The Browns celebrated the dawning of the new year by making sure that the old one didn’t end.
That occurred on Jan. 1, 1995 when, behind the passing of Vinny Testaverde, they extended their season by topping the New England Patriots 20-13 in the wild-card round of the 1994 AFC divisional playoffs before 77,452 at Cleveland Stadium.
In the first postseason appearance of his eight-year NFL career after signing with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent in 1993, Testaverde was 20-of-30 passing for 268 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions. His 105.9 quarterback rating is the sixth-highest in Browns playoff history, and helped the club win its first playoff game in five years.
More than half of Testaverde’s completions went to two different wide receivers. Michael Jackson caught seven passes, tied for the third-most in Browns playoff history, for 122 yards (fifth-most). Derrick Alexander, the second of the team’s two first-round picks in the 1994 NFL Draft, had five grabs for 69 yards.
Another wideout, Mark Carrier, scored Cleveland’s first touchdown of the day when he caught a five-yard pass in the second quarter from Testaverde, with whom he had played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Leroy Hoard, who was headed to the Pro Bowl for the first time, rushed for a game-high 66 yards and the Browns’ other touchdown on a 10-yarder in the third quarter to give the team the lead for good, 17-10.
The Cleveland defense, which had set a franchise record for a 16-game regular season by giving up just 204 points, did the job as well against the Patriots. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe completed just 21 of 50 passes and was intercepted three times, once each by Pro Bowl-bound free safety Eric Turner, nickel back Louis Riddick and middle linebacker Pepper Johnson, an ex-Ohio Stater.
The Browns scored first on Matt Stover’s 30-yard field goal in the opening quarter and that, coupled with Carrier’s touchdown catch, enabled them to be tied 10-10 at halftime.
Stover added another field goal, from 21 yards, in the third quarter to put the Browns ahead 20-10. Former Brown Matt Bahr booted a 33-yard field goal to draw the Patriots to within 20-13 with 1:30 left. New England recovered the ensuing onside kick and picked up a first down before stalling at its 48, sealing the victory for the Browns.
It was a special day for Browns head coach Bill Belichick, who defeated his mentor, Patriots head coach Bill Parcells.
The Browns, who improved to 12-5, advanced to meet the host Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round six days later.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.