CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns’ matchup against the New York Jets on Thursday night brings back memories for long-time fans of Mark Moseley, Mark Gastineau and others who played key roles in a overtime playoff win for the Browns after the 1986 season.
Moseley’s 27-yard field goal in the second overtime ended the third-longest game in NFL history and sent the Browns to the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 3, 1987.
The Browns had rallied from 10 points down late in the fourth quarter to tie the Jets. Moseley, signed as a replacement for the injured Matt Bahr, missed a 23-yard field goal earlier in overtime.
The next week the Browns would lose in overtime to the Denver Broncos in a game that later would become known as “The Drive,” because of a late drive led by Denver quarterback John Elway.
Here is the game story, as it appeared in the next day’s Plain Dealer.CLEVELAND, Ohio – The best and worst moments in Browns history unfolded in one exhilarating afternoon of football at the Stadium yesterday.
More than four hours after the game started, Cleveland had its first playoff victory in 18 years.
Down by 10 points to the New York Jets with 4:14 to go, the Browns rallied to tie at 20-20 with seven seconds left in regulation.Then they overcame a missed field goal by Mark Moseley from 23 yards in the first overtime before the veteran kicker atoned with the game-winner from 27 yards 2:02 into a second extra period.
When the third-longest game in National Football League history had ended, the Browns emerged 23-20 victors over the gasping Jets, keeping their unforgettable season alive with record-setting performances on offense and defense.
The Browns, 13-4 after their sixth straight victory, will play host in the AFC Championship Game next Sunday to the winner of today’s Denver-New England playoff semifinal. That is the last stop before the Super Bowl.
“I played nine years to get here,” said tight end Ozzie Newsome, who hauled in six catches for 114 yards. “We will be ready.””I think we all had an opportunity to experience one of the finest games in the history of this sport,” effused coach Marty Schottenheimer. “I have never experienced or seen a comeback like that.”
The furious rally was led by quarterback Bernie Kosar, who set playoff records with 33 completions in 64 attempts for 489 yards. Two uncharacteristic interceptions by Kosar in the fourth quarter set the stage for the climax.
With the Jets holding a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Kosar, frustrated in the middle periods, finally moved the Browns to the Jets’ two. But on third down, the 23-year-old passer forced a ball to Webster Slaughter, who was double-covered. New York defensive back Russell Carter stole the pass in the corner of the end zone.
At that point, who didn’t recall the fateful Brian Sipe interception that ended the 1980 season. Today marks the sixth anniversary of that dark day in Cleveland sports history.
After the Browns’ defense forced the Jets to punt, Kosar took over at the Cleveland 17. Incredibly, his first pass, intended for Herman Fontenot, was intercepted by Jerry Holmes. Kosar had not thrown an interception since November and never had tossed two on successive passes.Many fans in the crowd of 78,106 fled to the exits, cursing another letdown.
Before the non-believers had made it out, Jets running back Freeman McNeil bounced off the middle of the Browns’ defensive pile, and raced around the right corner for a 25-yard touchdown. It gave the Jets their 20-10 lead.
Kosar and the Browns took the field with 4:08 to play.
“Bernie comes into the huddle and says, ‘We’re going to take this game,’ ” said left tackle Paul Farren. “It’s incredible the way he brought us together as a unit, one play at a time.”
The play that started it all was an inexcusable roughing-the-passer penalty on Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau, long after a Kosar incompletion. Gastineau’s mistake in judgment gave the Browns a first down at their 33.Five completions – two to Reggie Langhorne, two to Brian Brennan and one to Curtis Dickey – moved the Browns to the one at the two-minute warning.
Kevin Mack plunged over guard Dan Fike for the touchdown, and Moseley’s extra point made it 20-17, and gave the Browns hope.
Moseley’s onside kick was recovered by the Jets at the Browns’ 45, but the relentless Cleveland defense moved them three yards back in three plays and forced another punt.
The Browns took over at their 33 with :51 left. A pass interference penalty moved them to the Jets’ 42. Kosar then lofted a pass to Slaughter, who picked it off the helmet of cornerback Carl Howard and fell to the five.
After an incompletion, Schottenheimer sent in Moseley. The 13-year veteran poked it through from 22 yards to send the game into overtime.
That’s when the Cleveland defense, which sacked Jets’ quarterbacks Pat Ryan and Ken O’Brien a playoff record-tying nine times, dug in.
“We just felt if we could keep getting the ball in Bernie’s hands, we’d win,” said Carl (Big Daddy) Hairston, who had nine tackles and three sacks.
The Jets won the overtime coin toss, but O’Brien, who replaced injured starter Ryan in the first half, could muster nothing.
From the Cleveland 26, Kosar marched the Browns to the Jets’ five, covering the last 35 yards on a pass to Langhorne against a rare New York blitz.
Moseley was sent in again with 8:53 left in overtime. He missed the 23-yard attempt at the closed end, wide right.
“I barely hit it,” Moseley recounted. “I was off balance, falling away.”
The Jets were stopped on the next two possessions.
“This was the best our defense has ever played,” Schottenheimer said. “They kept making plays when they had to in the third down situations.”
The winning drive began at the Browns’ 31 after Dave Jennings’ playoff record 14th punt of the game. There was 2:38 left in the first overtime.By then, the beleaguered Jets’ defense was physically spent. The Jets had no fuel in their tanks.
“I didn’t think they’d ever wear down, but they finally did,” said center Mike Baab, who played the entire game with a sprained left knee.
Mack, gaining strength as the game approached the four-hour mark, ran for four yards and a first down to the Browns’ 41, then banged ahead for eight yards to midfield two plays later. From the Jets’ 42, Brennan broke up an errant pass that was nearly intercepted by the Jets’ Howard.
“That was the biggest play of the game,” Kosar said.
Given another life, the Browns’ offensive line finally took the game in their huge hands. Fontenot ran for seven yards. Then Mack, on three successive, bullish carries, gained 26 to take the Browns to the Jets’ nine. The Browns gained 45 of their total 75 rushing yards on the last series of the game.
The Jets called time to make Moseley think about his last miss.
“It was probably the worst thing they could do,” said Moseley, who had son five games in overtime over his distinguished career. “I’m a good concentrator.”
Moseley hammered the game-winner through the uprights at the devilish, open end of the Stadium.
The fans, who stood and roared the entire 17 minutes and two seconds of overtime, went berserk.Just before we said our prayer in the locker room, I told the players to listen,” said Schottenheimer. “You could still hear the people cheering for us.
“This is a victory, a game, a moment all of us will remember the rest of our lives.”
With a wink, Kosar whispered to a reporter, “Just another day at the office.”