History

History: 1981

TEAM PHOTO

The 1981 season -- at least as it pertained to the Browns -- is proof that there really are football gods.

Maybe on a mountain top, or maybe just in a room with a lot of big-screen, high-definition TV sets, they survey the scene, deeming what teams will win and what teams will lose, and when and how. And when they are kind and giving to a team one season, they reciprocate by dissing it the next.

No team ever gets good luck -- or bad luck -- two years in a row. The football gods mix it up, just to frustrate the players, coaches and fans and keep them guessing, lest they be silly enough to believe they've got it all figured out.

Sound silly? Of course.

But how else do you explain what happened in 1981, after what had transpired in 1980?

Every Browns fan remembers -- or at least has heard all about -- 1980, the season the Kardiac Kids reached their zenith. With last-second win after last-second win -- 13 of the 16 games were decided in the final two minutes -- they finished 11-5 and captured the AFC Central crown.

Every time the Browns needed to make a play, they did so. Every time they needed something good to happen, it did.

As much of a storybook, magic season it was for the team, it was even more so for quarterback Brian Sipe, as he set a franchise record for touchdown passes with 30 en route to being named the NFL MVP.

The season came to an abrupt halt in dramatic and disappointing fashion with a 14-12 divisional playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders when Sipe's ill-fated pass into the end zone in the waning seconds on a play called Red Right 88 was intercepted.

But rather than an end, that game was looked upon at the time as being simply a beginning, and the Browns and their fans fully expected to take the next step in 1981 and get that elusive first appearance in the Super Bowl -- or the Siper Bowl, as it was referred to in Cleveland.

As it turned out, the Browns did indeed have a similar kind of season in 1981 -- eight of the games were decided by six points or less, and five were decided by three points or less.

Only this time, the Browns were on the short end of things. Every time they needed to make a play, they didn't. Every time they needed something good to happen, it didn't.

Moreover, the theme of the season was Murphy's Law: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

The Browns were still the Kardiac Kids, only they were causing their fans cardiac arrest.

When the smoke had cleared, they had finished 5-11, their worst record since 1975 and the opposite of the 11-5 mark they had sported in '80.

It started with a 44-14 loss on Monday Night Football to the San Diego Chargers, the team the Browns would have played in the 1980 AFC Championship Game had they beaten the Raiders.

And that was followed by these games:

*A 32-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland, where the Browns had beaten them 27-26 in 1980.

*A 41-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland, where the Browns had defeated them 31-7 in 1980.

*A 42-21 loss to the Seahawks at Seattle, where the Browns had beaten them 27-3 in 1980.

*A 17-13 loss to the Oilers at Houston, where the Browns had beaten them 17-14 in 1980.

*A 14-13 loss to the New York Jets at Cleveland, where the Browns had beaten them 17-14 in 1980.

The Browns finished the year with five straight defeats, their longest losing streak since 1975, and dropped seven of their final eight games. By contrast, in 1980, the Browns enjoyed a five-game winning streak, their longest since 1976, and won eight of nine during one stretch.

In 1980, Sipe broke nearly every club passing record, throwing, as mentioned, for 30 TDs with just 14 interceptions while completing nearly 61 percent of his passes, good for a 91.4 quarterback rating. In 1981, he threw more interceptions (25) than TDs (17), his completion rate fell to just over 55 percent and his quarterback rating plummeted to 68.2.

As the quarterback goes, so goes any team, which explains the rise and fall of the Browns in 1980 and '81.

Mike Pruitt rushed for more than 1,000 yards (1,103) for the third straight year in 1981, and caught 63 passes for the second season in a row.

Tight end Ozzie Newsome set a team record (since broken) for receptions with 69 and had the second-most receiving yards in Browns history at the time with 1,002.

Greg Pruitt established a personal best with 65 catches.

But it wasn't enough.

More specifically, it didn't come at the right time.

And as the Browns found out in 1980 and then again in '81, timing is everything.

It was a tough lesson to learn.

But the football gods don't care.

Steve King,
Staff Writer

YEAR RESULTS
Preseason Results
National Football League: 2-3
Atlanta Falcons at Canton (23,921) 24-10
Pittsburgh Steelers (78,610) 31-35
at Buffalo Bills (32,306) 13-10
Buffalo Bills (41,495) 20-31
at Green Bay Packers (56,191) 18-35
 
Regular Season Results
  Regular Season Playoffs Combined Record
League W L T PCT W L T PCT W L T PCT
NFL 5 11 0 .313 0 0 0 .000 5 11 0 .313
Date Result Opponent Att.
9/7 L 14-44 San Diego Chargers 78,904
9/13 L 3-9 Houston Oilers 79,483
9/20 W 20-17 at Cincinnati Bengals 52,170
9/27 W 28-17 Atlanta Falcons 78,283
10/4 L 16-27 at Los Angeles Rams 63,924
10/11 L 7-13 at Pittsburgh Steelers 53,255
10/18 W 20-17 New Orleans Saints 76,059
10/25 W 42-28 Baltimore Colts 78,986
11/1 L 13-22 at Buffalo Bills 78,266
11/8 L 20-23 at Denver Broncos (OT) 74,859
11/15 W 15-12 at San Francisco 49ers 52,445
11/22 L 10-32 Pittsburgh Steelers 77,958
11/29 L 21-41 Cincinnati Bengals 75,186
12/3 L 13-17 at Houston Oilers 44,502
12/12 L 13-14 New York Jets 56,866
12/20 L 21-42 at Seattle Seahawks 51,435
Score By Periods
1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Tot.
Browns 31 109 55 81 0 --- 276
Opponents 89 103 82 98 3 --- 375
Team Statistics
Browns Opponent
Total First Downs 364 299
Rushing 131 119
Passing 196 157
Penalty 37 23
3rd Down: Made/Att 92/225 78/212
3rd Down Pct. 40.90% 36.80%
Total Net Yards 5,915 5,394
Avg. Per Game 369.7 337.1
Total Plays 1,138 1,016
Avg. Per Play 5.2 5.3
Net Yards Rushing 1,929 2,078
Avg. Per Game 120.6 129.9
Total Rushes 474 516
Net Yards Passing 3,986 3,289
Avg. Per Game 249.1 205.6
Sacked/Yards Lost 40/353 31/223
Gross Yards 4,339 3,512
Attempts/Completions 624/348 469/275
Completion Pct. 55.80% 58.60%
Had Intercepted 27 15
Punts/Avg. 68/42.4 78/40.7
Net Punting Avg. 68/38.7 78/35.9
Penalties/Yards Lost 109/971 100/870
Fumbles/Ball Lost 38/26 31/20
Touchdowns 32 45
Rushing 11 14
Passing 21 28
Scoring
Ru Pa St Df PAT 2Ru 2Pa FG Saf TP
Bahr, Matt 0 0 0 0 22/22 0 0 13/20 0 61
Pruitt, Mike 7 1 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 48
Newsome, Ozzie 0 6 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 36
Logan, Dave 0 4 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 24
Pruitt, Greg 0 4 0 0 0/0 0 0 0/0 0 24
Browns 11 21 0 0 31/32 0 0 17/33 1 276
Opponents 14 28 3 0 40/45 0 0 21/34 1 375
Rushing
No Yds Avg LG TD
Pruitt, Mike 247 1,103 4.5 21 7
White, Charles 97 342 3.5 26 1
Miller, Cleo 52 165 3.2 13 2
Sipe, Brian 38 153 4 22 1
Pruitt, Greg 31 124 4 15 0
Browns 474 1,929 4.1 26 11
Opponents 516 2,078 4 79t 14
Receiving
No Yds Avg LG TD
Newsome, Ozzie 69 1,002 14.5 62 6
Pruitt, Greg 65 636 9.8 33 4
Pruitt, Mike 63 442 7 21 1
Logan, Dave 31 497 16 40t 4
Feacher, Ricky 29 654 22.6 48 3
Browns 348 4,339 12.5 62 21
Opponents 275 3,512 12.8 60t 28
Interceptions
No Yds Avg LG TD
Scott, Clarence 4 46 11.5 26 0
Darden, Thom 3 68 22.7 45 0
Flint, Judson 2 33 16.5 33 0
Matthews, Clay 2 14 7 8 0
Bolton, Ron 1 3 3 3 0
Browns 15 165 11 45 0
Opponents 27 347 12.9 82t 0
Punting
No Yds Avg In20 TB LG BLK
Cox, Steve 68 2,884 42.4 11 12 66 2
Browns 68 2,884 42.4 11 12 66 2
Opponents 78 3,173 40.7 20 6 59 0
Punt Returns
No FC Yds Avg LG TD
Hall, Dino 33 6 248 7.5 40 0
Montgomery, Cleotha 17 0 121 7.1 17 0
Browns 50 6 369 7.4 40 0
Opponents 30 4 253 8.4 34 0
Kickoff Returns
No Yds Avg LG TD
Hall, Dino 36 813 22.6 48 0
Montgomery, Cleotha 14 334 23.9 38 0
White, Charles 12 243 20.3 32 0
Pruitt, Greg 3 82 27.3 30 0
Miller, Cleo 3 35 11.7 22 0
Browns 72 1,537 21.3 48 0
Opponents 45 1,156 25.7 88 0
Field Goals
1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Tot
Bahr, Matt 3/3 5/5 5/9 0/2 0/1 13/20
Jacobs, Dave 0/0 2/3 2/6 0/1 0/2 4/12
Cox, Steve 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/1 0/1
Browns 3/3 7/8 7/15 0/3 0/4 17/33
Opponents 1/1 8/12 6/9 5/11 1/1 21/34
Passing
Att Cmp Yds Pct Av/At TD TD% Int Int% LG Tkld Ratng
Sipe, Brian 567 313 3,876 55.2 6.84 17 3 25 4.4 62 34/310 68.2
McDonald, Paul 57 35 463 61.4 8.12 4 7 2 3.5 46 6/43 95.9
Browns 624 348 4,339 55.8 6.95 21 3.4 27 4.3 62 40/353 70.7
Opponents 469 275 3,512 58.6 7.49 28 6 15 3.2 60t 29/223 88.7