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Top Moments: No. 27 - Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack become the NFL's 3rd running back duo to reach 1,000 yards


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, 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. 27, which highlights one of the greatest accomplishments by one of the greatest Browns duos of all time.

Marty Schottenheimer already knew the Browns had at least one good running back for his second season as head coach in Cleveland.

His name was Earnest Byner. As a rookie in 1984, Byner, a 10th-round pick, played behind top running backs Royce Green and Mike Pruitt. But by the end of the season, Byner made it clear he was the running back of the future in Cleveland — he led the Browns with 5.9 yards per carry, recorded on 72 attempts for 426 yards and two touchdowns.

Schottenheimer realized early into the 1985 season, however, that Byner wasn't the only top-tier running back on his roster.

Kevin Mack was drafted 11th overall in the supplemental draft that year. He amassed 356 rushing yards in the first five games of the season, including back-to-back games of more than 100 yards in Weeks 4 and 5, and sent a message to the NFL that he and Byner, who had already combined for 706 rushing yards at that point, gave the Browns the scariest rushing duo in the league.

'That was a pair, man,' Schottenheimer said in an interview with Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald in 2015. 'I get chills talking about them right now when I stop and look back on it. It was very easy to call plays because whichever one you designated to be your ball carrier usually got pretty good yardage."

Byner and Mack never left the field. Both could run through any defender, and both could block for one another at the fullback position. Schottenheimer, whose famed "Marty Ball" strategy meant calling for ample rushing plays each game, gave each backs plenty of carries each game.

So as the 1985 season neared its close, hype built around the league as both running backs neared the 1,000-yard mark and attempted to become just the third duo in NFL history to reach the seasonal milestone. Their chase to 1,000 yards helped power the Browns to wins in four of their last six games, which gave them first place in the AFC Central.

"People have brought (the milestone) to our attention and it's something that we'd be looking forward to," Mack said at the time. "That's why we challenge each other to get as many yards as we can."

Mack hit 1,000 yards first in Week 14 and ended the year with 1,104 yards and a trip to the Pro Bowl.

When the final game of the season arrived, Byner was just 99 yards away from joining his teammate in the 1,000-yard club. He narrowly surpassed the number on the final play of Week 16 versus the New York Jets and ended the year with 1,002 rushing yards, entrenching Mack and Byner into NFL history books.

And officially making Mack and Byner two of the most celebrated running backs in franchise history.

"There's a pride here about the running game," Byner said. "I think everybody that's associated with it feels that we can run the ball on anybody."

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

27. Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack become the third running back to duo to reach 1,000 yards on Dec. 22, 1985.

28. Lou Groza, the last of the original Cleveland Browns, retires in 1968. 9xProBowler, scored 1,349 points.

29. Browns defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 37-7 on Oct. 20, 1963 as Jim Brown becomes all-time NFL leading rusher, breaking the previous record of 8,378 rushing yards held by future Hall of Famer Joe Perry.

30. Browns play last game in Municipal Stadium in a 26-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 17, 1995.

31. The Browns and Steelers are placed in a new AFC Central division along with the Houston Oilers and Cincinnati Bengals in 1970 to become part of the new American Football Conference (AFC).

32. Browns unleash a powerful new starting backfield of future Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell in a 45-12 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 5, 1958. Brown rushes for 129 yards.

33. Browns play first regular season game against the Miami Seahawks on Sept 6, 1946. Browns win 44-0.

34. Browns defeat the Indianapolis Colts 38-21 in the 1987 Divisional Playoffs on Jan. 9, 1988

35. Bernie Kosar debuts for the Browns after starter Gary Danielson is injured in a 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots on Oct. 6, 1985.

36. The Browns defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-7 on Oct. 29, 1950, in their first matchup in Cleveland. Marion Motley rushed for 188 yards on 11 carries and set a then-NFL record for highest rushing average in a single game (17.09).

37. Jim Brown breaks Don Hutson's NFL record for most touchdowns (105) in a 35-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 3, 1965.

38. Browns defeat the Paul Brown-led Cincinnati Bengals in their first meeting on Oct 11, 1970. Browns won 30-27.

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.

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