After 2016 Christmas Eve debacle, Chargers not overlooking Browns

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- They still remember.

The Los Angeles Chargers host the winless Cleveland Browns on Sunday at StubHub Center. Winners of five of their last seven games, the Chargers opened as 13-point favorites.

However, overconfidence should not be an issue for head coach Anthony Lynn’s Chargers because the only win for the Browns in the past two seasons occurred on Christmas Eve last year, when Josh Lambo pushed a 45-yard field goal wide right that would have forced overtime. Instead, it gave the Browns a 20-17 win.

“I wasn’t here last year, but I’m pretty sure they remember losing to this team last year,” Lynn said.

Lynn’s right. That image remains vivid for Chargers defensive tackle Damion Square. So the Browns will have the full attention of the Chargers this weekend.

“We can’t let that happen twice, period,” Square said. “That’s the end of it.”

The Chargers went on to finish 5-11 last season, which led to the franchise letting go of head coach Mike McCoy.

The Chargers actually had an even better opportunity to tie the game with 3:49 left, but Lambo’s 32-yard attempt was blocked by Cleveland defensive lineman Jamie Meder.

Chargers guard Kenny Wiggins, who gave up the pressure on that play, said the Browns are just the next team on the schedule.

“This whole year is a different year,” Wiggins said. “I just go one game at a time and try to focus on that week, and whatever happened last year happened last year. And we want to get a win this week.”

But you don’t want to be the only team that’s lost to the Browns in consecutive seasons, right?

“You don’t want to be a team that loses to any team,” Wiggins said. “I don’t want to lose to anybody -- it doesn’t matter if they’re 15-0 or 0-and-whatever they are. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to lose to anybody.”

After starting the season 0-4 under Lynn, the Chargers have scratched their way to 5-6, just a game behind AFC West division leaders, the Kansas City Chiefs (6-5).

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers had just a 2 percent chance to make the playoffs after their 0-4 start. That number increased to 39 percent entering their Week 13 game against the Browns.

The Chargers look to become just the second team in NFL history to reach the playoffs after starting the season 0-4, following in the footsteps of the 1992 Chargers team that started 0-4 but finished 11-1 down the stretch, winning the AFC West at 11-5.

The catalyst for the Chargers this season has been forcing turnovers. They have a plus-12 turnover margin since Week 5, the best in the NFL over that stretch.

Their 17 takeaways in their past seven games lead the league. The Chargers had a minus-three turnover margin during their 0-4 start, including three straight games without a takeaway.

Lynn’s hoping the turnover streak continues and his team remains focused against the Browns.

“In this league you can get beat on any given Sunday, especially that this team won one game last year, and they beat us,” Lynn said. “So I would hate to say that this is a pitfall game for us or trap game, because it really shouldn’t be.

“We’ve got all of the motivation in the world to go out and play, mainly because it’s the next one on the schedule. But also because this team is young and talented, and if they put it all together, they can beat anybody.”