SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego Chargers rookie Josh Lambo pushed a 39-yard field-goal attempt wide right with 2 seconds left and the Cleveland Browns jumped up and down, thinking they’d forced overtime.
Not so quick, fellas.
Cleveland’s Tramon Williams was whistled for offside, giving Lambo another chance. He sent a 34-yarder through the uprights, his third of the game, to lift Philip Rivers and the Chargers to a 30-27 victory that snapped a two-game losing streak.
“Thankfully I got a second chance,” said Lambo, who beat out veteran Nick Novak for the job. “I missed the first one and I just started laughing. Then I saw a flag on the field and said. ‘Oh, OK, let’s try again.’ Fortunately I had second chance.”
The winning kick preserved another sensational effort by Rivers, who threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns.
“I saw the offside so I didn’t have much of a reaction on the first one,” Rivers said of Lambo’s kick. “I knew he was going to get a re-do. He stepped up. That will be big for him confidence, too. That was big for him early in his career because we are going to need him down the stretch.”
Said Cleveland coach Mike Pettine: “That’s when you’re in a desperation block situation. It’s a very makeable field goal so you just say, ‘Yeah, I got to try to time it up the best I can.”
The Browns had tied it at 27 on Josh McCown’s 1-yard pass to Gary Barnidge with 2:09 to play and a 2-point conversion pass to Taylor Gabriel. That score was set up when the Browns won a challenge of McCown’s 19-yard pass to Barnidge that originally was ruled incomplete.
“I’m just disappointed,” McCown said. “It’s heartbreaking for obvious reasons. I feel like everybody battled and fought really hard. And when you know it’s a game like that going back and forth, it hurts when you don’t have a chance to have it last.
“You come home with a loss, it doesn’t reflect the effort that was put into that game.”
Rivers completed 23 of 38 passes. McCown was 32 of 41 for 356 yards and two scores.
Working behind a makeshift line because of injuries, Rivers threw TD passes of 28 yards to Keenan Allen in the first quarter, 19 yards to Ladarius Green for the go-ahead score in the third quarter and a 1-yarder to John Phillips in the fourth.
“It was just a scrappy game,” Rivers said. “I don’t know if it was our best game, but it was enough. To go to 1-3 with what we have coming up; to win, it was big.”
The Chargers host the Pittsburgh Steelers a week from Monday night and then travel to Green Bay.
San Diego’s defense came up big. The Chargers (2-2) had only one sack coming in, but dropped McCown four times, including two by Jerry Attaochu. The Browns (1-3) lost their second straight.
With the Chargers leading 20-16, Attaochu threw McCown for a 12-yard loss from the Chargers 25. That forced the Browns to settle for Travis Coons’ 40-yard field goal.
The Chargers then moved downfield for Phillips’ score, set up by Dontrelle Inman’s 68-yard catch-and-run on a crossing pattern.
San Diego struggled early. After a drive stalled because of Rivers being sacked, the QB threw his helmet into the bench and aired out running backs coach Ollie Wilson, apparently because rookie Melvin Gordon failed to pick up the blitz.
The Chargers were playing without three offensive line starters, left tackle King Dunlap, left guard Orlando Franklin and center Chris Watt. The Browns were without cornerback Joe Haden. The first half ended 13-13.
San Diego took a 7-3 lead on a nice 28-yard scoring pass from Rivers to Allen in the front corner of the end zone late in the first quarter. The Browns came right back on McCown’s beautiful 34-yard pass to running back Duke Johnson Jr., who exploited a mismatch against linebacker Donald Butler.
Coons kicked field goals of 36 and 28 yards, and Lambo also was good from 46 and 45.
Notes: Chargers WR Malcom Floyd and CB Brandon Flowers left with concussions and Stevie Johnson had a hamstring injury. On the Browns injury report were CB Tashaun Gipson (ankle), RB Shaun Draughn (back) and WR Brian Hartline (ribs, thigh). … Browns WR Dwayne Bowe dropped the only pass he was thrown. He has sat out two games with a hamstring injury and has yet to catch a pass after the team signed him to a two-year, $12.5 free agent contract, with $9 million guaranteed.
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