What was the game that spawned the Browns’ great run through the last half of the 1980s?
Many have agrued that it was when the Browns edged the New York Giants, 35-33, on Dec. 1, 1985 at Giants Stadium.
Indeed, the game seemed to have all the necessary ingredients to serve as a catapult of sorts:
*It was televised nationally.
*It was played in the media capital of New York.
*The Giants had a great team that, along with the Browns, would get better throughout the rest of the decade. They were rolling along at 8-4, having won five of their last six games, including a resounding, 34-3 decision over the St. Louis Cardinals the week before. Their four defeats had come by a combined total of just 11 points.
*The Giants were high-profile in another way in that Bill Parcells was their head coach, with Bill Belichick as defensive coordinator and Romeo Crennel as special teams coordinator.
*The Browns, though just 6-6 going into the game, were starting to draw some attention, too. For openers, they had rookie quarterback Bernie Kosar, who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated when the Browns picked him No. 1 overall in the 1985 NFL Supplemental Draft and he got to play for the team he rooted for while growing up near Youngstown, Ohio. The Browns started the season 4-2, went through a lull, then headed to New York after two consecutive wins, including a dominant, 24-6 decision over the Cincinnati Bengals. A road victory over the Giants would prove their worthiness as a playoff contender.
*The game looked like a heavyweight fight with the combatants throwing haymakers. The Browns scored three straight touchdowns in the first half to go ahead by 14 points. The Giants answered that by running off 26 consecutive points to go in front by 12 points with only 12 minutes left. Then the Browns picked themselves up off the canvas and began flailing again, scoring the game’s final 14 points.
*The game had a made for TV movie-like finish, with the Browns’ winning touchdown drive being led by a quarterback in Gary Danielson who had an injured shoulder. The Giants had a chance to win the game on the final play, but Eric Schubert’s 34-yard field-goal attempt was wide left, sending the jubilant Browns racing onto the field like school kids.
Joe Morris’ three-yard touchdown run opened the scoring, then the Browns went ahead, 21-7, on Kevin Mack’s 42-yard run, Earnest Byner’s two-yarder and a 37-yard interception return by safety Al Gross.
The Giants closed it to 21-20 at halftime on a 58-yard scoring run by Morris and Phil Simms’ 29-yard pass to Bobby Johnson.
Schubert, who missed the extra point after Morris’ long run, kicked 35- and 40-yard field goals and Morris scored again on a five-yard run to make it 33-21 with 12 minutes left.
The Browns then won it on two touchdowns -- Danielson’s 25-yard pass to Clarence Weathers and Byner’s nine-yard run.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.