CLEVELAND - For someone that's spent most of his life living 500 miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line, Trent Richardson looked like a home-grown man of the north Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Playing in conditions that were far from southern-cooked, Richardson showed why the Browns selected him with the third overall pick in this year's draft. Richardson sloshed his way to 122 rushing yards and scored the lone touchdown as the Browns held on for a 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers.
The temperature remained in the mid-40s with a persistent rain throughout play. The wind whipping off Lake Erie made passing an adventure that had disaster written all over it.
Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson (33) gets a shove from guard Shawn Lauvao on his way to a 26-yard touchdown against the San Diego Chargers. It was the only touchdown of the game. The Browns won, 7-6.
That made it a tailor-made day for a power back like Richardson, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry. His best run came when he turned a draw play outside and broke loose on a 26-yard touchdown run on the Browns' first possession of the game.
"I'm still thawing out right now," Richardson said. "They told me it's not even cold. It was fun out there. This is great football weather. There hasn't been a game other than two games where it hasn't rained or been cold. That's football weather. It's something you dream of and look at the Browns and people up north and wonder how they do it."
After Richardson's touchdown it became a game of field position and avoiding mistakes because of the poor playing conditions. The Browns (2-6) fumbled twice but didn't lose either of them. Quarterback Brandon Weeden went a third straight game without throwing an interception.
Chargers running back Ryan Mathews lost a fumble in the first quarter on which the Browns weren't able to capitalize. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who was intercepted four times in the Chargers' last game, also avoided committing a turnover.
"When I drove here this morning, I typically get here and walk out on the field to take a look, and it was pretty steady and from what I was told it was going to happen for the rest of the day," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "We had things ready to go. We were going to try to be a little more aggressive throwing the football, but we changed gears and you always have enough plays to get to other stuff."
The game also turned into a punt-fest as both defenses took advantage of the conditions to dominate play. Reggie Hodges punted nine times, while Mike Scifres had six punts for the Chargers.
The swirling wind played havoc with the passing attacks. Weeden was 11-of-27 for 129 yards. Rivers was 18-of-34 for 154 yards.
"It was tough, especially the quick stuff,' Weeden said. "They (the officials) did a good job of keeping the balls somewhat dry. It was very challenging."
The Chargers' only first-half score came on a 43-yard field goal by Nick Novak on the final play of the second quarter. Novak kicked a 31-yard field goal in the third period to cut the Browns' lead to one point.
It was a battle of field position the rest of the game. The Chargers had the best of that situation when a punt by Scrifes rolled out of bounds at the Browns' 3 with 7:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Browns then staged what might have been their best drive of the game. The key play was a swing pass to Richardson on third-and-6 from the 7. Richardson turned it into a gain of 12 yards and a first down. That was followed by a 14-yard completion to Watson that moved the ball to the 33.
Richardson then had runs of 4, 13 and 4 yards to put the ball at midfield. The drive stalled, but a punt by Hodges forced the Chargers to start at their 12 with 2:36 remaining.
"Of course, we were trying to score, but we had to take time off the clock, and we had to flip the field because they're very explosive," Shurmur said of the 48-yard drive.
The Chargers advanced to the Browns' 44 on their final possession. Rivers then threw four straight incomplete passes. The last pass, intended for Malcolm Floyd, was deflected by cornerback Buster Skrine, who was covering Robert Meachem on an underneath route.
"We went over that play all week in practice," Skrine said. "My receiver came under. Then I felt Sheldon's (Brown) guy coming from behind me and made a play."
It ended a frustrating day for Rivers, who saw a potential touchdown fail to materialize when a wide-open Meachem dropped a pass in the third quarter.
"I don't think it was a momentum-killer," Rivers said. "We had a lot of possessions and a lot of field-position game, but it could have been a big play."
The Chargers drove to the Browns' 30 on the opening possession of the game, but on fourth-and-1 Jackie Battle was stopped by safety T.J. Ward for no gain.
"We felt good about an opportunity to make a first down," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "They ran a stunt and got across one of our player's face and got into the backfield."
The Browns host the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday.