What’s better for an NFL defense that shutting out a team?
Maybe the only thing would be shutting out that club twice in the same season.
And the ultimate?
When the club in question is one of your big,big rivals.
The Browns completed that trifecta in 1951, blanking the Pittsburgh Steelers in both of the teams’ meetings, the latter of which occurring Dec. 9 by a score of 28-0 in front of a crowd of 24,229 at Forbes Field.
The Browns had also topped Pittsburgh, 17-0, on Oct. 21 at Cleveland Stadium.
Those were half of the Browns’ four shutouts that year, which is a club record for NFL play. The team also posted four shutouts in its first season of 1946 while in the All-America Football Conference.
The double-dip over the Steelers is also the only time in NFL play that the Browns have shut out the same team twice in a season. It is, however, the third time overall the Browns have done that, as they blanked the Miami Seahawks two times in 1946 and the Baltimore Colts twice in ’48 in the AAFC.
What does all this indicate? That while the Browns offense, with Pro Football Hall of Fame skill players such as quarterback Otto Graham, wide receiver Dante Lavelli and fullback Marion Motley, plus Cleveland Browns Legends Mac Speedie and Dub Jones, and operating behind a line paced by Hall of Famers Lou Groza (left tackle) and Frank Gatski (center), got all the hype – and rightfully so – from the team’s early years, the defense was outstanding as well. Shutouts have never come easily in pro football – any league. The teams – the offenses – are just too good.
And that 1951 Browns defense, in addition to its four shutouts in only 12 games, allowed only 151 points on the year, the second-fewest in the team’s NFL history and the third-fewest overall.
The Browns’ “worst” effort all year was giving up 28 points to the Chicago Cardinals, who still lost by 21 as coach Paul Brown’s team scored a season-high 49 points.
It was what you would expect from a group headed by two Hall of Famers in middle guard Bill Willis and right end Len Ford, plus Cleveland Browns Legends such as cornerbacks Warren Lahr and Tommy James.
And the defense’s effort against the Steelers that day in 1951, three weeks before Christmas, was especially good, as the Browns allowed just 209 total yards and forced five turnovers.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Browns did almost all of their damage in the second quarter, scoring three touchdowns to take a 21-0- halftime lead.
The second quarter had also been the key in the earlier win over the Steelers that year, as the Browns scored 10 of their 17 points.
This time, it was Ken Carpenter running 24 yards for a score, Motley running eight yards and Lavelli catching a seven-yard pass from Graham.
In the fourth quarter, rookie two-way halfback Carl Taseff ran three yards for a touchdown.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.