The Los Angeles Chargers stay home for a second straight week, hosting the visiting Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon in Inglewood, Calif.
The last time the two teams played was in Cleveland, a 38-14 victory by L.A. on Oct. 18, 2018. The Chargers have a 17-9-1 edge in the series and have taken three of the past four.
Like most NFL games, Sunday’s contest likely will be decided in the trenches, including what team will run the football most effectively.
Cleveland’s 1-2 punch of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt each have totaled more than 230 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground through four games. The Browns lead the league in rushing yards with 708.
The Chargers have struggled to bottle up the run this season, allowing nearly 140 rushing yards a contest, 29th in the NFL.
Leaning on the running game has been a strategy used by opposing teams to slow down talented pass rusher Joey Bosa and the rest of Chargers’ dynamic defensive front. In L.A’s only loss this season at home against the Dallas Cowboys, the Chargers allowed Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott to grind out a combined 180 of Dallas’ 198 rushing yards.
Edge rusher Myles Garrett leads the Browns defensively with six sacks on the year. And Cleveland’s defense has allowed just 66.5 rushing yards per game, No. 3 in the league.
“I see a good team and a great defense,” Chubb said, when asked by reporters his thoughts on the Chargers this week. “I see guys that have been winning, playing well and playing good. They look good on tape. They look good on paper. They look good all-around.
“They’ll be a challenge for us, going out west and playing on their home field. They’re playing hot right now.”
Under new head coach Brandon Staley, the Chargers are off to a good start, tied with the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos atop the AFC West division at 3-1.
The leader of the top-ranked defense in the NFL last season as the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams, Staley implemented a similar defensive scheme for the Chargers, with good results.
L.A.’s defense has allowed more than 17 points only once this season and has forced five turnovers in the past two games, placing the Chargers tied for sixth in turnover differential so far this season.
Staley has also brought an efficient, aggressive nature on fourth down, with the Chargers 4-of-5 (80 percent) on fourth down conversions this season. The Chargers were 12-of-25 (48 percent) on fourth downs in 2020.
“You can’t manufacture trust and belief in between the third and fourth quarter,” Staley said. “That has to happen Monday through Saturday. That’s what we’re trying to do around here. We’re trying to create that environment where Monday through Saturday, we’re creating that trust and belief system so that when these storms come, regardless of the quarter, you’re ready for them.”
Added Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert: “He believes in our offense just like we believe in each other. But being aggressive and using some of the data to our advantage is the best of both worlds. I think Coach Staley has done a great job of communicating with us. We’ve got a good feel for it and when we’re out there, we feel comfortable.”
On the injury front, everyone for the Chargers practiced on Wednesday. However, Derwin James (toe/shoulder), Chris Harris Jr. (shoulder) and Justin Jackson (groin) were limited.
The Browns had 11 players that did not practice on Wednesday. Garrett and Malik Jackson got veteran rest days. Cornerback Greg Newsome II has already been ruled out with a calf issue.
–Field Level Media