The Bolts settled for a 32 yard field goal by Christie as the Browns kept within a touchdown of taking the lead, 26-20.

Holcomb had his shot with just over two minutes to go in the fourth. The defense, not a sore spot at all on the day, came up big again. First Davis provided nice coverage on a deep route, then a blitzing Donne Edwards batted down a pass at the line. A dropped pass by Johnson on fourth down gave the Chargers the ball on downs in Cleveland territory.

Tomlinson then ran out the clock, forcing Cleveland to use all of its timeouts and Cleveland finally got the ball back with :25 seconds to go. They would not come close as time expired with a Chargers win, their first of the season. Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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