The Browns had struggled badly on defense in 1990, allowing a franchise-record 462 points.
Bill Belichick, whose speciality as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants during the previous six seasons was keeping opponents from scoring, was hired as head coach in 1991 to fix that problem.
And it didn’t take long for him to make big strides in that area.
In just their second game under Belichick, the Browns posted their first shutout in over two years and just their third since 1987 when they beat the New England Patriots, 20-0, on Sept. 8, at Foxboro Stadium.
Both teams were left with 1-1 records.
The Patriots had beaten the Indianapolis Colts 16-7 in their opener the previous week. Ironically, the other shutout the Browns registetred in 1991 came against the Colts, 31-0, 11 weeks later.
The Browns were dominant on defense against the Patriots. They:
*Surrendered just 143 total yards, including only 71 passing.
*Permitted a scant eight first downs.
*Allowed quarterback Tom Hodson to complete just 12 of 26 passes.
*Sacked Hobson four times for 21 yards in losses, two each by tackle Michael Dean Perry and cornerback Randy Hilliard.
*Had two interceptions, by Hilliard and middle linebacker Mike Johnson.
*Forced four fumbles, two of which they recovered.
Indeed, it doesn’t get much more smothering than that.
Meanwhile, the Browns weren’t really explosive offensively, but they were extremely efficient.
Quarterback Bernie Kosar completed 15 of 22 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, giving him a lofty passing rating of 124.62. In his typical fashion, he spread the ball around to keep the defense honest, completing passes to seven different receivers.
His favorite targets were running back Eric Metcalf with four receptions for 35 yards, wide receiver Michael Jackson, who had three catches for 82 yards, including a 65-yarder for a touchdown, as the promising young player continued to open eyes after being just a sixth-round choice in the 1991 NFL Draft, and wide receiver Webster Slaughter with three grabs with 29 yards.
Jackson had played collegiately at Southern Mississippi, the same school that produced cornerback Hanford Dixon, a Cleveland Browns Legend, exactly a decade earlier.
Running back Leroy Hoard had the other touchdown catch on a seven-yarder. It was his lone reception of the day.
The Browns rushed for 113 yards, including 70 -- in 20 carries -- by Joe Morris, a veteran who Belichick knew well from their days together with the Giants. Thinking -- correctly so, as it turned out -- that Morris still had some game left, Belichick enticed him to come to Cleveland.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Browns got on the board with Kosar’s short touchdown pass to Hoard.
Another former Giant, Matt Stover, got the Browns’ next two scores on field goals, a 30-yarder in the third quarter and a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter, to make it 13-0.
The Browns put an exclamation point behind their victory -- and added some offensive flavor to a day of defense -- with Kosar’s long touchdown pass to Jackson.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.