If you grew up as a Browns fan in the last 20-plus years, you’ve heard the tales. If you were alive and conscious in the decades prior, you lived it.
Now, they’re immortalized beyond the borders of Ohio.
Two memorable Browns victories were included in NFL Network’s Top 100 Greatest Games, revealed this week. The first, at No. 80: the Browns’ 1986 double-overtime Divisional win over the New York Jets, also known as the “Marathon By The Lake.”
Told from the perspective of the tormented Jets fan, the Browns mounted an inevitable comeback as the Jets unraveled. But to those watching inside Cleveland Municipal Stadium on that January afternoon, the 10-point resurgence was absolutely stunning. Bernie Kosar attempted an unbelievable 64 passes, completing 33 of them for 489 yards and a touchdown when it was all said and done, which was finalized only after Mark Moseley made a game-tying field goal to send it to overtime, missed a game-winner in the first overtime and converted his final attempt to secure the 23-20 win.
As the legend goes, fans who had left the stadium believing the game was out of reach were desperately trying to return to witness history in an environment that the late broadcaster Nev Chandler described as “bedlam.” The Browns went on to the AFC Championship Game the next week, where they would lose in similarly historic, heartbreaking fashion.
The second triumphant game involving the Browns came more than three decades earlier, in the team’s first season in the NFL, and ranked No. 32 in the top 100.
The Browns were dismissed as soon as word spread that they would be making the leap from the AAFC to the established NFL in 1950, but they quickly proved those doubters wrong when they defeated the reigning back-to-back champion Philadelphia Eagles to open the season. It was the final game of that same season that landed among the NFL’s 100 greatest to be played.
Like 1945’s NFL Championship Game, the 1950 battle for the crown would be in Cleveland. But unlike 1945’s title bout, the Rams, who departed Cleveland for the sun and surf of Los Angeles in 1946, would be the visitor.
The Browns rode a 10-point fourth quarter to complete a comeback and cap a season-long statement heard across America, defeating the Rams 30-28 at Municipal Stadium for the team’s fifth championship and first NFL title. The Ringer writer Kevin Clark summed it up best in NFL Network’s short video summary of the game: “The Cleveland Browns got to prove they belonged.”
Three other contests involving the Browns were also among the first 70 revealed in the top 100: Cleveland’s 1980 regular-season loss to Minnesota on a miracle heave for a touchdown (No. 96), the Browns’ 1980 Divisional playoff loss to the Raiders known among Browns fans as “Red Right 88” (No. 71), and the Browns’1985 Divisional round loss to the Miami Dolphins (No. 79).