While 1979 marked the birth of the Kardiac Kids, 1983 signaled their end.
Like 1979, the '83 club finished 9-7 and just out of the playoffs, being eliminated on the final day of the regular season. The difference was that in 1979, the Kids were - well, kids. By 1983, their careers were ending.
Plus, the 1983 team didn't play nearly as many close games as the Browns had in '79. There were just seven contests decided by seven points or less, with the Browns going 4-3.
Still, when it was all added up, the points over the course of the season were very close. The Browns scored 356 to their opponents' 342.
Mike Pruitt, in his last great season with the Browns, rushed for 1,184 yards.
In his swan song in Cleveland, wide receiver Dave Logan was second on the team in receptions with 37, but that was far behind the team-record 89 hauled in by Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome.
Quarterback Brian Sipe, in his last season with the Browns before jumping to the USFL, had 26 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions, nearly the same ratio (28-to-26) he had had in 1979. It was a good way to go out for Sipe, who had lost his starting job to Paul McDonald late in the 1982 season and then re-gained it in the '83 training camp.
The Browns' mindset in 1983 was much different than had it had been in '79. In 1979, the Browns were on the way up, looking for big things after an encouraging 8-8 finish the year before. But in 1983, the Browns set out to try to get past the disappointments of the previous two seasons.
In 1981, the Browns reversed their 1980 season record-wise -- exactly -- and finished 5-11. In the strike-shortened 1982 season, they got the last AFC playoff spot in what was called the Super Bowl Tournament with a 4-5 mark, and then got bounced out in the first round by the Los Angeles Raiders.
Led by Sipe's passing, the Browns finished the 1983 preseason 3-1 and then won three of their first four regular-season games, providing a ton of hope. Two of the regular-season victories were in typical Kardiac Kids fashion, coming by 31-26 over the Detroit Lions and 30-24 over the San Diego Chargers in overtime.
That was followed, though, by a stretch in which the Browns dropped four of six, winning two more like true Kids (10-7 over the New York Jets and 25-19 over the Houston Oilers in OT), but getting handled easily in three of the four defeats (24-9 to the Seattle Seahawks, 44-17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers and 35-21 to the Green Bay Packers).
Then, just when it seemed the season was lost following that lackluster loss to Green Bay, putting the Browns at 5-5, they caught fire, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-0 and New England Patriots 30-0 to post back-to-back shutouts for only the second time in club history.
Add to that a 41-23 win over the Baltimore Colts, and the 8-5 Browns had turned their fortunes around and seemed well on their way to the playoffs.
But, just like 1979, the Browns suffered devastating back-to-back losses near the end to keep them out of the postseason, this time to the Denver Broncos 27-6 and the woeful Oilers 34-27.
They still had a shot on the final day to get a wild-card berth, and stayed alive with a 30-17 home win over the Steelers. But they lost out on tie-breakers later in the evening.
It was the last hurrah for the Kardiac Kids - and for coach Sam Rutigliano. Rutigliano, who was in just his second season in 1979, was in his next-to-last campaign in 1983. He was fired midway through the following year, and the last real link to the Kids was gone.
|9/11||W31-26||at Detroit Lions||60,095|
|9/25||W30-24||at San Diego Chargers (OT)||49,482|
|10/9||W9-7||New York Jets||78,235|
|10/16||L17-44||at Pittsburgh Steelers||59,263|
|10/23||L21-28||at Cincinnati Bengals||50,047|
|10/30||W25-19||Houston Oilers (OT)||66,955|
|11/6||L21-35||at Green Bay Packers||54,089|
|11/13||W20-0||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||56,091|
|11/20||W30-0||at New England Patriots||40,987|
|12/4||L6-27||at Denver Broncos||70,912|
|12/11||L27-34||at Houston Oilers||29,746|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||327||309|
|3rd Down: Made/Att||99/222||82/204|
|3rd Down Pct.||44.60%||40.20%|
|4th Down: Made/Att||8/16||4/14|
|4th Down Pct.||50.00%||28.60%|
|Total Net Yards||5,583||5,139|
|Avg. Per Game||348.9||321.2|
|Avg. Per Play||5.2||5|
|Net Yards Rushing||1,922||2,065|
|Avg. Per Game||120.1||129.1|
|Net Yards Passing||3,661||3,074|
|Avg. Per Game||228.8||192.1|
|Net Punting Avg.||70/36.4||73/36.2|