The Browns of the 1960s had an impressive array of offensive talent.
But their defense was pretty good, too.
And that defense was the difference in a 20-6 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 29, 1963 in front of 54,713 fans at Cleveland Stadium.
The Browns allowed their fewest number of points in two years. They did not surrender a touchdown, as the Rams (0-3) scored on a pair of field goals.
Cleveland limited Los Angeles to 214 total yards, recorded two sacks and had two interceptions – one each by a pair of linebackers who are Cleveland Browns Legends and native Northeast Ohioans in Jim Houston and Vince Costello.
Houston, whose older brother, Lin, was a guard on the first eight Browns teams from 1946-53, played at Massillon High School, and Costello played not far away at tiny Magnolia (now Sandy Valley) High School just south of Canton.
But on a day with a lot of big defensive performances, the biggest came in the early moments of the second half and turned the tide in the Browns’ favor. Leading, 7-3, the Browns fumbled the ball away on the Cleveland 16 on the opening series. But the Rams came away without any points after the defense dug in and held them on downs at the 1.
That provided a real emotional lift for the Browns, who marched 80 yards for a touchdown later in the third quarter on Frank Ryan’s 14-yard pass to wide receiver Rich Kreitling to go ahead, 13-3.
Kreitling was the team’s first-round pick in the 1959 NFL Draft.
After Danny Villanueva kicked the longer of his two field goals on the afternoon, a 45-yarder, to cut the Rams’ deficit to 13-6 early in the fourth quarter, the Browns cemented their win with a big play on offense. It came when Ryan threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ray Renfro to make it 20-6.
It was the 50th -- and, as it turned out, last -- scoring catch for the Browns Legend, who would end his 12-year career by retiring following the season.
The Rams actually led, 3-0, after the first quarter on Villanueva’s 13-yard field goal.
Pro Football Hall-of-Fame running back Jim Brown provided the Browns with their first points on a 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to make it 7-3 at halftime.
Brown rushed for 95 yards on 22 carries overall in the game.
His backfield mate, Browns Legend Ernie Green, added 70 yards on just eight carries, averaging almost nine yards per attempt. A fine receiver as well, Green also caught two passes for 26 yards.
Ryan, in his first season as the full-time starting quarterback after arriving in a trade from the Rams the previous year, had a good day against his old team by completing nine of 15 passes for 152 yards and the two touchdows with no interceptions.
His favorite target was tight end Johnny Brewer, who had three catches for 62 yards.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.