The 1951 season for the Browns was just like the one in 1953.
After all, they had an 11-game winning streak and finished 11-1, earned the conference - in this case, the American Conference - title and then were defeated by a close margin in the NFL Championship Game.
In 1951, that title game defeat was to the Los Angeles Rams, who gained a 24-17 decision with a late 73-yard touchdown pass to avenge their tough loss (30-28) to the Browns in the previous year's title contest.
It was the first league championship game defeat for the Browns after five straight victories dating back to the team's inception in 1946 in the All-America Football Conference.
But that was not the only reason it was a little hard for the Browns to take. They had rolled past Los Angeles 38-23 in the second game of the regular season and felt going into the rematch that they were definitely the superior team.
The only difference in 1951 from '53 for the Browns was that their lone regular-season defeat was at the beginning of the season, not the end, as the '51 Browns fell 24-10 to the San Francisco 49ers in the opener.
But that loss was quickly forgotten, as the Browns shut out two of their next three foes, winning 45-0 over the Washington Redskins and 17-0 over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns would blank the Steelers later in the year, 28-0, gaining a rare season series shutout.
They recorded four shutouts in all on the season, also beating the New York Giants 10-0. That win was huge for several reasons. Coupled with an earlier 14-13 victory, it allowed the Browns to sweep the season series from the Giants after losing twice to them in the 1950 regular season.
The 1950 Giants, who tied the Browns for first place in the American Conference and then lost to Cleveland in a special playoff game, finished second again in 1951, this time with a 9-2-1 record. The Giants thought they might be able to catch the Browns down the stretch, but Cleveland crushed its last two foes by a combined 52-9 margin to put a stranglehold on the conference title.
Dub Jones led the Browns in rushing with 492 yards and seven TDs, while Ken Carpenter added 402 yards and four scores.
Dante Lavelli was the top receiver with 43 catches and six TDs, while Jones had five scores on 30 receptions.
Quarterback Otto Graham had an OK year, throwing for 2,205 yards and 17 scores with 16 interceptions for a 79.2 rating.
Cornerback Warren Lahr and safety Cliff Lewis each had five interceptions, and Don Shula -- yes, THAT Don Shula -- added four.
But in the end, it wasn't quite enough. So for the first time, the Browns did not sit atop the league.
|9/30||L 10-24||at San Francisco 49ers||52,219|
|10/7||W 38-23||at Los Angeles Rams||67,186|
|10/14||W 45-0||Washington Redskins||33,968|
|10/21||W 17-0||Pittsburgh Steelers||32,409|
|10/27||W 14-13||New York Giants||56,947|
|11/4||W 34-17||at Chicago Cardinals||19,742|
|11/11||W 20-17||Philadelphia Eagles||36,571|
|11/18||W 10-0||at New York Giants||52,215|
|11/25||W 42-21||Chicago Bears||40,969|
|12/2||W 49-28||Chicago Cardinals||30,550|
|12/9||W 28-0||at Pittsburgh Steelers||24,229|
|12/16||W 24-9||at Philadelphia Eagles||16,263|
|12/23||L 17-24||at Los Angeles Rams||57,540|
|Score By Periods||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||OT||Tot.|
|Total First Downs||203||201|
|Total Net Yards||3,847||3,002|
|Avg. Per Game||320.6||250.2|
|Avg. Per Play||5.5||4|
|Net Yards Rushing||1,708||1,454|
|Avg. Per Game||142.3||121.2|
|Net Yards Passing||1,902||1,548|
|Avg. Per Game||158.5||129|
|Net Punting Avg.||73/40.8||69/36.5|
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