After a hopeful 2-1 start, the season was slipping away for the 1991 Browns under first-year head coach Bill Belichick.
They had lost three games in a row, the last of which being a 25-point decision at Washington that would stand as the most lopsided defeat for the first four-and-a-half years of Belichick’s five-year tenure in Cleveland.
When the Browns traveled back across the country to San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium the following week, it looked like more of the same. They had done little, especially offensively, in falling behind the Chargers 17-3 in the third quarter.
The Browns needed to do an about-face immediately. And they did.
Getting both their passing and running attacks jump-started, the Browns outscored San Diego 28-7 the rest of the way, rallying to win, 30-24, in overtime when outside linebacker David Brandon -- a former Charger -- returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown.
But Brandon, who played the previous four seasons in San Diego before signing with the Browns as a Plan B free agent in the offseason, wasn’t the only hero that day. He was joined by quarterback Bernie Kosar and running back Leroy Hoard, who combined on two touchdown passes to get the team back in the game.
When it was all said and done, the Browns were 3-4 and feeling good about themselves again. Meanwhile, the stunned Chargers fell to 1-7, having suffered their third six-point loss of the year, including two straight by the score of 30-24.
The game started slowly, being tied, 3-3, at halftime on John Carney’s 27-yard field goal in the first quarter and Matt Stover’s 30-yarder in the second quarter.
The third quarter opened with Ronnie Harmon, who had played against the Browns as a member of the Buffalo Bills in that memorable AFC divisional playoff game just two years before, running 11 yards for a touchdown.
Not long thereafter, Marion Butts’ two-yard scoring run made it 17-3.
The Browns got their first touchdown of the afternoon later in the third quarter on Kosar’s six-yard pass to Hoard, then Joe Morris tied the game, 17-17, with a one-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers went back on top on a two-yard touchdown pass from John Friesz to Steve Hendrickson, a linebacker who had reported into the game as an eligible receiver.
Then Kosar passed 15 yards to Kosar for a score late in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Kosar completed 26 of 42 passes for 297 yards and the two touchdowns to Hoard with no interceptions. Running back Eric Metcalf and wide receiver Reggie Langhorne had six receptions each, while wideout Webster Slaughter added five.
The Browns sacked Friesz three times, one each by by safety Harlon Barnett and ends Anthony Pleasant and Pio Sagapolutele. They also intercepted him twice. Including Brandon’s game-winner, there was also one by linebacker Richard Brown, another former Charger who was signed as a Plan B free agent in the offseason.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.