On Halloween 1999, the Cleveland Browns travelled to New Orleans to take on the Saints. They had last won a game on Dec. 17, 1995, a total of 1415 days previously. Of course, much of this was due to the team’s four-year absence until it returned that season, as the city was awarded an expansion franchise. The wait for a win had been an extended one, as the hapless expansion Browns had gone 0-7 to start their return.
They had come close three weeks previously, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in heartbreaking fashion. Akili Smith drove the Bengals 80 yards and threw the winning pass with five seconds left. This time, it would be the Browns that snatch a victory in the dying moments.
It had been a back-and-forth game. The Saints and Browns had traded touchdowns in the first half and gone into the break at 10-7 to New Orleans. The Saints pounded at the Browns all game, as a rookie Ricky Williams had an unfathomable 40 carries, and thought they had the game won when Doug Brien kicked a field goal to put them 16-14 up. However, a clock management error by quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver left just enough time for the Browns to run a few plays.
After the kick off return and a completion, the ball sat at the Browns’ 44-yard line, awaiting its cue. With two seconds left on the clock, Dave Wohlabaugh snapped the ball to Tim Couch. Immediately pressured, he wheeled right, set his feet and threw 56 yards of history. The ball arced high, popped up as two Saints collided, and landed serendipitously in Kevin Johnson’s hands for a touchdown. The Browns were so excited by their win that Mike Carey had to recall them to the field to kick the PAT.
The Browns won again two weeks later against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but after that they wouldn’t win again in 1999. They ended the season on a six game losing streak to finish with a 2-14 record, to date the worst record of any Browns team. – MA
Next: No. 13: First NFL game