The last time the Cleveland Browns made the playoffs was 2002 and like this season, the 2002 team had to overcome some major obstacles. Unlike this year’s Cleveland Browns, the struggles were not related to a global pandemic, but to unusual game circumstances. In 2001, the Browns hired former University of Miami head coach Butch Davis and he was immediately successful, taking a team that finished 3-13 in 2000 to a 7-9 record. By the way, Davis was the last Browns head coach to win the team’s season opener in 2001, defeating the Baltimore Ravens. In the 2002 off-season, the Browns added key talent. In free agency, they signed LB Earl Holmes, DE Kenard Lang, OT Ryan Tucker and FS Robert Griffin. They also drafted RB William Green, WR Andre Davis, LB Kevin Bentley and LB Andra Davis. Building off the 2001 season, the Browns were ready to make a run at the playoffs, little did they know how strange some of the games would be.
Here are the strangest.
Week One versus the Kansas City Chiefs. With 29 seconds left, Browns kicker Phil Dawson kicked a field goal for a 39-37 lead. On the last play of the game, Browns LB Dwayne Rudd, thinking he had sacked Kansas City QB Trent Green, removed his helmet and threw it about fifteen yards in celebration. What he didn’t know was Green had flipped the ball to OL John Tait who ran for 28 yards to the Browns 25 yard line. Rudd was penalized for throwing his helmet prior to the end of the game and the ball was moved half the distance to the goal where the Chiefs kicked the winning field goal. Final. Chiefs 40, Browns 39. Here’s how it happed, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7LSb_PHE2g.
Week Three versus the Tennessee Titans. With the Browns trailing 28-14, QB Tim Couch threw a 12-yard touchdown to WR Andre Davis with 2:35 left in the game. With the Titans expecting an onside kick and lined up on the right side of the field, Browns kicker Phil Dawson pooched kicked the ball to the left and WR Dennis Northcutt caught the ball running out of bounds. The Browns would score the game-tying touchdown on a Couch to Northcutt pass with 12 seconds left. The Browns won the coin toss for overtime and Dawson kicked the game-winner. Final, Browns 31, Titans 28. Here are the highlights, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dxujnGqMNI.
Week Eight versus the New York Jets. This game was played four days after the death of Browns owner Al Lerner. Trailing 21-3 in the second quarter, the Browns and Tim Couch engineered a miraculous comeback. Couch produced two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Phil Dawson added two field goals and the Browns special teams blocked a Jets game-tying field goal as time ran out. Final. Browns 24, Jets 21. Here are the highlights, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqEe6QG1NlY.
Week Fourteen versus the Jaguars. The Browns were trailing 20-14 with 52 seconds left in the game and their playoff hopes were hanging in the balance. The Jaguars attempted a squib kick which failed terribly and the Browns had the ball on their own 47 with no timeouts. After a couple of plays and with 12 seconds left, Browns QB Tim Couch looked to his left and spotted WR Quincy Morgan in single coverage to his right. Touchdown. Phil Dawson kicked the extra point with no time left on the clock. Final, Browns 21, Jaguars 20. Here are the highlights, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FH7pTdy8d2M.
Week Sixteen versus the Ravens. After losing to the Colts in Week fifteen, the Browns were again playing to stay in the playoff hunt. Trailing 13-7 with the ball on their own eight-yard line and 2:18 left in the game, QB Tim Couch engineered an eight-play, 92-yard drive. The key play of the drive was a pass to RB Jamel White for a 28 yard gain. To add to it, Ravens Chris McAlister was penalized for a late hit on White. Three plays later, Couch hit TE Mark Campbell for a touchdown. Final Browns 14, Ravens 13. Tim Couch ran off the field waving goodbye to the Ravens fans because the win knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs. Here are the highlights, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGFxaIfE1AE.
It’s amazing how the 2020 Browns have overcome key injuries and Covid 19 to finish 11-5 and make the playoffs. The 2002 Browns overcame the strangest rollercoaster ride of a season Browns fans have ever seen.