Chargers Report Card:
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- That "A" is for adapting, because that's just what the Chargers did when they went ahead 14-0. Drew Brees attempted but six passes all day, and among his four completions was a 72-yard touchdown to Antonio Gates. The Chargers played it smart by sticking to the ground in miserable conditions.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The reports of the demise of Marty Ball are true, but it had a pulse Sunday on the banks of Lake Erie. Holding a 21-0 lead and possessing a stout defense, coach Marty Schottenheimer went low and gave the ball repeatedly to Tomlinson and his backup, Jesse Chatman. The run-blocking was sensational, which allowed the Chargers to hog the ball, work the clock, and led to Tomlinson's fourth 100-yard rushing game -- to go with two TDs -- in five games. Great work by the guys up front, as well as bruising FB Lorenzo Neal.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- QB Luke McCown never did look comfortable, as the Chargers' pass rush in their 3-4 alignment came at him from various angles and with various people. Shaun Phillips had the lone sack, but there were countless pressures by the defense as well. Donnie Edwards' interception in the end zone likely turned the game around, although it was only in the first quarter. Terrence Kiel led the secondary with six tackles.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Chargers had a few leaks here, as they seemed to have trouble adjusting to backs after the made their cuts on the frozen field. Lee Suggs went for 105 yards, averaging 5 yards a carry. And overall, the Chargers were hit with a season-high 126 rushing yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B- -- Drayton Florence got baited into being blocked into a bouncing punt, which then hit him and turned the ball over to the Browns. No harm was down as Edwards intercepted a pass, but a mistake like that will cost them in the playoffs. The coverage team on punts got nailed for a 38-yarder by Dennis Northcutt. The Chargers' return game wasn't a factor but P Mike Scifres came through with some big kicks in trying conditions.
COACHING: A -- Schottenheimer has done some of his best coaching of his illustrious career by getting this bunch to overlook, in order, naysayers, opponents and on Sunday, weather which included a minus-15 wind-chill. The Chargers stay hot, and much of the reason goes to Schottenheimer and the coordinators: Wade Phillips' crew pitched a shutout and Cam Cameron's unit played error-free football on a day which was tough on everyone. This is a bottom line business, as Schottenheimer reminds everyone often. The bottom line here is Schottenheimer should get consideration for coach of the year honors.
Browns Report Card:
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Conditions were brutal, so it would have been impossible to put up big numbers. Luke McCown completed only 11 of 27 passes for 108 yards and was victimized by several drops. Antonio Bryant dropped a pass at the goal line on fourth down to end one drive. But McCown's only interception came on a disastrous decision early in the fourth quarter. On first-and-goal from the 5, McCown rolled out to his right. He tried to throw across his body to tight end Steve Heiden, but the pass was behind him and was easily intercepted by Donnie Edwards. In a game in which every scoring chance was precious because of the weather, this was especially costly.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B plus -- Lee Suggs seemed unaffected by the conditions as he ran 21 times for 105 yards in his return from a turf-toe injury. Suggs showed vision and cutback ability in wriggling for yardage against the best run defense in the NFL. William Green started the game and had an early 13-yard run, but he gained only four yards in his other four carries before Suggs took over.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- This could almost be an incomplete grade because the Chargers threw only six times and only once in the second half. Drew Brees threw two incompletions and three of the completions gained only 13 total yards. But the other one was a huge play. Linebackers Kevin Bentley and Warrick Holdman got their assignments confused and left tight end Antonio Gates wide open for a 72-yard touchdown catch. That made the score 14-0 and pretty much put the game out of reach. With Orpheus Roye out with a sprained ankle, tackles Alvin McKinley and Michael Myers each had 10 tackles, according to Browns coaches. Former first-round pick Gerard Warren was credited with four tackles.
RUSH DEFENSE: B minus -- The Browns did a decent job on LaDainian Tomlinson, who ran for 200 yards against them last year. This time, Tomlinson gained 111 on 26 carries. His longest run was for 20 yards, which isn't bad considering the breakaway threat Tomlinson is. But with conditions as bad as they were for passing, the Browns should have done a better job ganging up on Tomlinson at the line of scrimmage.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- Phil Dawson missed a 39-yard field goal. Normally, that's a chip shot for him, but nothing was easy on this day. According to Robiskie, the kick was headed straight down the middle until a gust of wind pushed it right. The highlight of the game in the kicking game came early in the first quarter when Dyshod Carter pushed a Charger into a bouncing punt and then alertly pounced on the ball just before it fell out of bounds to give Cleveland the ball at the San Diego 5-yard line. The lowlight was a botched onside kick to start the second half when Frisman Jackson failed to block his assigned man and that player recovered the ball. Dennis Northcutt had a 38-yard punt return.
COACHING: C - The Browns have been outscored 100-22 in Terry Robiskie's three games, but he's in an almost impossible situation. Injuries, superior competition and inclement weather have conspired against Robiskie. The Browns play hard, but they don't play smart. On Sunday, the Browns twice had 12 men in the huddle and had to call a timeout because of incorrect personnel. Even Robiskie said the coaches have to coach better.
The Final Analysis
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