History

History: 1973


Team Photo

The 1973 season is where the Browns' great run of the 1940s, '50s and '60s -- the one that produced eight league titles and a slew of regular-season victories and accomplishments, making for one of the proudest traditions in all of the NFL -- really started to come to a grinding halt.

But it didn't happen completely until the very end of the season.

Fresh off a thrilling 21-16 come-from-behind decision over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Stadium -- their third victory in a row -- the Browns appeared to be in good shape, standing 7-3-1 with three games to play. Then the team, full of aging veterans who had led the Browns to such success in the 1960s, began to wear out.

A 20-20 tie at Kansas City -- achieved only after the Browns rallied late from a two-touchdown deficit -- then ensued, followed by one-sided losses on the road to the Cincinnati Bengals (34-17) and Los Angeles Rams (30-17). It forced the Browns to finish 7-5-2 and, for the first time in three years, out of the playoffs, where they would remain for six more seasons.

As such, it was a tremendous disappointment for a club that, after finishing 10-4 in 1972 and nearly upsetting Miami in the divisional playoffs on the Dolphins' way to a Super Bowl title and a perfect 17-0 season, thought it could coax at least one more big year out of its older players.

But it failed to happen, not so much so because of the failings of those aforementioned veterans -- all that contributed to it some -- but rather by those of young quarterback Mike Phipps. The team's first-round draft choice in 1970, he showed promising signs when he took over for banged-up Bill Nelsen in the first part of the '72 season and rescued the Browns from a 2-3 start by guiding them on a six-game winning streak.

That promise continued for the first part of 1973, when the Browns opened 3-1 and then 4-2, but then Phipps' turnover problem -- he had just nine touchdown passes to 20 interceptions that year -- began to become a real issue.

And unlike 1972, the Browns running game, which had been so good dating all the way back to the team's inception in 1946, couldn't save him. Leroy Kelly, in the final season of his Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Browns, gained just 389 yards, a drop-off of 422 yards from the year before.

The club lost four games by 13 or more points, included very one-sided affairs at Pittsburgh (33-6) and at Minnesota (26-3), both powerhouses, and could do no better than play to a 16-16 tie with a bad (2-11-1) San Diego Chargers team.

All this foreshadowed the collapse that was about to happen, putting the Browns into an extended losing cycle for the first time in franchise history.

Steve King,
Staff Writer


YEAR RESULTS
Preseason Results
National Football League: 2-3-1
San Francisco 49ers (65,707) 16-27
at Los Angeles Rams (54,385) 21-21
Cincinnati Bengals at Columbus (73,421) 24-6
Atlanta Falcons at Knoxville (40,831) 20-17
Detroit Lions (64,088) 13-16
New York Giants at Akron (30,751) 10-21
 
Regular Season Results
  Regular Season Playoffs Combined Record
League W L T PCT W L T PCT W L T PCT
NFL 7 5 2 .583 0 0 0 .000 7 5 2 .583

Date Result Opponent Att.
9/16 W 24-14 Baltimore Colts 74,303
9/23 L 6-33 at Pittsburgh Steelers 49,396
9/30 W 12-10 New York Giants 76,065
10/7 W 17-10 Cincinnati Bengals 70,805
10/15 L 9-7 Miami Dolphins 72,070
10/21 W 42-13 Houston Oilers 61,146
10/28 T 16-16 San Diego Chargers 68,244
11/4 L 3-26 at Minnesota Vikings 45,590
11/11 W 23-13 at Houston Oilers 37,230
11/18 W 7-3 at Oakland Raiders 47,398
11/25 W 21-16 Pittsburgh Steelers 67,773
12/2 T 20-20 at Kansas City Chiefs 70,296
12/9 L 17-34 at Cincinnati Bengals 58,266
12/16 L 17-30 at Los Angeles Rams 73,948

Score By Periods
1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Tot.
Browns 58 63 46 67 0 --- 234
Opponents 50 76 69 60 0 --- 255

Team Statistics
Browns Opponent
Total First Downs 200 196
Rushing 107 102
Passing 79 79
Penalty 14 15
3rd Down: Made/Att 61/190 62/205
3rd Down Pct. 32.10% 30.20%
Total Net Yards 3,341 3,827
Avg. Per Game 238.6 273.4
Total Plays 859 854
Avg. Per Play 3.9 4.5
Net Yards Rushing 1,968 2,091
Avg. Per Game 140.6 149.4
Total Rushes 506 513
Net Yards Passing 1,373 1,736
Avg. Per Game 98.1 124
Sacked/Yards Lost 45/368 29/248
Gross Yards 1,741 1,984
Attempts/Completions 308/152 312/144
Completion Pct. 49.40% 46.20%
Had Intercepted 20 12
Punts/Avg. 82/40.5 78/40.4
Net Punting Avg. 82/37.1 78/36.4
Penalties/Yards Lost 70/620 79/738
Fumbles/Ball Lost 34/17 21/9
Touchdowns 24 24
Rushing 12 7
Passing 10 16
Returns 2 1

Scoring
Ru Pa St Df PAT 2Ru 2Pa FG Saf TP
Cockroft, Don 0 0 0 0 24/24 0 0 22/31 0 90
Pruitt, Greg 4 1 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 30
Phipps, Mike 5 0 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 30
Pitts, Frank 0 4 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 24
Kelly, Leroy 3 0 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 18
Browns 12 10 0 2 24/24 0 0 22/31 0 234
Opponents 7 16 1 0 24/24 0 0 29/46 0 255

Rushing
No Yds Avg LG TD
Brown, Ken 161 537 3.3 17 0
Kelly, Leroy 132 389 2.9 19 3
Pruitt, Greg 61 369 6 65t 4
Phipps, Mike 60 395 6.6 27 5
Scott, Bo 34 79 2.3 20 0
Browns 506 1,968 3.9 65t 12
Opponents 513 2,091 4.1 70 7

Receiving
No Yds Avg LG TD
Pitts, Frank 31 317 10.2 26t 4
Morin, Milt 26 417 16 51t 1
Brown, Ken 22 187 8.5 46 0
Hooker, Fair 18 196 10.9 26 2
Kelly, Leroy 15 180 12 36 0
Browns 152 1,741 11.5 51t 10
Opponents 144 1,984 13.8 70t 16

Interceptions
No Yds Avg LG TD
Scott, Clarence 5 71 14.2 45t 1
Davis, Ben 2 33 16.5 20 0
Sumner, Walt 2 4 2 4 0
Babich, Bob 1 48 48 48 0
Darden, Thom 1 36 36 36 0
Browns 12 202 16.8 48 1
Opponents 20 271 13.6 39 0

Punting
No Yds Avg In20 TB LG BLK
Cockroft, Don 82 3,321 40.5 0 3 71 1
Browns 82 3,321 40.5 0 3 71 1
Opponents 78 3,151 40.4 0 5 63 0

Punt Returns
No FC Yds Avg LG TD
Pruitt, Greg 16 3 180 11.3 46 0
Darden, Thom 9 10 51 5.7 11 0
Lefear, Billy 7 2 51 7.3 19 0
Holden, Steve 2 0 19 9.5 19 0
Kelly, Leroy 1 0 7 7 7 0
Browns 36 15 308 8.6 46 0
Opponents 44 19 280 6.4 48 0

Kickoff Returns
No Yds Avg LG TD
Pruitt, Greg 16 453 28.3 54 0
Lefear, Billy 15 337 22.5 59 0
Holden, Steve 8 172 21.5 29 0
Long, Mel 6 87 14.5 38 0
Romaniszyn, Jim 2 21 10.5 16 0
Browns 49 1,084 22.1 59 0
Opponents 48 1,165 24.3 58 0

Field Goals
1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Tot
Cockroft, Don 4/4 7/8 4/7 7/11 0/1 22/31
Browns 4/4 7/8 4/7 7/11 0/1 22/31
Opponents 11/11 8/9 4/9 6/15 0/2 29/46

Passing
Att Cmp Yds Pct Av/At TD TD% Int Int% LG Tkld Ratng
Phipps, Mike 299 148 1,719 49.5 5.75 9 3 20 6.7 51t 44/362 49.4
Horn, Don 8 4 22 50 2.75 1 12.5 0 0 12 1/6 95.8
Pruitt, Greg 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 39.6
Browns 308 152 1,741 49.4 5.65 10 3.2 20 6.5 51t 45/368 50.5
Opponents 312 144 1,984 46.2 6.36 16 5.1 12 3.8 70t 29/248 68.1