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It was 20 years ago today...

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  • It was 20 years ago today...

    A double overtime thriller
    Steve King, Staff Writer
    What a shame.

    Because of what occurred eight days later,* "The Drive", the 23-20 overtime loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game* the Browns' 23-20 double-overtime victory over the New York Jets in the 1986 divisional playoffs, which took place 20 years ago today, doesn't get its proper due.

    Oh, sure, it's regarded by Browns fans as having been a great game, but that's like calling Bill Gates or Warren Buffet men of means. It doesn't do the game any justice.

    Rather, the Jan. 3, 1987 contest at Cleveland Municipal Stadium was a real classic * possibly the ultimate classic. In fact, it may be the greatest game in team history * and even one of the best in NFL history.

    For after all, it had everything a fan could ask for in any game, let alone one in the playoffs, such as:

    Drama. It's the third-longest game in NFL history at 77 minutes, 2 seconds.
    Twists and turns. The Jets appeared to have won it in regulation, moving to a 10-point lead with just over four minutes left, before the Browns rallied to tie the score with seven seconds left. The Browns looked ready to win in the first overtime before a missed field goal forced them to wait.
    Heroics. Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar tied an NFL playoff record with 33 completions and set one with a staggering 489 yards passing. Mark Moseley, given up on by the Washington Redskins because they thought he was too old at 38, kicked the game-winning 27-yard field goal 2:02 into the second OT. The unheralded Browns defense recorded 10 sacks to keep the team in the game until the offense, which failed to generate many points, could get going.
    And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There was so much more to this game.

    That seems fitting, because the regular season was oh, so special for the Browns. Just 4-3 at one point after losing 17-14 at home to a Green Bay club that would finish 4-12, the youthful team steadied itself and matured, winning eight of its last nine games to finish 12-4 and gain home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

    It was hardly an easy road, however. Though they weren't the "Kardiac Kids" of six years before, they nonetheless had a penchant for the dramatic.

    They won five games by three points, one by four points and another by six points in OT. They got blown out just once, and blew out an opponent only one time.

    One of those three-point wins came over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium, where the Browns had been 0-16 since the place opened in 1970.

    Every time something bad happened, the Browns countered it with something good that corrected the problem.

    When venerable place kicker Matt Bahr suffered a season-ending knee injury making a touchdown-saving tackle in an OT win over the Steelers, the Browns found the experienced Moseley to take his place.

    When Gary Danielson, not only the backup quarterback but also Kosar's mentor and sounding board, was lost for the year with a broken ankle in the preseason finale, the Browns went out and acquired Mike Pagel to replace him.

    When injuries scrambled the running back combination of Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack, both of whom had rushed for 1,000 yards the year before, aging Curtis ****ey stepped up and did a solid job.

    When the Browns lost both of their starting safeties from 1985, Al Gross and Don Rogers, Canton, Ohio native Ray Ellis and young Chris Rockins answered the challenge.

    The Browns, playing at home in the postseason for the first time since the "Red Right 88" contest against the Oakland Raiders six years and one day before, battled to a 10-10 halftime tie. The Jets scored first on a 42-yard pass from Pat Ryan to wide receiver Wesley Walker off a flea-flicker, then got a 46-yard field goal from Pat Leahy. Cleveland's points came on Kosar's 37-yard TD pass to running back Herman Fontenot and Moseley's 38-yard field goal.

    But in the second half, it was all Jets until the very end. They got a 37-yard field goal from Leahy in the third quarter to break the tie, then stunned the crowd of 78,106 by going in front 20-10 with 4:14 remaining in the fourth quarter as Freeman McNeil broke a slew of tackles en route to a 25-yard TD run. It was set up by a Kosar interception.

    The Browns appeared done at that point, but they didn't quit. After all, their backs had been against the wall on numerous occasions all season, so they were in familiar territory.

    Helped greatly by a roughing-the-passer call on Mark Gastineau after a Kosar incompletion on a second-and-24 play, the Browns drove for a TD on Mack's one-yard run with 1:57 left, making it 20-17.

    The Browns didn't get the onside kick, but they did get the ball back quickly after making the Jets go three-plays-and-out, and, on the strength of Kosar's 37-yard pass to wide receiver Webster Slaughter to the New York 5, tied the game at 20-20 on Moseley's 22-yard field goal.

    Moseley, as mentioned, then missed a kick * from 23 yards * in the first OT, but connected from 27 yards on the game-winner.

    By then, thousands of fans who had left Cleveland Municipal Stadium late in regulation, thinking the game was over, had raced back in and got to see it.

    And that kick, like everything else in the game, was something to see *even if the view ended up getting ruined to a large extent by that loss to the Broncos one week later.

    The Browns are gone; I'm not a fan of the Impostors

    The real Browns are in Baltimore, see?

  • #2
    Boy do I feel old. Excellent read and thanks for sharing. I was 14-years-old when that game took place.

    In Loving Memory of Darrent Williams ~~ 1982 -- 2007

    In Loving Memory of Bobby Hamilton Sr. ~~ 1957 -- 2007

    Thanks for all you've done for the Steelers Coach Cowher...