When the NFL decided to go primetime in 1970 with Monday Night Football it made sense that they would want to have a New York team in the inaugural game.
What may have been a bit more of a surprise to many football fans is that they picked the Cleveland Browns to oppose the Jets on Sept. 21, 1970. Even if America wasn’t sure it was ready, Cleveland was as Jonathan Knight wrote in his 2008 book, Classic Browns:
Whether or not the rest of America would tune in to watch Keith Jackson, Don Meredith and Howard Cosell broadcast the first-ever edition of Monday Night Football, Cleveland was on board. The largest crowd to ever attend a football game in Cleveland filed through the turnstiles that muggy night: a whopping 85,703. Ironically, despite the record-setting attendance, the historic telecast would be blacked out in Cleveland since the game didn’t officially sell out until Monday afternoon.
The fans in attendance and the viewing audience saw the Browns intercepted Jets’ quarterback Joe Namath three times on their way to a 31-21 victory.
The Browns jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Bill Nelsen to Gary Collins and a two-yard touchdown run by Bo Scott. Cleveland seemed to break the game open when Homer Jones took the opening kickoff of the second half back for a 94-yard touchdown, giving the Browns a 21-7 lead.
But Namath rallied the Jets back, hitting wide receiver George Sauer with a 33-yard touchdown pass, one of 10 receptions for 172 on the night by Sauer, pulling New York to within three points.
The Jets would get the ball back with just more than a minute remaining, but Cleveland linebacker Billy Andrews intercepted a Namath pass, returning it 25 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
The interception was the fourth turnover on the night by the Jets, who rolled up 454 yards of offense (to just 221 for the Browns), but were hurt by turnovers and 161 yards in penalties. – TM
Next: No. 14: First win for the new Browns