NFL: Browns hold off Chargers to avoid winless season
The Cleveland Browns will not become the second NFL team to endure an 0-16 campaign after edging San Diego 20-17 on Saturday in their penultimate game of the season.
Browns defensive end Jamie Meder blocked a 32-yard field goal try by San Diego’s Josh Lambo with 3:45 remaining that would have pulled the Chargers level and Lambo was wide to the right on a 45-yard field goal attempt on the game’s final play to preserve Cleveland’s long-awaited victory.
“You don’t want to say it was our Super Bowl, but it really was,” said left tackle Joe Thomas, who is in his 10th season with the Browns. “Certainly, the emotion and the joy and the happiness after the game in the locker room felt really good.”
The only team in NFL history to finish 0-16 was the 2008 Detroit Lions.
The Browns improved to 1-14 after their first victory since December 13 of last year. That’s a 21-game losing skid in all if you include three final losses in the 2015 campaign and four pre-season defeats this year.
“It’s just a wonderful feeling to get that monkey off our backs,” Browns linebacker Chris Kirksey said.
Philip Rivers flipped 1-yard touchdown passes to Antonio Gates and Tyrell Williams but the Chargers fell to 5-10 after failing to find the end zone on their final five possessions.
“It was no doubt a team win today,” Thomas said. “Offensively, in the second half, we wish we would have done more because we really didn’t do much, but the defense played their butts off. They did an amazing job of stopping them when they had to.”
Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell scored on an 8-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and again on a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that gave the Browns the lead for good.
Cody Parkey added field goals of 49 and 27 yards to boost Cleveland’s lead to 20-10 and the Browns defenders held tough at the finish.
“I kept telling myself, ‘I shouldn’t be this happy. This is not that big of a deal. We just won a game and it doesn’t even matter,'” Thomas said. “It definitely felt like it was more than just a win.”
Browns coach Hue Jackson said every player, coach and front office worker would receive a game ball.
“I’m happy for the guys,” Jackson said. “They deserve it. They’ve worked hard all year. This is the first opportunity they have to taste victory. It was a grind for us, but that’s the kind of game I knew it would be. Our players kept fighting, and we were able to get it done.”