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 getting things started at No. 75, when the Top Dawg had one of his top days in the orange and brown.
Hanford Dixon had waited a long time to prove himself as one of the top cornerbacks of the AFC.
After the first 24 games of his career, Dixon had yet to record an interception. He still built his case as a top defender for the Browns, who drafted him 22nd overall in 1981, but the stats weren't quite showing the type of caliber of a player he believed he was.
Dixon changed that in one game.
Dec. 19, 1982. The grass field on a cold, rainy Sunday at Cleveland Municipal Stadium looked more like the muddy insides of a horse stable than a football field, and the 2-4 Browns were looking to make the most of their remaining three games after a league-wide strike knocked seven games off the season.
The opponent: Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers, in town for their first game of the season against Cleveland.
And they were in trouble.
"One thing I pride myself on was being able to know what the opposing team was going to do," Dixon said in a recent interview. "That was one thing about the Pittsburgh Steelers — I pretty much knew what they were going to do before they even did it."
Over the course of the next 60 minutes, Dixon snagged not one, not two, but three interceptions off Bradshaw to propel the Browns to a 10-9 win over Pittsburgh. He also forced two fumbles and added a sack, creating one of the best defensive performances of all time and quickly solidifying himself as one of most unforgettable cornerbacks in franchise history.
The performance was considered Dixon's breakout game for the rest of the division — he had officially arrived as a premier shutdown threat, one that can spoil a game for any top quarterback or receiver.
But for Dixon, the game was even more special because of the opponent.
"I actually thought that I was going to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, rather than the Cleveland Browns," he said. "I wanted to find out why they didn't draft me, and they said they thought I was a little bit too short for their football team.
"So I said in my mind, 'Every single time I play you guys, I'm gonna make you pay.'"
Dixon fulfilled that mission to the fullest. By the end of his nine-year career, he amassed six interceptions against Pittsburgh for his highest mark against any NFL team. The Browns were 11-7 against the Steelers when Dixon was on their defense, and his ball-hawking abilities at cornerback were one reason why.
In Cleveland, he always sought to prove himself as one of the best corners in the game.
And in a single performance, he secured a position in the franchise history books with one of the best defensive displays ever.
"(The performance) meant a lot to me because the Cleveland Browns and Mr. Modell thought enough of me to like to draft me in the first round," he said. "I wanted every game to let them know that the player they decided to take was worthy of being a first-round draft pick, and that was just on my way to showing them and showing them that not only did I deserve to be a Cleveland Browns, but I deserve to be a No. 1 draft pick."
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
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