The Cleveland Browns‘ playoff chances have not been this good in almost 20 years. Coming off their biggest win of the season, Cleveland improved their record to 9-3 and maintained the fifth seed in the playoff hunt. The Browns were last in the playoffs in 2002, where they lost in the wild-card round. Before that, it was in 1994 with Bill Belichick at the helm and Vinny Testaverde at quarterback. We are going to look at what it means to have a storied franchise like the Cleveland Browns back in the playoffs.
The Browns’ Playoff History
Since the Cleveland Browns came back into the league in 1999, they have only had one appearance in the NFL playoffs. In that year,2002, the Browns were 9-7 and went up against the Pittsburgh Steelers for the third time. The game was a crazy shootout that ended up with the Steelers getting the best of the Browns in the snow that day. Prior to that, 1994 was the last time the Browns were in the playoffs. This was the year before the move in 1995 and was also the last victory for the former Browns. With a team led by Bill Belichick and Vinny Testaverde, Cleveland beat the New England Patriots in the Wildcard round and then lost to the Steelers in the Divisional round.
The 1990s and the 2000s have not been kind to the Cleveland franchise. The Browns’ playoff history is very limited over twice in the past 30 years. In the 1980s the Browns were a perennial force in the AFC and were in the playoffs all but three years. However, as most of us older Browns fans know, this was a heartbreaking time for Cleveland. There was “The Drive” in 1986 when John Elway led the Denver Broncos down the field to tie the game late in the fourth and then win it in overtime. Then there was “The Fumble” by Ernest Byner on the five-yard line in 1987 when the Browns were about to put the game away.
The Browns Last Championship
The Cleveland Browns were one of the best-run organizations in football during the 1960s. They were able to win the NFL Championship in 1964 against the Baltimore Colts. This is a bit of irony now as the Browns were moved to Baltimore in 1995 and became the Baltimore Ravens. This championship was prior to the merger of the AFL and the NFL in 1966. During the time span before we know the NFL now, the Cleveland Browns franchise finished up with eight Championships won. This is the most by any single sports team for American football. It is safe to say the Browns’ playoff history is rich, even if most of it is not in the NFL.
Before the merger in 1966, the Browns won the NFL championship four times. They first won it in 1950, then went back to back in 1954 and 1955, and then had their last title in 1964. Before the Browns become part of that NFL league, they won four other championships from 1946 through 1949 in the All-America Football Conference. Now, I don’t know if the Browns will necessarily break this streak this year, but you never know. They are playing as well as any team in the league and are getting players back. This chapter in the Browns’ playoff history books is still being written.
The 2020 Playoff Push
After an impressive win in Tennessee this past week, against another 8-3 team, the Browns have put themselves in the driver seat for an AFC wild-card spot. Baker Mayfield easily played his best game of the year. He tied Browns icon Otto Graham‘s franchise record for touchdown passes (four) in the first half. Mayfield finished up the afternoon completing 25 of 33 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns. This game continued a string of good play from the fourth-year player as he currently holds the NFL’s streak for passes most consecutive passes thrown without an interception (129).
Baker was supported by another solid performance from Nick Chubb. The stud running back racked up 80 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. The offensive line was able to keep the Titans at bay for most of the game with the play-action passing game. The wide receivers all had a good day, most notably the rookie, Donovan Peoples-Jones. He had a 75-yard touchdown catch on a sick double move. This made up for the dropped pass he had around the goal-line that he had on the first drive. The Titans did make a run at the Browns in the second half, but the defense was able to hold them off.
Cleveland’s Last Four Games
Another big game is on the horizon as the Browns meet up against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football this week. The Ravens are just now getting back from their Covid-19 issues and should be close to full strength for this matchup. Cleveland holds an important two-game lead in the Browns’ playoff wild-card race over the Ravens.
Next up is a game that was just announced as being flexed into the Sunday Night Football game on NBC. This is another great sign that the team is gaining national recognition. They go up against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. New York is battling for the NFC East title and they’re playing much better ball as of late. They just had a big road victory this past weekend against the Seattle Seahawks.
After the Giants is another trip back to MetLife for a game against the New York Jets. The Jets are winless so far this season and just fired their defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. This was going to be a reunion for the Browns and Williams as he was a coach for the Browns during the Hue Jackson era. New York has been decimated by injuries this year and inconsistent play out of both Sam Darnold and Joe Flacco.
The last game of the season could hold a lot of playoff implications or it could not. Cleveland needs some help from the Steelers before they meet up in the week 17 finale. If the Steelers continue to struggle as they have recently, they could be meeting the Browns with the AFC North division title on the line. This game will be at home for Cleveland, they will try to exact some revenge against the Steelers for the 38-7 demolishing they took earlier in the year at Heinz Field. As the motto goes for the Browns this year, 1-0.
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