Justin Herbert was the young leader of this remarkable show and tell. He had to make the most of not playing nearly enough while the Browns Bogarted the ball for ages, But he’s beyond good, and this was his third fourth-quarter comeback. He found 6-8 tight end Donald “Dr. D” Parham Jr. on a terrific play design for the first TD. He found Mike Williams alone on a 72-yarder, then Williams again, ridiculously open on a 42-yarder.
Running backs: A
Austin Ekeler isn’t used to having the ball in his hands, so maybe that’s why he lost the fumble just before the half, leading to a field goal. When used out of the backfield very late, he had a nice 19-yard TD catch, and scored the winner when trying not to. Smart guy.
Had trouble separating early, but separated plenty later on. Williams had a monster day — his best day — playing the invisible man. Keenan Allen had a brilliant catch down the stretch. Parham had a ticky-tack holding call and then a mighty 30-yard catch near the finish.
Offensive line: B
Plenty good enough. Confusion allowed the first of two sacks, but Herbert usually had enough time. Lost starting right guard Oday Aboushi down early, replaced by Michael Schofield. RT Storm “Warning” Norton didn’t have to deal with injured rush end Jadeveon Clowney.
Defensive line: F
Had to put up with the No. 1 rushing offense (177 yards per game) and the D-linemen got John Wayned. Browns had a hammer, and they hammered all over Inglewood despite missing two starting tackles. Allow 230 rushing yards and you fail. No pass rush.
Drue Tranquill had a splendid TFL and came right back with a PI. Tacking by everybody was bad all day. Joey Bosa doubled and tripled.
Got terribly confused on the Browns’ first TD. Asante Samuel Jr. allowed a 42-yard catch and run. Protean Derwin James had a strip sack and was in on 17 tackles (one by face mask near the end). DBs couldn’t find the backup TE David Njoku with a GPS. Nasir Adderley missed a tackle that led to a stupid Njoku 71-yard go-ahead score.
Special teams: F-minus
Tristan Vizcaino missed a PAT, then another horribly that would have tied it. He has to be looking for work. Ty Long punted one 64 yards. “Teams” ace Ryan Smith, out hurt, came back and made his presence known.
Coaching: W (Won)
Brandon Staley definitely has a spine. Again and again and again went for it in tough fourth-down situations and even for two when down by eight. But his defensive plan failed miserably vs. a team that scored 14 last week. Should have taken a knee at the end.
Next opportunity (at Baltimore): C
When teams last met, in the 2018 playoffs, they defeathered the Ravens and Lamar Jackson with a bevy of DBs. That was a D-coordinator ago. Win this and they’re legit.