Quarterback Brian Sipe built his career by rallying the Browns to victory in the fourth quarter a number of times, mostly in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
As the man who made the Kardiac Kids go, the Cleveland Browns Legend never met a tense, nail-biting situation he didn’t like.
It seems fitting, then, that in his first real opportunity as a pro, Sipe pulled off some late heroics to lead the Browns to a come-from-behind, 23-21 win over the Denver Broncos on Oct. 27, 1974 at Cleveland Stadium.
Replacing a struggling Mike Phipps with his team trailing, 21-9, in the fourth quarter, Sipe rushed for two touchdowns of eight yards and one yard as the Browns (2-5) ended their four-game losing streak.
Sipe had been a 13th-round choice of the Browns in the 1972 NFL Draft out of San Diego State. But he didn’t make the regular roster in those first two years, instead being relegated to the taxi squad, the forerunner of today’s practice squad.
He earned a spot on the regular roster in 1974 and played late in losses to the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Raiders early in the season. But neither one of those performances counts as his debut since they came in mop-up situations. Along with that was the fact he was three-of-eight passing (.375) for 28 yards and no touchdowns with three interceptions.
So the man who now owns just about every Browns passing record, and is the last member of the team to be selected as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player (in 1980), was a virtual unknown. He wasn’t the most impactful Kid on the Kardiac Kids, but rather just a kid trying to make his way in the league.
But when he was inserted against the Broncos (3-3-1), things were much different since, for the first time, the game was on the line. It was still winnable, though it would take some doing.
And, as the 60,478 in attendance and Browns fans everywhere would later learn, a little opening is all Sipe needed to pull off a lot of magic.
But unlike the way he would do it in the future, with his right arm, Sipe’s first moment to remember was accomplished with his legs. He was just four-of-six passing for 32 yards against Denver.
The Broncos got off to good start with two touchdown passes by Charley Johnson, a familiar face to Browns fans from his days with the Cardinals in the early to mid-1960s when they were Cleveland’s arch rival. He threw a 12-yarder to Riley Odoms in the second quarter and a 13-yarder to Jerry Simmons in the second quarter to make it 14-0.
Three field goals of 27, 30 and 25 yards by Don Cockroft closed the gap to 14-9 in the third quarter.
Otis Armstrong’s 33-yard touchdown later in the quarter widened the lead back to 21-9.
Things looked bad for the Browns, which was good for Sipe.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.