I love the NFL playoffs.
Did you watch or listen to the games last weekend?
The stadium atmosphere for each of them — no matter the venue — was unbelievable.
I got goose bumps watching them.
The players, coaches, and the fans, know it is a sudden death elimination game.
That’s why it is so awesome.
Win and you move on.
Lose, and your season is over.
No question that everyone, including the fans, step it up a notch with the excitement level, this time of year.
Of course I love the NFL playoffs more when the Browns are in them.
Been awhile, hasn’t it?
And when will it happen again?
Did you know the last time the Browns played a postseason game was the 2002 season?
I certainly do.
The Browns blew a 17 point lead late and lost to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers 36-33.
The loss was even more painful because of the guy that led the enemy to victory — Tommy Maddux!
A journeyman quarterback, who was 30-for-48 passing in that game, for a then-club record 367 yards.
Of course, I say that and failed to mention that the Browns quarterback for that game was Kelly Holcomb.
He too was a journeyman signal caller, who completed 26 of his 43 passes for 429 yards.
The Steelers also eliminated the Browns in Cleveland’s previous playoff appearance during the 1994 season.
I have actually been to two Browns playoff games.
I was in Cleveland for the wild card thriller with the Houston Oilers, in the 1988 season.
The Browns lost that game 24-23, after having beaten the Oilers the week before, in the regular season finale.
Man it was cold at that game.
And I was even colder, once the Browns had lost the game.
I also attended a Browns’ playoff game the season before, and that, thankfully, was a 38-21 victory against Indianapolis.
You know there is nothing like watching a Browns win in person, especially in then jam-packed Municipal Stadium, to boot.
Of course my greatest memories of Browns playoff games were ones that I saw on television.
Red Right 88.
For me, there was only one positive memory of a Browns’ playoff game during that era — the 1986 season — before ‘The Fumble,” when Cleveland defeated the New York Jets 23-20 in overtime.
I was in the basement of friend Keith Cunningham’s house watching the game, but was such a nervous wreck throughout, that I really didn’t enjoy any of it, until the very end.
Of course, the superstitious guy I am — because the Browns won that game, I had to ask Keith if I could come back and watch the next playoff game in the same place and the same seat that I had been in the week before.
Didn’t work out, though.
I still have a piece of Associated Press wire copy that is framed in my basement from the Browns-Broncos game of that year.
“Cleveland is going to the Super Bowl,” it says.
“The Browns beat Denver 20-13 in today’s A-F-C- Championship game.”
1-11-87 at 1622EST was when the story was released on the teletype wire, which is Jan. 11th, 1987, at 4:22 pm.
There is an accompanying story that details the Browns’ win — saying “Bernie Kosar threw a 48 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brian Brennan with five minutes and 43 seconds left in the game for the winning points. Brennan danced around defensive back Dennis Smith twice on the play — once to get the ball, and again after he caught it at the 20-yard line.”
“The Browns are in the Super Bowl for the first time,” is how the AP wire story finished.
Of course, Associated Press had jumped the gun with the release of the story and the Browns beating the Broncos.
We all know and remember that Denver quarterback John Elway would have his infamous 98-yard drive for a touchdown that would tie the game at 20, and the Broncos would go on to win the game in overtime on a Rich Karlis field goal, that I still believe wasn’t good.
1-11-87 at 1625EST-SCORE:
FINAL: Denver 23, Cleveland 20, OVERTIME.
I didn’t need an update from Associated Press to tell me what I had seen on TV, but to have this AP story that tells the world that “Cleveland is going to the Super Bowl,” is priceless.
Even though it didn’t happen.
One day, I hope that it does happen.
The Browns in the Super Bowl, for the first time, is a reality.