The 1967 season was a bittersweet one for the Browns.
The sweet part was the fact they were back in the playoffs after a one-year absence. They went 9-5, the same as in 1966, but this time, it was good enough for them to get in as they won the Century Division championship in the first year of play after the NFL split the Eastern and Western conferences into two divisions each.
The division race wasn't even close, as the Browns finished two games ahead of the runnerup New York Giants (7-7), their old arch rival in the 1950s and early '60s.
But despite that, things sure didn't start out well for the Browns in 1967. They struggled offensively in their first two games, losing to the Dallas Cowboys (21-14) and Detroit Lions (31-14).
Then the Browns caught fire, winning four in a row and nine of their next 11 to breeze to the crown.
The only two stumbles for the Browns during that stretch were a 38-34 loss to the Giants at the Yankee Stadium and an embarrassing, record-setting 55-7 defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, who were headed to their second straight Super Bowl title.
But in the big picture, that afternoon was an aberration, for otherwise, the Browns were pretty much able to come up with just what they needed to win games.
For example, when they had to have offense, such as in a 42-37 win over Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and the Washington Redskins, they got it. The Browns, who matched that point total in their first win of the year, a 42-7 decision over the New Orleans Saints in Week 3, were led against the Redskins by Leroy Kelly's 163 yards rushing.
When they needed defense, such as in a 14-10 win over the up-and-coming Minnesota Vikings the previous week, they got it. The Browns fell behind 10-0 in the first half and then shut out the Vikings the rest of the way. Their game-winning touchdown drive was set up by defensive tackle Jim Kanicki's forced fumble late in the game.
And when they needed to be consistent, they were, beating the St. Louis Cardinals twice by the same 20-16 score.
The second win over the Cardinals, at Busch Stadium in the next-to-last game of the regular season, clinched the division title for the Browns. The week before that, the Browns took a huge step toward the crown -- and avenged their earlier loss -- when they beat the Giants 24-14.
But the playoffs were a disaster for the Browns, and that's where the bitter part of the season comes in. The Cowboys, on their way to a second consecutive appearance - and a second consecutive excruciating loss to the Packers -- in the NFL Championship Game, blew out the Browns 52-14 in the Eastern Conference title contest. It wasn't even that close, as the Cowboys dominated every facet of the game from start to finish.
Then, to add even more disappointment for the Browns, they were bounced 30-6 by the Los Angeles Rams in something called the Playoff Bowl, a game in Miami between the second-place teams in each conference.
Kelly went over 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight time, getting 1,205 to go along with 11 TDs, while Ernie Green, now out of the shadow of the great Jim Brown, went over 700 yards for the second time in a row, getting 710.
Quarterback Frank Ryan, the architect of the 27-0 1964 NFL title game victory over the Baltimore Colts, played pretty well in his last full season as a starter. He had 20 TD passes and 16 interceptions. But Ryan, with his body, especially his shoulder, beat up, would give way to Bill Nelsen early the next year.
The devastating playoff loss to Dallas caused Browns head coach Blanton Collier to re-shape his team at other positions as well, as new players were brought in to replace some of the fading stars who had carried the club for years. For instance, this was the last season for Hall of Fame place kicker Lou Groza, who retired for the second time - this time for good - after making 11-of-23 field-goal tries.
Groza, the last member of the original Browns from the team's inception in 1946, would be followed in 1968 by another great kicker, Don Cockroft.
|9/17||L 14-21||Dallas Cowboys||81,039|
|9/24||L 14-31||at Detroit Lions||57,383|
|10/1||W 42-7||at New Orleans Saints||77,045|
|10/7||W 21-10||Pittsburgh Steelers||82,949|
|10/15||W 20-16||St. Louis Cardinals||77,813|
|10/22||W 24-0||Chicago Bears||83,183|
|10/29||L 34-38||at New York Giants||62,903|
|11/5||W 34-14||at Pittsburgh Steelers||47,131|
|11/12||L 7-55||at Green Bay Packers||50,074|
|11/19||W 14-10||Minnesota Vikings||68,431|
|11/26||W 42-37||Washington Redskins||72,798|
|12/3||W 24-14||New York Giants||78,594|
|12/10||W 20-16||at St. Louis Cardinals||47,782|
|12/17||L 24-28||at Philadelphia Eagles||60,658|
|12/24||L 14-52||at Dallas Cowboys||70,786|
|1/7||L 6-30||Los Angeles Rams||37,102|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||238||281|
|Total Net Yards||4,316||4,848|
|Avg. Per Game||308.3||346.3|
|Avg. Per Play||5.3||5.1|
|Net Yards Rushing||2,139||1,767|
|Avg. Per Game||152.8||126.2|
|Net Yards Passing||1,942||2,877|
|Avg. Per Game||138.7||205.5|
|Net Punting Avg.||67/36.0||62/34.2|