History

History: 1966


Team Photo

Even though they finished just 9-5, their worst record since 1962, and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since '63, there was a lot to like about the 1966 Browns.

Save for a devastating 16-6 upset loss to a Pittsburgh Steelers team that would finish just 5-8-1, the Browns offense scored points in bunches. In later years, Browns players from that era said the 1966 team had the best offense -- even better than the one in 1964, when the club won the NFL championship -- and there's evidence to support that contention.

The flurry of points started in the opener when the Browns blew out the Washington Redskins 38-14. It continued in a stretch of five straight games in which they lost 34-28 to the St. Louis Cardinals, beat the New York Giants 28-7, routed the Steelers 41-10, turned back the Dallas Cowboys 30-21 and crushed the expansion Atlanta Falcons 49-17.

Then, as they were finishing the season, the Browns outscored the Giants 49-40 and walloped the Cardinals 38-10.

The Browns scored 403 points in all, averaging a healthy 28.8 per contest. Even in the game that eventually did in their playoff chances -- a 33-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the next-to-last week -- they were able to score a decent amount of points.

Quarterback Frank Ryan was as good - or better - than he was in any of his previous three seasons as the full-time starter, including 1964, when he helped lead the Browns to the NFL championship. He threw for a career-high 2,974 yards and had better than a 2-to-1 ratio of touchdown passes (29) to interceptions (14).

He also posted his second-best quarterback rating at 88.2.

The quarterbacking for the Browns was so good that year, in fact, that backup Jim Ninowski threw for four TDs in just 18 passing attempts for a 110.0 quarterback rating.

Flanker Gary Collins caught a team-high 56 passes, 12 of which went for scores. Running back Ernie Green was next with 45 catches and six scores. Pro Football Hall of Fame wideout Paul Warfield, after missing most of 1965 with a broken collarbone, regained his rookie form of '64 with 36 receptions for five TDs.

Even Milt Morin, a rookie tight end, had three TDs among his 23 receptions. In fact, his backup, Ralph Smith, also scored three times -- on just 13 catches.

And remember, this came at a time when tight end was still just beginning to evolve into more of a pass-catching position, so for the Browns to have six TD receptions from their tight ends was mind-boggling.

Hall of Fame running back Leroy Kelly, in his first season as the starter after the sudden and unexpected retirement of Hall of Famer Jim Brown just before the start of training camp, rushed for 1,141 yards and 15 TDs. Brown told the Browns not to worry about his retirement, assuring them that Kelly was a more-than-capable replacement. He was right.

On the other side of the ball, the Browns were real thieves, getting 30 interceptions - including eight each by safety Ross Fichtner and cornerback Mike Howell - to greatly help a bend-but-don't-break defense.

Two surprising teams kept the Browns from winning the Eastern Conference title in the final season before the league went to two divisions within each conference.

Dallas, in just its seventh year of existence, captured the East with a 10-3-1 mark after being just 7-7 the previous season and never having had a winning record to that point.

The Eagles, who hadn't had a winning season since 1961 and wouldn't have another one until '78, came out of nowhere to finish 9-5 and tied the Browns for second place.

The 12-point win over the Browns in the next-to-last game would be Philadelphia's biggest victory in terms of significance from 1962-77. The Eagles never came close to making the playoffs during that time, but by virtue of that 1966 triumph, they were selected over the Browns to go to the Playoff Bowl, which was a matchup of the second-place teams from each conference.

The Browns were also part of history in 1966, becoming the opponent in Dallas' first Thanksgiving Day game. The Cowboys, who beat the Browns 26-14 to help catapult themselves past Cleveland and into the driver's seat in the East race, have hosted a game on that holiday in nearly every year since.

Steve King,
Staff Writer


YEAR RESULTS
Preseason Results
National Football League: 3-2
at Los Angeles Rams (63,285) 6-16
at San Francisco 49ers (27,867) 28-17
at Atlanta Falcons (48,548) 42-3
Baltimore Colts (83,418) 17-24
Pittsburgh Steelers at Birmingham (23,590) 13-10
 
Regular Season Results
  Regular Season Playoffs Combined Record
League W L T PCT W L T PCT W L T PCT
NFL 9 5 0 .643 0 0 0 .000 9 5 0 .643
 
 

Date Result Opponent Att.
9/11 W 38-14 at Washington Redskins 48,643
9/18 L 20-21 Green Bay Packers 83,943
9/25 L 28-34 St. Louis Cardinals 74,814
10/2 W 28-7 at New York Giants 62,916
10/8 W 41-10 Pittsburgh Steelers 82,687
10/23 W 30-21 Dallas Cowboys 84,721
10/30 W 49-17 at Atlanta Falcons 57,235
11/6 L 6-16 at Pittsburgh Steelers 39,690
11/13 W 27-7 Philadelphia Eagles 77,968
11/20 W 14-3 Washington Redskins 78,466
11/24 L 14-26 at Dallas Cowboys 75,504
12/4 W 49-40 New York Giants 61,651
12/11 L 21-33 at Philadelphia Eagles 58,074
12/17 W 38-10 at St. Louis Cardinals 47,721

Score By Periods
1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Tot.
Browns 87 92 90 134 0 --- 403
Opponents 54 89 49 67 0 --- 259

Team Statistics
Browns Opponent
Total First Downs 278 255
Rushing 117 113
Passing 142 124
Penalty 19 18
Total Net Yards 5,071 4,266
Avg. Per Game 362.2 304.7
Total Plays 846 891
Avg. Per Play 6 4.8
Net Yards Rushing 2,166 1,894
Avg. Per Game 154.7 135.3
Total Rushes 415 450
Net Yards Passing 2,905 2,372
Avg. Per Game 207.5 169.4
Sacked/Yards Lost 29/237 35/278
Gross Yards 3,142 2,650
Attempts/Completions 402/212 406/221
Completion Pct. 52.70% 54.40%
Had Intercepted 15 30
Punts/Avg. 57/39.0 56/39.7
Net Punting Avg. 57/37.1 56/37.1
Penalties/Yards Lost 69/747 61/563
Fumbles/Ball Lost 17/10 24/19
Touchdowns 54 29
Rushing 18 12
Passing 33 14
Returns 3 3

Scoring
Ru Pa St Df PAT 2Ru 2Pa FG Saf TP
Kelly, Leroy 15 1 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 96
Groza, Lou 0 0 0 0 51/52 0 0 9/23 0 78
Collins, Gary 0 12 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 72
Green, Ernie 3 6 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 54
Warfield, Paul 0 5 1 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 36
Browns 18 33 1 2 52/54 0 0 9/23 0 403
Opponents 12 14 3 0 28/29 0 0 19/28 0 259

Rushing
No Yds Avg LG TD
Kelly, Leroy 209 1,141 5.5 70t 15
Green, Ernie 144 750 5.2 35 3
Ryan, Frank 36 156 4.3 17 0
Harraway, Charley 7 40 5.7 18 0
Schultz, Randy 7 32 4.6 20 0
Browns 415 2,166 5.2 70t 18
Opponents 450 1,894 4.2 37 12

Receiving
No Yds Avg LG TD
Collins, Gary 56 946 16.9 54 12
Green, Ernie 45 445 9.9 31t 6
Warfield, Paul 36 741 20.6 51 5
Kelly, Leroy 32 366 11.4 40 1
Morin, Milt 23 333 14.5 32 3
Browns 212 3,142 14.8 54 33
Opponents 221 2,650 12 58t 14

Interceptions
No Yds Avg LG TD
Fichtner, Ross 8 152 19 58 1
Howell, Mike 8 62 7.8 29 0
Barnes, Erich 4 128 32 54 0
Kellermann, Ernie 3 23 7.7 12 0
Houston, Jim 2 27 13.5 21 0
Browns 30 408 13.6 58 1
Opponents 15 68 4.5 27 0

Punting
No Yds Avg In20 TB LG BLK
Collins, Gary 57 2,223 39 0 6 60 0
Browns 57 2,223 39 0 6 60 0
Opponents 56 2,224 39.7 0 2 56 0

Punt Returns
No FC Yds Avg LG TD
Kelly, Leroy 13 6 104 8 52 0
Roberts, Walter 11 13 42 3.8 30 0
Green, Ernie 0 2 0 0 0 0
Browns 24 21 146 6.1 52 0
Opponents 23 15 111 4.8 38 0

Kickoff Returns
No Yds Avg LG TD
Roberts, Walter 20 454 22.7 57 0
Kelly, Leroy 19 403 21.2 49 0
Harraway, Charley 9 193 21.4 33 0
Schultz, Randy 3 52 17.3 23 0
Pietrosante, Nick 2 9 4.5 8 0
Browns 54 1,111 20.6 57 0
Opponents 68 1,501 22.1 94t 2

Field Goals
1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Tot
Groza, Lou 0/1 2/6 4/8 3/8 0/0 9/23
Browns 0/1 2/6 4/8 3/8 0/0 9/23
Opponents 7/7 5/8 5/8 2/4 0/1 19/28

Passing
Att Cmp Yds Pct Av/At TD Td% Int Int% LG Tkld Rating
Ryan, Frank 382 200 2,974 52.4 7.79 29 7.6 14 3.7 54 28/223 88.2
Ninowski, Jim 18 11 175 61.1 9.72 4 22.2 1 5.6 44t 1/14 110
Groza, Lou 1 1 7 100 7 0 0 0 0 -7 0/0 95.8
Kelly, Leroy 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 39.6
Browns 402 212 3,156 52.7 7.85 33 8.2 15 3.7 54 29/237 90.6