Let's Take A Run Through The Browns' History Books
By Steven King
This will be the Cleveland Browns’ 65th season. That’s a lot of seasons, but even more games, obviously. Plenty has happened in that time beginning in the Browns’ first season of 1946 – the year after World War II ended.
In honor of all that, we’ve put together the top 25 game performances by players in Cleveland history:
Motley crew (Dec. 19, 1948) -- Pro Football Hall of Fame RB Marion Motley runs for three touchdowns of 29, 31 and five yards as the host Browns win their third straight All-America Football Conference championship by routing the Buffalo Bills 49-7.
Six-shooter (Oct. 14, 1949) – QB Otto Graham throws six touchdown passes – including four to fellow Hall of Famer and WR Dante Lavelli – in a 61-14 drubbing of the Los Angeles Dons in AAFC play.
Less is more (Oct. 29, 1950) – Motley sets a team record by averaging 17.09 yards per carry (11 attempts for 188 yards) in a 45-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Train derailment (Dec. 17, 1950) – Hall of Fame MG Bill Willis was known for his speed, and he shows just how fast he is by recording the key play in the American Conference playoff game against the New York Giants. He comes out of nowhere to chase down RB Charlie “Choo-Choo” Roberts – one of the fastest players in the NFL – at the Cleveland 7 in the fourth quarter. The Giants fail to score at all on the drive, making it the turning point in the Browns’ 8-3 win.
Otto sight! (Dec. 24, 1950) - They called Graham “Automatic Otto” because winning and success just came naturally to him. After Graham fumbled the ball away to the Los Angeles Rams with his team trailing 28-20 late in the fourth quarter of the NFL Championship Game, all seemed lost. But Graham still pulls it out, throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to RB Rex Bumgardner and then leading the Browns down the field again to position Lou Groza to kick a 16-yard field goal with 28 seconds left for a 30-28 victory.
A November to remember (Nov. 25, 1951) - RB Dub Jones scores six touchdowns to tie an NFL record as the Browns double up the Chicago Bears, 42-21.
Six-pack (Dec. 26, 1954) – Graham accounts for six touchdowns in a 56-10 rout of the Detroit Lions in the NFL title game. He has two one-yard runs and a five-yarder, and throws 31- and 35-yard passes to WR Ray Renfro as well as an eight-yarder to WR Pete Brewster.
Curtain call (Dec. 26, 1955) – Graham announced he was retiring following the 1954 championship game, only to return the next season after Cleveland struggled to find his replacement. In what would turn out to be his final game before retiring for good, he throws for two touchdowns and runs for two more in a 38-14 title-game clubbing of the Rams. He has a one-yard run and a 15-yarder, with scoring passes of 50 yards to Lavelli and 35 yards to Renfro.
Twice is nice (Nov. 24, 1957 and Nov 19, 1961) – RB Jim Brown rushes for a team-record 237 yards twice, first as a rookie in a 45-31 win over the Rams and again in a 45-24 triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles.
A championship effort (Nov. 1, 1959) – Brown rushes for a club-record five touchdowns in a 38-31 win over the Colts, who would go on that season to win their second NFL title in a row.
What a rush (Nov. 15, 1959) – Hall of Fame RB Bobby Mitchell gets the second-highest rushing average in Browns history (16.57 yards per carry) after running for 232 yards in 14 tries in a 31-17 win over the Washington Redskins.
Hitting a three (Dec. 27, 1964) – QB Frank Ryan throws three touchdown passes to WR Gary Collins covering 18, 42 and 51 yards as Cleveland shocks the heavily-favored Colts 27-0 to capture the NFL crown.
A full Nelsen (Nov. 2, 1969) – QB Bill Nelsen ties a team record by throwing five touchdown passes – 48- and 21-yarders to Hall of Fame WR Paul Warfield, seven- and 10-yarders to Collins and a 10-yarder to TE Chip Glass -- in a 42-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys. The victory proves that the Browns’ 31-20 victory over the Cowboys in the 1968 Eastern Conference Championship Game was no fluke.
The start of something big (Sept. 21, 1970) – LB Billy Andrews’ 25-yard interception return of a Joe Namath pass for touchdown with just over a minute left clinches a 31-21 win over the New York Jets in the first Monday Night Football game. It is the fitting ending to an exciting contest and an electric night, thus getting the fledgling series off to a flying start.
Spot on (Nov. 19, 1972) – After missing a kick from the almost the same spot moments earlier, Don Cockroft boots his fourth field goal of the game -- a 26-yarder with eight seconds left -- to provide a 26-24 win over the Steelers. Cockroft calls it the biggest kick he ever made. It is the turning point in his career, transforming him from a struggling kicker to an iconic one.
Catch me if you can (Nov. 25, 1973) – RB Greg Pruitt turns in one of the most electrifying plays in team history, a 42-yard catch-and-run on a pass from Mike Phipps on which he bobs and weaves and forces seven Steelers to miss tackles. Two plays later, he scores the winning touchdown on a 19-yard run as Cleveland beats its arch-rival 21-16.
There is a doctor in the house (Oct. 10, 1976) – Dr. Dave Mays – a Shaker Heights, Ohio dentist who started the season as the third-string quarterback – comes on after Brian Sipe is forced out of the game with a concussion and is nearly flawless in directing an 18-16 win over Pittsburgh.
What a Dude! (Dec. 21, 1980) – WR Ricky “The Hollywood Dude” Feacher, who went into the game with just eight receptions for two touchdowns on the year, catches 35- and 33-yard touchdown passes within three minutes of each other in the third quarter on basically the same play to rally the Browns from a seven-point deficit to a touchdown lead over the Cincinnati Bengals. Cleveland goes on to win the regular-season finale to finish 11-5 and capture its first AFC Central championship in nine seasons.
Let’s play catch (Oct. 14, 1984) – Hall of Fame TE Ozzie Newsome has a team-record 14 receptions for 191 yards in a 24-20 loss to the Jets.
100 Cubed (Oct. 5, 1986) – Gerald “The Ice Cube” McNeil’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown right before halftime gives the Browns a 17-14 lead and they hang on to win 27-24, thus breaking their 16-year “Three Rivers Jinx” against the Steelers.
Retirement party (Dec. 16, 1988) – Coaxed out of retirement and signed off a golf course by a desperate Cleveland team that had suffered all kinds of injury problems at quarterback, Don Strock recovers from a slow start to throw for 326 yards and two touchdowns and rally the Browns from a 16-point third-quarter deficit to a 28-23 win over the Houston Oilers in the regular-season finale. The victory earns the 10-6 club a wild-card playoff berth.
Mack is back (Dec. 23, 1989) – After missing most of the year because of injuries and off -field issues, RB Kevin Mack returns to lead Cleveland past the Oilers 24-20 in the regular-season finale, giving the 9-6-1 team the AFC Central title. Mack handles the ball almost exclusively on the decisive drive and carries four Oilers into the end zone on his game-winning four-yard touchdown run.
Many happy returns (Oct. 24, 1993) – Eric Metcalf returns two punts 91 and 75 yards for touchdowns, the latter one coming in the fourth quarter and being the difference in a 28-23 win over the Steelers.
A wind win (Nov. 14, 1999) – Phil Dawson’s 39-yard goal into a stiff wind with no time remaining provides a 16-15 win over the Steelers and allows the Browns to avenge a 43-0 drubbing by Pittsburgh two months earlier in the expansion team’s first game back.
Runs of excellence (Dec. 20, 2009) – A virtual unknown, RB Jerome Harrison, and KR Joshua Cribbs help the Browns literally run their way past the Kansas City Chiefs 41-34 in historic fashion. Harrison rushes for a team-record 286 yards – one of the largest totals in NFL history – and three touchdowns. Cribbs returns kickoffs 103 and 100 yards for scores.