Although 1980 is generally regarded as the Browns' Kardiac Kids season, 1979 is actually the year in which the Kids really began to grow and mature.
The 1979 campaign did not quite have all the success and excitement of 1980, when the Browns finished 11-5 and won the AFC Central title, with 13 of the 16 regular-season games being decided in the final two minutes. However, 1979 did have its moments -- many of them, in fact -- and was a lot of fun, too.
The Browns were 9-7, nearly made the playoffs and were, just like 1980, involved in a number of close games.
They won their first three contests, all by three points, over the New York Jets in overtime 25-22, Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 and Baltimore Colts 13-10.
They lost to the Washington Redskins by four points, 13-9, midway through the season, then beat the Cincinnati Bengals by one, 28-27, the following Sunday and the Philadelphia Eagles by five, 24-19, two weeks later.
The Browns proceeded to lose to the Seattle Seahawks by five points, 29-24, beat the Miami Dolphins by six, 30-24, in overtime and lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers by three, 33-30, again in OT. That was the last of the Browns three overtime games that season.
Then came a virtual "blowout" -- a seven-point victory over the Houston Oilers, 14-7 -- followed by two "one-sided" losses, by five points to the Oakland Raiders, 19-14, and by four to the Bengals, 16-12, to end the year.
Whew! Add it all up, and 12 of the Browns' 16 games were decided by seven points or less. The club went just 7-5 in those games, though, which was the difference in that season from 1980, when the Browns were 10-2 in 12 contests decided by seven points or less.
How tight was the 1979 season overall for the Browns? So much so that they outscored their foes by just seven points all year.
But, in addition to the ones already mentioned, there were other interesting aspects as well to the 1979 season.
The Browns moved to 4-0 -- their fastest start since 1963 -- by stunning heavily-favored Dallas 26-7 on Monday Night Football.
The Browns gave up 51 points at home to the Steelers, who would go on to win their second straight Super Bowl and fourth in six years, yet scored 35 on the vaunted Steel Curtain defense and lost by 16. The game was shown on national TV, but NBC cut away to another contest, leaving only the Pittsburgh and Cleveland markets watching, after the Steelers vaulted to a 27-0 lead.
What NBC missed was one of the great comebacks in Browns history, and an important step in the development of quarterback Brian Sipe, who finished the year with nearly 3,800 yards passing and 28 TDs.
The Browns were also involved in two straight OT games for the first time in club history. It has happened just six times since.
The Browns were Team Streak. As mentioned, they won their first four games, dropped their next three and then captured three in a row. It put them at 7-3 and right in the thick of the playoff chase.
But they went just 2-4 down the stretch, with, not surprisingly, all the games being decided by seven points or less.
What really hurt were those season-ending road losses to the Raiders and Bengals. Both teams were easily beatable. Oakland finished the year at 9-7, just like the Browns, and Cincinnati, which also beat the Browns at Riverfront Stadium in the 1978 season finale, was a dismal 4-12.
The slide caused the Browns to finish just a game behind the Denver Broncos (10-6), who claimed the second - and final - AFC wild-card spot.
Mike Pruitt rushed for 1,294 yards and nine TDs, while wideout Dave Logan led the team in catches with 59 and missed getting 1,000 receiving yards by just 18. Logan, Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome and wide receiver Reggie Rucker combined for 22 TD catches.
The Browns, under second-year head coach Sam Rutigliano, were definitely making strides. He inherited a team that finished just 6-8 in 1977 and got it to 8-8 and 9-7 the next two years.
The best was yet to come, though.
|9/2||W 25-22||at New York Jets (OT)||48,472|
|9/9||W 27-24||at Kansas City Chiefs||42,181|
|9/16||W 13-10||Baltimore Colts||73,889|
|9/24||W 26-7||Dallas Cowboys||80,123|
|9/30||L 10-31||at Houston Oilers||48,915|
|10/7||L 35-51||Pittsburgh Steelers||81,260|
|10/14||L 9/13||Washington Redskins||63,323|
|10/21||W 28-27||Cincinnati Bengals||75,119|
|10/28||W 38-20||at St. Louis Cardinals||47,845|
|11/4||W 24-19||at Philadelphia Eagles||69,019|
|11/11||L 24-29||Seattle Seahawks||72,440|
|11/18||W 30-24||Miami Dolphins (OT)||80,374|
|11/25||L 30-33||at Pittsburgh Steelers (OT)||48,773|
|12/2||W 14-7||Houston Oilers||69,112|
|12/9||L 14-19||at Oakland Raiders||52,641|
|12/16||L 12-16||at Cincinnati Bengals||42,183|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||350||307|
|3rd Down: Made/Att||99/222||105/240|
|3rd Down Pct.||44.60%||43.80%|
|Total Net Yards||5,772||5,650|
|Avg. Per Game||360.8||353.1|
|Avg. Per Play||5.3||5.3|
|Net Yards Rushing||2,281||2,604|
|Avg. Per Game||142.6||162.8|
|Net Yards Passing||3,491||3,046|
|Avg. Per Game||218.2||190.4|
|Net Punting Avg.||69/35.8||80/37.1|