By midway through the 1987 season, Bernie Kosar had developed into one of the NFL’s better quarterbacks.
And the Browns had one of the better passing attacks in the league, complete with a variety of weapons.
As such, teams didn’t really stop the Browns from moving the ball through the air. They merely slowed them down a little bit.
All of that was evident when the Browns hosted the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 15 at Cleveland Stadium.
Kosar completed 24 of 34 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns, hitting nine different receivers in the process, as the Browns rolled to a 20-point fourth-quarter lead and held on for a 27-21 win before a crowd of 78,409.
The victory, their second in a row and fourth in five games, raised the Browns’ record to 6-3. It was also their fourth consecutive win over Buffalo. The Bills lost for the second time in three games and fell to 4-5.
The Browns built a 10-7 lead in the second quarter with the help of some difference faces.
Kicker Jeff Jaeger, who was subbing for an injured Matt Bahr, opened the game’s scoring with a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter. The Bills then went ahead later in the quarter when free safety Mark Kelso picked up a fumble and raced 56 yards for a touchdown.
The Browns’ defense returned the favor when strong safety Ray Ellis, from Canton (Ohio) McKinley High School and Ohio State, scooped up a fumble and sped 27 yards for a score in the second quarter.
The prolific Cleveland pass offense took over from there. Kosar threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Reggie Langhorne to stretch the halftime lead to 17-7.
Then to start the second half, Kosar found wide receiver Webster Slaughter with a 52-yard pass for a score to make it 24-7 after three quarters.
Jaeger’s 40-yard field goal gave the Browns a commanding 20-point advantage, 27-7, and ran their string of unanswered points to 24.
The Bills rallied with two late touchdown passes from Jim Kelly to chop the deficit to 27-21 and make it interesting -- a 15-yarder to wide receiver Chris Burkett and a 10-yarder to wideout Andre Reed -- but it wasn’t enough. The Browns’ big lead was simply too much for the Bills to overcome.
Kosar had 10 of his completions to running backs – six by Earnest Byner and four by Kevin Mack. Byner would finish the year with 52 catches, marking the first of two straight seasons in which he led the Browns in receptions.
Slaughter also had four catches, while Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome added three, Langhorne and wide receiver Brian Brennan two each, and tight end Derek Tennel, and wide receivers Clarence Weathers and Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil with one apiece.
Tackle Carl “Big Daddy” Hairston led the Cleveland defense with a sack-and-a-half, while end Al “Bubba” Baker, in the first of two tours of duty he served with the Browns, added one.