Coming off a hopeful 1985 season in which they finished 8-8, won the AFC Central title and nearly stunned the heavily favored Miami Dolphins in the divisional playoffs, the Browns entered 1986 with high expectations.
But as they approached the halfway point of the season, they were an ordinary 4-3 and had been upset, 17-14, by the Green Bay Packers at home the previous week after blowing a 14-3 halftime lead.
Something had to change, and it would against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 26, 1986 at the Metrodome.
But it took a little time.
Trailing, 17-3, at halftime and struggling to do much of anything offensively, the Browns parlayed one of the greatest special-teams efforts in team history to rally for a 23-20 victory that transformed their season.
That was the start of a three-game winning streak and a season-ending stretch in which they captured eight of their last nine to earn another division title with a conference-best 12-4 record, guaranteeing them home-field adfvantage throughout the playoffs.
The Browns scored the game’s final 13 points and won it, appropriately enough, with Matt Bahr’s 22-yard field goal with 1:47 remaining.
But the foundation for that triumph -- and a second half in which the Browns outscored the Vikings, 20-3 -- was laid long before that kick and, as it turned out, shortly after it as well.
The Browns blocked a punt for a touchdown early in the third quarter to get themselves back into the game.
They recovered a fumble on a kickoff to set up Bahr’s game-winner.
Then they partially blocked Chuck Nelson’s 45-yard, potential game-tying field-goal attempt with seven seconds left to finally earn the victory.
Felix Wright, then a backup safety, was more than all right, and so was starting cornerback Frank Minnifield. They were the biggest heroes among the many special teams heroes the Browns had that day.
Just 2:20 into the second half, Minnifield blocked a Minnesota punt and Wright scopped up the ball and raced 30 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 17-10.
Nelson, with a 32-yarder, and Bahr, with a 19-yarder, then traded field goals to make it 20-13 early in the fourthy quarter.
The Browns finally scored an offensive touchdown when Curtis Dickey, who rushed for 106 yards overall in the game, ran 17 yards with 3:23 remaining. Wright recovered Rufus Bess’ fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which was converted into Bahr’s winning kick.
It was Bahr’s third field goal of the day. His 52-yarder late in the opening quarter provided the Browns with their only first-half points.
Chuck Nelson’s 33-yard field goal, Darrin Nelson’s five-yard touchdown run and Tommy Kramer’s eight-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Anthony Carter staked the Vikings (5-3) to their two-touchdown halftime lead.