There is no such thing as a "pretty" loss in the NFL but there are definitely ugly wins. And they count just as much as the rest of them. The Browns, and the fans that were brave enough to venture down to watch them play on Sunday, will take it any way they can get it. In a game in which the elements played no favorites, the Browns (2-6) managed to squeak out a 7-6 win against the visiting San Diego Chargers (3-4).
The Chargers are now 0-6 all time when playing a team at 1 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone during the month of October. The weather, along with the Browns defense, had as much to do with keeping that streak alive as anything else on Sunday. The remnants of Hurricane Sandy aren't forecast to arrive in Ohio until closer to midweek but you wouldn't have known it if you happened to be in attendance along the lake for this whale of a game.
With nonstop rain, temperatures in the low 40s and a fierce, swirling, wind making life challenging down on the field of Cleveland Browns Stadium, one has to wonder how much that affected the visitors from Southern California. Had the game been played on a sunny 75 degree day in early September, the outcome may have been far different, but no one in Cleveland is complaining.
As it were, the conditions called for a heavy dose of the ground attack for both teams. Running back Trent Richardson got things rolling early, picking up yardage in chunks as the Browns put together a rare opening drive that resulted in a touchdown after he took a draw 26 yards to pay dirt behind the steady blocking of his offensive line. That was the first opening drive resulting in a touchdown for the Browns since 2005. And it was all they needed in the way of scoring on this day. The Chargers, on the other hand, moved the ball well at times but were forced to settle for two Nick Novak field goals, which weren't enough to overcome the Browns point total.
Richardson finished the day with a career best 122 yards on 24 carries including that lone touchdown run. His counterpart, San Diego running back Ryan Mathews also ran 24 times for 95 yards, but couldn't find the end zone and did cough up the ball on one run which was recovered by Browns defensive tackle Billy Winn.
Amazingly, despite the poor conditions, that was the only turnover of the afternoon. Both quarterbacks, Brandon Weeden for the Browns and Philip Rivers for the Chargers, had very pedestrian performances, which you might expect on a day like this.
In the end, the Browns defense played inspired football by not allowing a single touchdown from the normally high-powered Chargers. There were definitely some close calls as Rivers' receivers dropped a few passes that could have gone for big gains, perhaps even touchdowns. But if you're the Browns, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
And sometimes it's better to be the home team used to playing in Cleveland when the weather plays such an obvious role, rather than the team from California who isn‘t used to such miserable conditions. Fortunately, on this wet and windy day, the Browns did a great job of hanging on for dear life to make sure their dedicated fans didn‘t stay miserable for long.