By the end of the 1958 season, the Browns had to be shaking their heads.
For the second straight year, one of their rivals had gotten revenge for something that had happened earlier in the decade.
After the Detroit Lions whipped the Browns 59-14 in the 1957 NFL Championship Game to atone for the 56-10 pounding they had absorbed from Cleveland in the title contest three years earlier, the 1958 New York Giants took their turn. The Giants shut out the Browns 10-0 in a special playoff game at Yankee Stadium to determine the Eastern Conference champion.
The last time the teams met in such a special playoff contest was 1950, when Cleveland edged New York 8-3 to win the title in the American Conference, the forerunner of the Eastern Conference, and advance to the league championship game.
As was the case in 1950, the 1958 Giants also beat Cleveland twice during the regular season, 21-17 and 13-10, as the teams tied for first with a 9-3 record. The Browns went into the latter game at 9-2, needing only a victory to clinch the division crown, and led 7-0 early in the first quarter and 10-3 in the fourth quarter. But Pat Summerall - yes, that Pat Summerall - kicked a 49-yard field goal in a snowstorm to provide the win even though he made barely 50 percent (12-of-23) of his attempts during the regular season.
Then in the playoff, Summerall added a 26-yard field goal in a game highlighted by the fact the Giants held Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown to a career-low eight yards rushing on seven carries, and limited the Browns to just 86 yards of total offense.
The Giants went on to lose 23-17 to the Baltimore Colts in overtime in the league championship contest, later dubbed "The Greatest Game Ever Played."
Aside from the Giants, the only team to beat the Browns in 1958 was those pesky Lions, who gained a 30-10 decision midway through the year. Otherwise, the Browns cruised through their schedule, notching their first five wins by an average of almost 15 points per contest and then putting together a four-game winning streak down the stretch.
The Browns' two best games of the year came in their season sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had their second-best year in franchise history to that point by finishing third in the conference at 7-4-1. The Browns won 45-12 and 27-10, outscoring their rivals 72-22.
Even though Brown struggled in the playoff game, he otherwise had a magnificent season. As good as he had been as a rookie in 1957, he was even better - much better, in fact - in 1958. He rushed for 1,527 yards, or 585 more than he had compiled the year before. He also ran for a whopping total of 17 touchdowns, an increase of eight over 1956.
The Browns needed Brown to produce. Just as had been the case in 1957, the quarterback play in '58 was spotty. Milt Plum, who had taken over the job after playing some the year before, threw for just 11 TDs with 11 interceptions. He was still a season away from beginning to really blossom.
Rookie Bobby Mitchell's six TDs came in four different ways - by rushing, receiving, a kickoff return and a punt return. It was that kind of versatility that would eventually land him in the HOF.
Preston Carpenter had a team-leading 29 receptions, but it was Ray Renfro who really stood out, getting six - or exactly half -- of the team's 12 TD catches despite having only 24 grabs overall. The defense did a great job, not surrendering more than 14 points in any of the final six games, including the playoff.
|9/28||W 30-27||at Los Angeles Rams||69,993|
|10/5||W 45-12||at Pittsburgh Steelers||31,130|
|10/12||W 35-28||Chicago Cardinals||65,403|
|10/19||W 27-10||Pittsburgh Steelers||66,852|
|10/26||W 38-24||at Chicago Cardinals||30,933|
|11/2||L 17-21||New York Giants||78,404|
|11/9||L 10-30||Detroit Lions||75,563|
|11/16||W 20-10||at Washington Redskins||32,372|
|11/23||W 28-14||Philadelphia Eagles||51,319|
|11/30||W 21-14||Washington Redskins||33,240|
|12/1||W 21-14||at Philadelphia Eagles||36,773|
|12/14||L 10-13||at New York Giants||63,192|
|12/21||L 0-10||at New York Giants||61,174|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||206||201|
|Total Net Yards||4,107||3,660|
|Avg. Per Game||342.3||305|
|Avg. Per Play||6||5.4|
|Net Yards Rushing||2,526||1,448|
|Avg. Per Game||210.5||120.7|
|Net Yards Passing||1,581||2,212|
|Avg. Per Game||131.8||184.3|
|Net Punting Avg.||51/39.3||55/36.9|
Cleveland's VP of player personnel excited by all 9 of team's later picks
Cleveland selected 14 players, the most of any team this year
Cleveland began with 11 and finished with more after multiple trades