The game will be the 27th meeting between the two teams, but the first time they have played each other in a playoff game.
The Chiefs hold a 13-11-2 edge in the series, but the advantage is more profound at Arrowhead, where the Browns are just 3-9-1 since their first trip to Kansas City on November 14, 1971.
While we all count down the minutes waiting for Sunday’s game to kickoff, let’s take a look back at the three times the Browns returned from Kansas City with a victory in hand. (As always, hat tip to Jonathan Knight’s The Browns Bible as an invaluable resource tool.)
Cleveland 27, Kansas City 24 (September 9, 1979)
It took until their fifth attempt, but the Browns finally picked up a road win against the Chiefs in front of 42,181 fans. (Apparently the Chiefs have not always been the darling of their fans that they are made out to be.)
The Browns jumped on the Chiefs early behind a 27-yard field goal from Don Cockroft and a 17-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Reggie Rucker from quarterback Brian Sipe to open a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. That lead grew to 20-0 in the third quarter after Sipe hit tight end Ozzie Newsome with a 20-yard touchdown pass.
The Chiefs rallied back, however, as backup quarter Steve Fuller led Kansas City to 24 points in just 13 minutes to leave the Browns on the wrong end of a three-point deficit at the two-minute warning.
Sipe led the Browns on a 76-yard scoring drive that culminated with Sipe hitting Rucker with a 21-yard touchdown pass with just 52 seconds remaining.
That pass came after Cleveland running back Greg Pruitt and Kansas City defensive back Tim Collier were ejected for fighting. Seeing that he was being covered by rookie cornerback M.L. Carter, Rucker let Sipe know that he could beat the rookie, and Sipe showed confidence in his veteran receiver by hitting him on the next play for the game-winning score. (Box score)
Cleveland 6, Kansas City 3 (September 4, 1988)
That dream took a major hit in the season opener against the Chiefs, as the Browns lost five Pro Bowl players to injury - including quarterback Bernie Kosar - in an ugly 6-3 victory.
Kosar went down in the early minutes of the second quarter when he was hit on a blitz by safety Lloyd Burruss and suffered strained ligaments in his right elbow. The injury would knock Kosar out of the lineup for seven weeks, and set the most unusual chain of events as the Browns ended up starting four different quarterbacks - Kosar, Gary Danielson, Mike Pagel and Don Strock - during the season due to injuries.
With Kosar out and Danielson and the offense struggling to put up points, Cleveland’s defense carried the day by limiting the Chiefs to just 149 yards of offense, nine first downs and just three points, which came on a 33-yard field goal from Nick Lowery in the second quarter.
The Browns offense was not much better, but Danielson managed to drive the team 72 yards in the final minutes, setting up Matt Bahr’s 38-yard field goal with 25 seconds left on the clock to secure a costly win. (Box score)
Cleveland 41, Kansas City 34 (December 20, 2009)
The Browns were bungling their way through head coach Eric Mangini’s first season when they traveled to Kansas City with a 2-11 record to take on the Chiefs.
In a holiday miracle, the Browns rode record-setting days from running back Jerome Harrison and kick returner Josh Cribbs, and a last-minute stand by the defense, to pull off one of the most incredible wins since the team returned in 1999.
The Browns came into the game with quarterback Brady Quinn at the helm of the league’s worst offense, but Cleveland rolled to 417 yards of offense thanks to Harrison rushing for 286 yards and three touchdowns on runs of 71 yards, eight yards and a game-clinching 28 yards with 52 seconds remaining.
Harrison’s big day was augmented by Cribbs, who became the first player in NFL history to have two kickoff returns of more than 100 yards for touchdowns in a single game. With the game tied 3-3 in the first quarter, Cribbs returned a kick 100 yards for Cleveland’s first touchdown of the game. Then, with the Browns trailing 24-13 in the second quarter, Cribbs went 103 yards for a touchdown.
Cleveland’s defense could not keep up, however, as it allowed the Chiefs to post 491 yards of offense and tie the score at 34 just before the two-minute warning after quarterback Matt Cassell hit wide receiver Mark Bradley with a 12-yard touchdown pass.
Harrison’s final touchdown of the day gave the Browns the lead again, and the defense held on just enough as Cassell’s pass into the end zone on the final play of the game fell incomplete.
Harrison’s 286 rushing yards broke Jim Brown’s single-game franchise record, and Cribbs set a single-game team record for kickoff return yards (269) and total yards (316) as the Browns picked up the third win in a season-ending four-game winning streak that would quickly turn into a mirage the following year. (Box score)
The Browns broke several long-standing streaks when they defeated the Steelers last week in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The win was Cleveland’s first in Pittsburgh since 2003, first against the Steelers in the playoffs, and the first road playoff win since 1969.
Sunday’s game against the Chiefs presents another opportunity as the Browns have had little success on the road against the Chiefs since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970.
Who’s ready to see the Browns make history?