A 28-point first quarter shellacked Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to end an 18-year losing streak in Heinz Field and produce the Browns' first postseason win on the road in over 50 years. (Associated Press)
You must have an active subscription to read this story.
Click Here to subscribe Now!
Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Browns, I will commemorate the franchise with periodic lists honoring top moments, players, coaches, games and characters from my history as a beat writer and analyst.
The category: Top 10 games
The two greatest games in the history of the Browns arguably occurred in their very first season in the NFL in 1950.
After dominating the All-America Football Conference for four seasons, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell purposely scheduled the Browns against the two-time NFL defending champion Philadelphia Eagles in their very first NFL game. The Browns won, 35-10. Then they proceeded to claim the 1950 league championship, 30-28, against the Los Angeles Rams, the very team that deserted Cleveland in 1946 after winning the NFL Championship as the Cleveland Rams.
It’s impossible not to include the Browns’ three other NFL championship victories in 1954, 1955 and 1964 in a list of their greatest games.
This list, however, will be restricted to games during my era as a sportswriter and then analyst for ESPN Cleveland and TheLandOnDemand.com – from 1980 to present. That’s roughly 40 of the franchise’s 75 years.
10. Browns 17, Houston Oilers 14; Nov. 30, 1980
By Kardiac Kids standards, this was a boring game with no late dramatics – not even a point scored in the fourth quarter. It belongs on this list because not only did it secure first place in the AFC Central en route to the team’s first division title since 1971, it dawned a new phenomenon of Browns fans greeting the team at the airport following big wins on the road. More than 10,000 fans descended on Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport concourses to meet the team following this victory. Eventually, airport and team officials moved the team’s charter plane arrivals to a secluded structure called the Tank Plant – later converted to the I-X Center -- to alleviate congestion in the main terminal.
9. Browns 8, Buffalo Bills 0; Dec. 16, 2007
Blizzard conditions made FirstEnergy Stadium a snow globe and produced the third-lowest scoring game in Browns history. It was an unforgettable setting for kicker Phil Dawson. His 35-yard field goal toward the Dawg Pound end zone was aimed 10 feet outside the right upright and was blown just inside the left upright. Dawson’s 49-yard field goal toward the closed end zone was blown from outside the left upright through the middle. Jamal Lewis (33 carries for 163 yards) outrushed Buffalo’s Marshawn Lynch (21 for 82), who said of the conditions, “It looked like something I saw on the Discovery Channel, like something about the North Pole.”
8. Browns 19, Dallas Cowboys 14; Dec. 10, 1994
In perhaps Bill Belichick’s greatest regular-season game as Cleveland coach, the Browns upset the NFC Championship Game-bound Cowboys in Dallas when safety Eric Turner denied tight end Jay Novacek at the Browns’ 1-yard line after a catch on the last play. Belichick’s franchise record-setting defense held the Cowboys’ offense – featuring four future Hall of Famers -- to two Emmitt Smith touchdowns and under 300 yards offense.
7. Browns 20, New England Patriots 13; Jan. 1, 1995
No doubt this was Belichick’s sweetest Browns victory, coming against his former boss, Bill Parcells, in an AFC wild-card game in Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Turner and future ESPN analyst Louis Riddick had interceptions of Drew Bledsoe. Afterwards, Belichick escorted rock star Jon Bon Jovi through the victorious locker room.
6. Browns 24, Houston Oilers 20; Dec. 23, 1989
With the AFC Central title on the line on a Saturday night inside the Houston Astrodome, aka the House of Pain, Kevin Mack repaid the Browns’ support of him through a drug ordeal which caused him to miss 13 games. Mack carried two Oilers defenders on his back as he trudged four yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 39 seconds remaining. In a trainer’s room after the game, Mack sobbed in owner Art Modell’s arms. “It's the biggest victory of my life as a coach,” said coach Bud Carson, who earned two Super Bowl championship rings as Chuck Noll’s defensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
5. Browns 37, Pittsburgh Steelers 31 (OT); Nov. 23, 1986
The Browns completed a season sweep of the Steelers when Bernie Kosar hooked up with Webster Slaughter for a 36-yard touchdown. Kosar, who passed for 414 yards, called an audible on the play knowing he couldn’t settle for a field goal because place-kicker Matt Bahr had injured a knee in the fourth quarter.
4. Browns 34, Buffalo Bills 30; Jan. 6, 1990
Clay Matthews’ interception at the goal line of Jim Kelly’s 54th pass secured a division playoff win and set up a third AFC Championship Game matchup against the Denver Broncos in four seasons. On hand to celebrate the Browns’ win in Modell’s stadium loge was future President Donald Trump.
3. Browns 35, New York Giants 33; Dec. 1, 1985
Veteran quarterback Gary Danielson relieved Bernie Kosar in the second half and inspired a 35-point scoring output against a Bill Belichick defense that would carry the Giants to the Super Bowl the following season. Danielson was knocked out of the game with a brutal hit to his shoulder late in the game and could not even raise his right arm high enough to accept congratulations from his victorious teammates after the shocking upset.
2. Browns 48, Pittsburgh Steelers 37; Jan. 10, 2021
With coach Kevin Stefanski watching from his rec room in Covid-19 quarantine, the Browns produced a surreal 28-point first quarter – 21 coming off three Steelers turnovers. The Browns would pummel Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for four interceptions total and one fumble in defeating their franchise-nemesis for the first time in Heinz Field and winning a post-season game on the road for the first time since 1969.
1. Browns 23, New York Jets 20 (2 OT); Jan. 3, 1987.
Two Bernie Kosar interceptions in the fourth quarter gave the Jets a 20-10 lead with 4:14 left in regulation, merely setting up the histrionics for one of the most dramatic Browns post-season wins in history. Kosar made up the 10-point deficit to send it into overtime, thanks in large part to a bonehead roughing the passer penalty on Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau. The Browns had to sweat out a Mark Moseley field goal miss from 23 yards in the first overtime, and won it when Moseley – the last straight-ahead kicker in NFL annals – atoned with a 27-yarder in the second overtime.