When the Browns rolled past the New York Giants, 52-20, on Dec. 12, 1964 in a nationally televised Saturday afternoon game at Yankee Stadium, they did more than simply clinch their first Eastern Conference title since 1957.
They also ended years of frustration, chasing away a lot of demons with the victory in the next-to-last game of the year.
In each of the previous six seasons, whenever the Browns were on the cusp of doing something special, there stood the rival Giants in their way.
And every time, New York had successfully blocked their path.
In 1958, when the Browns needed only a victory over the Giants at New York in the regular-season to capture their second straight Eastern Conference title, the Giants won, 13-10, to force a first-place tie and then beat Cleveland in a special playoff a week later to advance to the NFL Championship Game.
In 1959, when the Browns needed a victory at Yankee Stadium in the next-to-last game to remain in contention with New York, the Giants prevailed, 48-7, dealing Paul Brown the worst regular-season loss of the NFL portion of his Browns coaching career.
In 1960, when the Browns finished 8-3-1 and 1½ games behind champion Philadelphia in the East, they could look back to a 17-13 mid-season loss to the Giants at Cleveland, when they failed to hold a three-point second-half lead, as one of the reasons they failed to close that small gap on the Eagles.
In 1961, when the Browns needed a late-season win over the Giants at Cleveland to remain in the conference race, New York cruised to a 37-21 victory, sealing the Browns’ fate and doing much to propel itself to the Eastern crown.
In 1962, when the Browns were out of the race in what turned out to be Brown’s last year as coach and merely wanted to assure themselves of a winning record when they met the Giants at Yankee Stadium in the next-to-last game, New York won, 17-13, dropping the Browns to 6-6-1 and forcing them to win the next week at San Francisco – which they did -- to finish above .500.
In 1963, when the Browns raced out to a 6-0 start under new coach Blanton Collier, including a 35-23 win at New York, it was the Giants who burst the bubble, roaring to a 33-6 triumph at Yankee Stadium en route to finishing 11-3 and in first place in the conference, one game ahead of Cleveland (10-4).
Midway through the 1964 season, the Browns had forced the Giants into six turnovers and routed them, 42-20, at Cleveland, scoring 28 fourth-quarter points to break open the game. The Browns beat the Giants in every way, scoring one touchdown defensively and two on special teams.
As impressive as all that was – it was the Browns’ most lopsided win over the Giants since a 62-14 shellacking in 1953 – it still wasn’t enough.
The Browns needed to do even better than that – and to do it at Yankee Stadium, where, no matter the situation or how good or bad the Giants were, they always managed to dig in their heels and become just that much tougher to beat. Sure, the Giants were having all kinds of problems, as they were en route to a last-place finish of 2-10-2, but if they could derail the Browns – or at least postpone their conference title celebration – then their season wouldn’t be a total loss.
For if the Browns were defeated, then they would have to go to St. Louis the next week and face a Cardinals team that had tied them 33-33 at Cleveland in Week 2. The Cards were en route to finishing 9-3-2 and just a half-game behind the Browns (10-3-1) in the East, so Collier’s club didn’t want to have to try to do that.
It was all right there for the Browns to grab, and they took care of business – in a big way.
After falling behind, 7-3, briefly at the start of the second quarter, they came back to lead 24-7 at halftime and then 45-7 after three quarters, recording their most lopsided victory ever over the Giants at New York, and their most one-sided triumph overall since 1960.
Quarterback Frank Ryan was the catalyst, setting a team record – that has since been tied by four other players – by throwing five touchdown passes, and running for another score on a 13-yarder. He was near-perfect with his passing, going 12-of-13 overall for 202 yards with no interceptions. In fact, if quarterback rating is the measuring stick, then Ryan really was officially perfect with a 158.33 mark. He would share the team record with Otto Graham and Brian Sipe in that regard, but a player has to have a minimum of 15 attempts to be considered.
This was no mirage, as Ryan was on his way to throwing 25 TD passes for the second straight season and leading the league in such for the first time. He topped the NFL two years later with a then team-record 29 TD passes.
And, of course, 15 days after he dissected the Giants, Ryan would do so to the mighty Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship Game, turning in his most memorable performance by throwing for three TDs in helping lead a stunning 27-0 win.
Two of the scoring passes against the Giants went to running back Ernie Green (one yard and 25 yards), and one each to his backfield mate, Jim Brown (eight yards), and wide receivers Gary Collins (11) and Paul Warfield (eight). Warfield, the team’s first-round pick in the 1964 NFL Draft out of Warren (Ohio) Harding High School and Ohio State, had five receptions for 103 yards overall.
The Browns passed for six TDs in all, setting a team record (since tied), as back-up Jim Ninowski got into the act, throwing a 27-yarder to the tiniest player on the team, 5-foot-10, 165-pound Walter “The Flea” Roberts, in the fourth quarter to close the team’s scoring.
The Browns were so scintillating with the passing attack that virtually no attention was given to the fact that the great Jim Brown, seemingly always the focus of these historic battles with the defensive-minded Giants, had a fine day, rushing for 99 yards in 20 attempts and averaging nearly five yards per try.
It would be the same thing two weeks later when Brown rolled for 114 yards but was overshadowed by Ryan and Collins, who combined on all three TD passes against the Colts.But Brown didn’t care either time. He was anxious to fill in the one gap on his Pro Football Hall of Fame resume by winning an NFL title, and beating the Giants at Yankee Stadium helped him to do that.
*1950 – "Money Bags" – The Browns came into the NFL in 1950 like a hurricane, destroying nearly everything and everybody in their path. Even the two-time defending NFL champion Eagles were easily tossed aside – twice. The only team they couldn't beat was the Giants. The Giants handed the Browns their first loss, 6-0, in Week 3 and then edged them again, 17-13, three weeks later at the Polo Grounds. As such, the two teams ended the regular season tied for first place in the American Conference with 10-2 records. That necessitated a playoff game – held at Cleveland Stadium on Dec. 17 – to determine the team that would advance to the NFL Championship Game. In one of the coldest games in league postseason history – the temperature was 10 degrees with a sub-zero wind-chill factor, and the field was frozen, forcing players on both teams to wear tennis shoes to get traction – the Browns prevailed by a baseball-like score of 8-3. Lou Groza's 28-yard field goal with 58 seconds left gave the Browns a 6-3 lead and pretty much sealed the deal, and then they made sure by recording a safety when middle guard Bill Willis sacked quarterback Charlie Conerly in the end zone. But that wasn't the biggest play Willis made all day. Instead, that came in the fourth quarter when the former Ohio State star chased down one of the fastest players in the league, Giants running back Charlie "Choo-Choo" Roberts, at the Cleveland 7 to save a touchdown. Instead of going ahead, the Giants had to settle for an 11-yard field goal by Randy Clay for a 3-3 tie. Asked afterward how in the world a 213-pound interior lineman was ever able to catch the fleet-footed Roberts, Willis smiled and said, "I didn't see him running away with the football. Instead, I saw him running away with a bag of money." He was referring to the playoff money the Browns players would lose out on if they were beaten by the Giants. Players back then weren't paid much, so getting a playoff cut was ultra-important. The take for Willis and the Browns got even better a week later when they edged the Los Angeles Rams 30-28 for the league title.
*1958 – "Not a Snowball's Chance" – The Browns and Giants also met three times, including in a playoff game, in 1958, and the situation was pretty much the same. Only this time, the Giants prevailed. Once again, the Browns lost twice to the Giants by close scores during the regular season, 21-17 at Cleveland midway through the year and then 13-10 at Yankee Stadium in the finale. That put the teams in a first-place tie again atop the conference at 9-3, forcing another playoff – this time at New York -- to decide the league title game qualifier. The Giants won that one 10-0, holding Jim Brown to a career-low eight yards in seven carries, and advanced to face the Baltimore Colts. The Colts beat them 23-17 in overtime in what became known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played," credited with spurring the growth of the league. But the contest with the Browns in the regular-season finale on Dec. 21 was pretty special, too. The Browns got started right away, with Brown racing 65 yards for a TD in the opening minutes. Groza then kicked a 22-yard field goal to provide a 10-3 halftime lead. The Giants' points came on a 46-yard field goal by Pat Summerall, who went on to become one of the greatest TV play-by-play announcers in NFL history. An eight-yard halfback-option pass for a TD from another well-known NFL TV announcer, Frank Gifford, to wide receiver Bob Schnelker, picked by the Browns in the 29th, or next-to-last, round of the 1950 NFL Draft out of Bowling Green, tied the score at 10-10 in the fourth quarter. The final part of the game was played in near-whiteout conditions caused by a heavy snowfall. As the clock wound down, the Giants' drive stalled and Summerall was sent out to try a 49-yard field goal to win the game. Offensive coach (coordinator) Vince Lombardi, in his next-to-last game with the Giants before moving on to become head coach of the Green Bay Packers the next season, was not shy about voicing his approval at head coach Jim Lee Howell's decision. Looking at the rapidly-deteriorating conditions – the snow and falling temperature as the afternoon waned and darkness began to set in on the shortest day of the year in terms of hours of daylight -- Lombardi barked at Summerall as he trotted onto the field, "You can't kick one that far!" Then Summerall did, the ball disappearing into the whiteness.
*1964 – "Take That – and That" – It is said in boxing that in order for the challenger to defeat the champion, he can't do so on points. He has to knock him out. And the Browns did that – in fact, two times – in 1964 en route to winning the NFL crown. The Giants had finished 11-3 in 1963, winning the East by a game over the 10-4 Browns, who were in their first year under head coach Blanton Collier. The Giants had also captured the Eastern title over the Browns four other times dating back to 1958. Year after year, the Browns had found themselves looking up at the Giants in the standings. Enough was enough. If the Browns wanted to get past the Giants and vault into the top spot in the conference, then they would have to take them out the hard way – decisively. The Browns routed the Giants 42-20 at Cleveland in mid-season and then defeated them even worse, 52-20, in a nationally-televised Saturday afternoon game at Yankee Stadium to clinch the East at 10-3-1. The Browns had swept the season series from the Giants four times previously, but never in such dominating fashion. It marked the Browns' second- and third-biggest margins of victory over the Giants in the history of the rivalry to that point in time. The Browns outscored the Giants 28-7 in the fourth quarter to break open a close game in the first meeting. New York committed six turnovers, two of which were fumbles returned for TDs in the fourth quarter by defensive end Paul Wiggin and special teamer Charley Scales. In the title-clincher seven games later, Browns quarterback Frank Ryan ran for a TD and then threw four straight scoring passes to key the rout. Ryan then fired three TD passes to wide receiver Gary Collins two weeks later to lead a stunning 27-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship Game.
can recall them giving up 43 points, and 51 points...
now outscored 41-6... Does Shurmur have a panic attack?