The NFL continued the celebration of its 100th season on Friday as the NFL Network debuted a list of the 100 greatest games in league history.
The Cleveland Browns may not have been a part of the league for all 100 years, but the franchise is still represented on the list, starting at No. 80 with their double overtime playoff victory over the New York Jets on January 3, 1987:
Played on January 3, 1987 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, this thrilling AFC Divisional playoff game between the Browns and Jets would go two overtimes and last more than four hours. A spectacular trick play accounted for the game’s first touchdown, a 42-yard catch by Jets receiver Wesley Walker. The teams alternated leads over the first three quarters, but in the fourth, the Jets built a 20-10 advantage in the final minutes after a 25-yard rushing touchdown by Freeman McNeil. Deep in their own territory, the Browns looked finished on their next possession, but a late-hit penalty breathed new life into the Cleveland offense – and quarterback Bernie Kosar drove them down the field for a touchdown. A 22-yard field goal by the Browns’ Mark Moseley sent the game into overtime. After missing a 23-yard field goal in the extra period, Moseley made one from 27 yards in the second overtime as the Browns advanced to the AFC title game, 23-20. Kosar threw for 489 yards, a playoff record, in a game that was the third longest in NFL history.
To this day, that remains one of the most memorable wins in franchise history and cemented broadcaster Nev Chandler as the best radio play-by-play man the Browns have ever employed. (A case could be made for Gib Shanley, who called Browns games from 1961 to 1984; everyone else is a distant second.)
Cleveland’s second appearance came at No. 32 with the 1950 NFL Championship Game victory over the Los Angeles Rams:
On Christmas Eve in 1950, the Rams faced the Browns in the NFL Championship game at Cleveland Municipal Coliseum. Los Angeles, which had lost the 1949 title game to the Eagles, in 1950 became the first NFL team whose games were all on TV. The Browns, meanwhile, had been the 1949 champions of the short-lived AAFC. The game was evenly-matched: each team gained 22 first downs. The Rams totaled 116 rush yards to the Browns 106. Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield threw for 312 yards; Cleveland’s Otto Graham for 298. But Waterfield threw four picks and just one touchdown, while Graham tossed four TDs and just one interception. The Rams led 14-13 at halftime, then 28-27 in the fourth. With 28 seconds left, Hall of Famer Lou “The Toe” Groza, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound placekicker and offensive tackle who played all of his 21 seasons with Cleveland, booted a 16-yard field goal as the Browns won the title, 30-28.
Much like the New York Jets victory in Super Bowl III signaled to the NFL that change was coming, Cleveland’s win in their first season in the NFL put the rest of the league on notice that the Browns were a force to be reckoned with after dominating the All-American Football Conference.
It is not all happy memories on the list, of course, as the Browns were on the wrong end of three games: a loss to the Minnesota Vikings near the end of the 1980 season, the 1980 playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders that has come to be known as Red Right 88, and the 1985 playoff loss to the Miami Dolphins when the team blew a 21-3 second-half lead.