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This Day in Browns History - Jan. 7

Posted Jan 7, 2013

In this series, ClevelandBrowns.com looks back to a playoff bowl game against the Detroit Lions on Jan. 7, 1961.

The Browns have been in the playoffs a number of times over the years.

They were also in the NFL Playoff Bowl three times, including in the first game on Jan. 7, 1961 against the Detroit Lions at the Orange Bowl in Miami.

Officially named the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl in memory of former NFL Commissioner Bert Bell, who died in October, 1959, the Playoff Bowl covered the 1960-69 seasons and matched the second-place teams in both the Eastern and Western conferences in games at the Orange bowl. It was the NFL’s way of expanding its postseason format in an attempt to showcase more of its teams to take away some of the publicity the rival AFL was getting with its debut in 1960.

The Browns, coached by Paul Brown, played in that first game after finishing 8-3-1 and in second place in the East in 1960, 1½ games behind the eventual league champion Philadelphia Eagles (10-2). The Lions (8-5-1) were second in the West, 2½ games behind the Green Bay Packers (11-3). Detroit ended up winning the game, 17-16.

That was the first of three straight Playoff Bowl appearances for the Lions – all victories.

The Browns also were in three Playoff Bowls, losing each time. They went back following the 1963 season, on Jan. 5, 1964, when they fell 40-23 to the Packers. In Blanton Collier’s first year as head coach, the Browns were 10-4 and a game behind the New York Giants (11-3) in the East.

The Browns’ final appearance was after the 1967 season, on Jan. 7, 1968, when they fell, 30-6, to the Los Angeles Rams. That was the first season of the NFL’s expanded playoff format. The two conferences were split into two divisions each. The Browns won the Century Division title with a 9-5 record but lost 52-14 to the Capitol Division-winning Dallas Cowboys in the Eastern Conference Championship Game.

When the NFL-AFL merger was completed for the 1970 season, the Playoff Bowl was scrapped. Nobody wanted to be part of what had become known to the participants as a game for “losers.”

Although it was for third place in the league, the NFL does not recognize the Playoff Bowls as having been playoff games. The league has officially termed them exhibition games.

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