To continue our celebration of the franchise's 75th anniversary, we're launching "Browns Countdown: Top 75 Moments" presented by Bridgestone. Over the next month, through videos, articles and more, we'll be highlighting the top 75 moments in Browns history. Our video tributes, which will be available at ClevelandBrowns.com, the Browns' mobile app and the Browns' official YouTube Channel, will dive deep into the top 20 while our articles will put the spotlight on a number of different moments that are sprinkled throughout the top 75.
We're moving down to No. 41, which highlights a thrilling Divisional Round win in 1989 that came down to the final seconds.
The crowd at Cleveland Stadium was at its loudest when Bills quarterback Jim Kelly crouched behind his center and surveyed the Browns defense for possibly the final time on Jan. 6, 1990.
Cleveland was hosting Buffalo in the 1989 Divisional Playoffs, but it was at risk of losing a 34-30 lead when the Bills marched to the Browns' 11-yard line with nine seconds left. As Kelly looked at the defense before attempting one last shot at cracking the end zone, Browns linebacker Clay Matthews was staring back at him, ready to back-pedal to the goal-line and prevent a touchdown through the middle of the field.
Kelly took the snap and then fired a pass. The crowd briefly quieted as the pass sailed through the air with a trajectory to RB Thurman Thomas in the end zone, but the ball never made it there.
Matthews stepped in front and snagged the interception, and the fans were sent into another frenzy as he fell to the dirt and solidified the win.
"It was one of those crazy, wild football games that you get in about once every three years," said Browns coach Bud Carson, who gained his first playoff victory as a head coach.
Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, while Kelly, the future Hall of Famer, gashed the Browns defense for 405 passing yards and four touchdowns.
The Browns were simply trying to hang on. They were desperate to preserve their lead after Eric Metcalf returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter, which was their final touchdown as the Bills defense began to compile stops.
The Bills offense, however, was charging after Kelly connected with Thomas for a 3-yard touchdown pass with a few minutes remaining. They stopped the Browns again on their next offensive drive, setting up a two-minute drill that needed to span 74 yards.
"I've got to admit, during those final plays, The Drive crossed my mind," said cornerback Hanford Dixon. He was referring to John Elway's 98-yard touchdown sequence to defeat the Browns in the 1986 championship game.
But Matthews ensured heartbreak wouldn't reside in Cleveland again.
"It was a fun game to watch," he said after the game, "but not necessarily to play in."
Earlier this year, the Browns commissioned a panel of historians, alumni and journalists to rank the top 75 moments in Browns history. The group met multiple times to discuss the moments and each member submitted their own final rankings, which were averaged against each other to create the ultimate list.
Building the Top 75 from the bottom up
39. Browns draft Ozzie Newsome and Clay Matthews in 1978 draft
40. Jim Brown and other Browns and athletes across sports meet in the Cleveland Summit to support Muhammed Ali's refusal to participate in the United States Military Draft on June 4, 1967.
41. Browns defeat the Buffalo Bills 34-30 in the 1989 Divisional Playoffs on Jan. 6, 1990. Clay Matthews intercepts future Hall of Famer Jim Kelly's pass at the goal line with nine seconds remaining.
42. Joe Thomas reaches 10,000 consecutive snaps on Sept. 17, 2017, against the Baltimore Ravens. He amassed 10,363 before retiring after the 2017 season.
43. In what would ultimately be his final regular season game of his career, Jim Brown breaks Lenny Moore's NFL record (20) for most touchdowns in a single season on Dec. 19, 1965.
44. Browns break 19-game winless streak with 21-17 victory, led by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield over the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football on Sept. 20, 2018.
45. Kevin Stefanski named NFL Coach of the Year as first-year head coach, becoming the second coach in franchise history to receive the honor.
46. Browns defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 51-0 in the 1989 season opener on Sept. 10 the most lopsided result in the 79-game series between the teams at that time.
47. Browns defeat New Orleans Saints 21-16 with miracle "Hail Mary" on Oct. 31, 1999, for the team's first win as an expansion team.
48. Browns hire Romeo Crennel, their first African-American coach, in 2005.
49. Browns orchestrate the greatest road comeback (25 points) in NFL history in a 29-28 victory against the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 5, 2014
50. Brian Sipe breaks the Cleveland Browns franchise passing record held previously by Otto Graham (401) by throwing for 444 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 win over the Baltimore Colts on Oct. 25, 1981.
51. Browns defeat the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 29, 2002, to clinch playoff berth. William Green broke off a 64-yard run to seal the game away.
52. Baker Mayfield breaks NFL rookie record for most passing touchdowns in as single season (27) on Dec. 30, 2018
53. Jerome Harrison breaks Jim Brown's single game franchise rushing record on Dec. 20, 2009 with 286 yards rushing in a 41-34 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. In the same game Josh Cribbs becomes the second player in NFL history to have two 100-yard kickoff returns in the same game.
54. Browns defeat Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-22, on Jan. 3, 2021, to end NFL's longest playoff drought of 18 years.
55. Browns avenge their first championship game loss to the Los Angeles Rams in 1951 by crushing the Rams in a rematch 37-7 on Oct. 7, 1952.
56. Cleveland Browns draft Joe Thomas on April 28, 2007.
57. Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham is elbowed in the face by a Detroit Lions defender in the first half, and after receiving 15 stitches and a lucite face mask, he comes back in the second half to defeat the Lions, 23-21, on Nov. 15, 1953. Graham's injury helped kickstart the widespread use of facemasks in the NFL.
59. In the first meeting of Jim Brown vs. Johnny Unitas, the Cleveland Browns prevail in a 38-31 shootout against the Baltimore Colts on Nov. 1, 1959. The game also pits Weeb Ewbank against his mentor Paul Brown. Brown rushed for 178 yards and scored five touchdowns while Unitas threw for 397 yards in defeat.
60. Browns clinch a wildcard playoff berth on Dec. 18, 1988, behind backup quarterback Don Strock, who threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-23 victory over the Houston Oilers
61. Blanton Collier replaces Paul Brown as head coach. Collier coached the Browns when they won the 1964 championship.
62. Paul Brown debuts first radio helmet 1956 with QB George Ratterman
63. Josh Gordon becomes first wide receiver in NFL history with back-to-back 200-yard games on Dec. 1, 2013.
64. Nick Chubb breaks the Browns franchise record for longest run by scoring a 92-yard touchdown Nov. 11, 2018, in a 28-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The previous record was held by Bobby Mitchell.
65. Phil Dawson retires from the NFL as a Cleveland Brown. Dawson signed with the Browns in 1999 and kicked for the Browns for 14 years.
66. Browns defeat the Baltimore Ravens for the first time on Oct. 21, 2001.
67. Bobby Mitchell rushes for 232 yards on 14 carries for an incredible 16.6-yard average in a Cleveland Browns 31-17 win against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 15, 1959.
68. Browns' fans create numerous music ballads that are played on Cleveland radio to celebrate the teams resurgence in the late 1980s. Songs include "Oh Bernie Bernie," "Super Bowl Browns" and "Born and Raised on the Browns."
69. Browns defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 21-20, on Dec. 8, 2002 with a 50-yard Hail Mary from Tim Couch to Quincy Morgan with no time left. Couch becomes the only quarterback to have two game-winning passes of 50 yards or more with no time left on the clock.
70. Browns defeat the Buffalo Bills 8-0 in a blizzard and clinch a winning record on Dec. 16, 2007. Phil Dawson kicks two field goals and the Browns record a safety.
71. Browns draft Baker Mayfield 1st overall in 2018.
72. Browns clinch an Eastern Conference title by crushing the New York Giants 52-20 on Dec. 12, 1964.
73. Browns move into first place of the AFC Central Division after defeating the Houston Oilers on Dec. 15, 1985. The Browns would go on to win the AFC Central for the first time since 1980
74. Jeff Garcia and Andre Davis combine to tie the NFL record for the longest pass in NFL history of 99 yards in a Cleveland Browns 34-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 17, 2004.
75. Hanford Dixon intercepts Terry Bradshaw three times in 1982 Browns win over Steelers.