It is apropos to reference those Cleveland Browns teams as current quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 212 yards in the fourth quarter on Sunday, which is the most passing yards by a Cleveland quarterback in a single quarter in the last 45 years, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter:
Forty-five years ago takes us back to 1978, a season that saw the Browns finish 8-8 under first-year head coach Sam Rutigliano. It was also the dawn of the Kardiac Kids, who earned the nickname thanks to the ability to pull out wins at the last minute over the next three seasons.
Trotter conveniently failed to mention which game exactly Flacco bested today, so let’s turn the clock back to 1978 to see if we can answer that question.
That season there were nine games where quarterback Brian Sipe passed for more than 212 yards, but we can eliminate five of them given that he barely surpassed that number:
- Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals: 219 passing yards
- Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons: 219 passing yards
- Week 7 against the Pittsburgh Steelers: 213 passing yards
- Week 9 against the Buffalo Bills: 217 passing yards
- Week 10 against the Houston Oilers: 220 passing yards
Two more games are candidates but still seem unlikely:
- Week 13 against the Los Angeles Rams: 246 passing yards
- Week 14 against the Seattle Seahawks: 250 passing yards
So we are down to two games as possibly being the game.
In Week 12, the Browns rolled over the Baltimore Colts by a score of 45-24. Sipe led the Browns to 28 points in the second half as he finished the day 15-of-22 for 309 yards and four touchdown passes - three of which came in the second half covering 85 yards. According to the game story from The Washington Post, Sipe had 198 yards in the first half, so it is possible that he had a second quarter as the Browns put up 17 points.
The other one came in Week 15 when the Browns needed overtime to beat the New York Jets, 37-34. Sipe was 20-of-32 for 283 yards on the day and led a 73-yard scoring drive to force overtime where he accounted for all 73 yards through the air. The Browns entered the fourth quarter leading 27-10, so with it being the 1970s the Browns were likely running the ball in the fourth quarter as the Jets mounted a comeback, but Sipe could have put up some passing yards in the second or third quarter as the Browns built their lead.
Unfortunately, despite some heavy Googling and a deep dive into Jonathan Knight’s Browns Bible, we were unable to pinpoint the exact game from the 1978 season that matches up to Trotter’s post.
It is possible that the game occurred prior to the 1978 season, as “over the last 45 seasons” could mean it happened in 1978 or that ESPN Stats and Info only goes back that far. Or that we could not find an accurate game report that would identify the game where Sipe put up a big quarter.
For now, the game that Trotter referenced remains a mystery. Hopefully, someone out there can track down the particulars in the days to come.