“Run, William! Run!”
Say that line to Browns fans and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.
They’ll likely also tell you where they were and what they were doing when it was uttered as the biggest moment for the Browns in the expansion era played out.
It’s the call by Browns radio play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan on rookie running back William Green’s game-clinching 64-yard touchdown run with 4:05 left in the big, 24-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the regular-season finale on Dec. 29, 2002 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
That win, coupled with other game results later in the day, allowed the Browns (9-7) to earn a wild-card playoff berth on tie-breakers, advancing to the AFC playoffs for the only time in the expansion era.
The Falcons (9-6-1) qualified for the NFC playoffs as a wild card.
Donovan’s call has become so synonymous with what happened that day that the victory is now known simply as "The Run, William! Run! Game."
The Browns were ahead, 17-16, but they needed another touchdown to seal the win when they took over at the Cleveland 29 with 4:48 left. In the very least, they needed to get some first downs and milk the clock, keeping the ball away from the Falcons for the rest of the game or at least not giving it back to them until there was virtually no time left.
Green, taken by the Browns with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, had started the season slowly but then got on a real roll in the second half on his way to finishing with 887 yards. So it only made sense, then, that the Browns were going to put the game in the hands – and on the legs – of Green, who had already had a big day by going over 100 yards.
Green ran seven yards over right guard to the 36 on the first play.
Facing a second-and-three situation, the Browns were in good shape, with the opportunity to either run again or pass. Not wanting to risk an interception and realizing that Green was hot, they gave the ball to him again over the right side. Only this time, they went just a bit wider, over tackle.
Green hit the hole like a rocket, took a few more steps to elude the first wave of defenders and then cut to the outside. As he sprinted all alone down the sideline – in front of the Cleveland bench -- Donovan exemplified what every Browns fan was thinking when he excitedly implored Green to run to the end zone for his second touchdown of the day, a 24-16 lead and a possible shot in the playoffs.
And at about the same time that Donovan made his call, the 73,528 fans in attendance roared in unison. It caused the stadium to actually shake, just like Cleveland Stadium used to do in key moments in important Browns games back in the day.
“Run, William! Run!”
And so he did.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.