The Cleveland Browns have made the playoffs 36 times in their history. From 1946 through 1958 the Browns made the playoffs every year. They also made the playoffs five times in the 1960s, twice in the 1970s and seven times in the 1980s. Unfortunately, since then, the Browns have clinched a playoff spot twice, once in 1994 and again in 2002. Those two seasons and those two games were incredible.
The 1994 Browns had the best special teams and scoring defense in the NFL. The special teams featured returners Randy Baldwin and Eric Metcalf. They blocked kicks and punts and scored the first two-point conversion in the NFL when punter Tom Tupa ran in a fake extra point. They also scored four touchdowns. The defense allowed the fewest points in the league, 204 ( 12.8 per game). They allowed 22 touchdowns for the year and held nine opponents to one touchdown in a game. Players on the defense were Pepper Johnson, Eric Turner, Carl Banks, Don Griffin, Antonio Langham and Michael Dean Perry. The offense featured an offensive line that allowed only 14 sacks all year. The starting quarterbacks were Vinny Testaverde and Mark Rypien. The rushing attack featured Leroy Hoard, Metcalf and Ernest Byner. The main wide receivers were Derrick Alexander, Mark Carrier, Michael Jackson and Keenan McCardell.
During the 1994 season, the Browns were in either first or second place in the AFC Central. As the season neared its end, the Browns were looking to clinch a playoff spot and let the division lead play out. Unfortunately, the Week 15 game was against the Cowboys in Dallas. On Saturday, December 10, 1994, the Browns and the reining Super Bowls Champs played a classic defensive struggle. The Browns relied on their running game, turnovers and Matt Stover field goals to build a 19-14 lead. With 1:41 left in the game and at their own 47-yard line, the Cowboys started what they hoped would be the game-winning drive. With 10 seconds left from the seven-yard line, Dallas QB Troy Aikman threw to TE Jay Novacek who was stopped at the one-yard line as the clock ran out. The Browns won and clinched their first playoff spot since 1989, Here are the highlights, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLF0c2CVGx4.
The 2002 Browns season was a rollercoaster ride of incredible games, both bad and good. The season started versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Thinking the Browns had won, Browns LB Dwayne Rudd removed his helmet before the clock had run out resulting in a penalty. The penalty moved the Chiefs into field goal range which they made and the Chiefs won with no time left on the clock. The season also featured four remarkable comeback wins. An overtime victory over the Tennessee Titans, a comeback win over the New York Jets after the death of Browns owner Al Lerner, a hail mary victory with 12 seconds left over the Jacksonville Jaguars and a last-minute game-winning drive versus the Baltimore Ravens.
In the season finale on December 29, 2002, the Browns needed to beat the Atlanta Falcons and help in two other games. The Patriots had to beat the Dolphins and the Jets had to beat the Packers. The Browns led at halftime 10-7, but Browns QB Tim Couch had broken his right leg in the first half. After the Falcons scored nine unanswered points in the third quarter, Browns QB Kelly Holcomb threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to WR Kevin Johnson with 6:58 remaining. After forcing a three and out by the Falcons, the Browns got the ball back and on second and three, Browns RB William Green ripped off a 64-yard touchdown run (“Run William Run”). Atlanta QB Michael Vick wasn’t done as he drove the Falcons down to the Browns four-yard line. On fourth and goal from the one with 23 seconds left, Browns LB Earl Holmes stopped Atlanta RB Warrick Dunn to preserve the 24-16 win. Because the Jets game was an afternoon game, the Browns had to wait till 7:16 EST to know they had officially clinched a spot in the playoffs. Here are the highlights of the game, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq_0Dr_wgO8.
The last two times the Browns needed a victory to clinch a playoff spot they also need help from other teams. This time, all the Browns need to do is beat the Steelers and they are in the playoffs. Win and they’re in. Sounds simple right?