According to the experts, the Browns had virtually no chance against the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL Championship Game on Dec. 27 at Cleveland Stadium.
The mighty Colts had dominated the league during the regular season, but the experts looked only at the statistics. They failed to take into consideration the determination and grit of the Browns.
Turning in the most complete performance in their history, the Browns overwhelmed the Colts on both sides of the ball and rolled to a convincing, 27-0 victory.
The Browns dominated a Colts offense that had five future Pro Football Hall of Famers. Baltimore got just 181 total yards, and Hall-of-Fame quarterback John Unitas was held to 95 yards passing while being intercepted twice.
It may be the greatest defensive effort the Browns have ever had.
And nearly 48 years later, two key members of that defense, left outside linebacker Jim Houston and right tackle Jim Kanicki, are returning to the footprint of where it all happened. They will serve as honorary captains for Sunday’s home finale against the Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Houston, now 75 and living in the Cleveland suburb of Sagamore Hills, was a first-round pick of the Browns, in the 1960 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. He played 13 seasons (1960-72), all with the Browns, and was at his best in the title game. Colts Hall of Famer John Mackey had caught 22 passes in the regular season, a large total for a tight end at the time, but with Houston helping to lead the way, he was a non-factor, having just one reception for two yards.
Kanicki, a second-round draft pick in 1963 out of Michigan State, played seven years (1963-69) with the Browns. He had the best performance of his career in the championship game, using his size -- he was 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds -- to stalemate Hall-of-Fame left guard Jim Parker and thus force the Colts out of a lot of what they had planned to do offensively.
Now residing in Pierpont, Ohio, Kanicki will turn 72 next Monday.
Alumni Spotlight is presented by Cuyahoga Community College Alumni & Friends Association -- Staying Connected.