The Cleveland Browns have had rivalries with several teams, but none may have been hotter than the one with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s.
The Browns dominated the series at first, winning 11 of the team’s first 12 meetings after Dallas joined the NFL in 1960. The Cowboys started to turn the tide in 1966, though, and won four consecutive games.
But the Browns found their revenge twice in the playoffs as the decade came to close.
The two teams met in the Eastern Conference playoffs following the 1968 season when the 12-2 Cowboys, winners of the Capitol Division, traveled to Cleveland to face the 10-4 Browns, who had captured the Century Division.
The Browns defense got the 81,497 fans in attendance fired up early when a Mike Howell interception set up an opening field goal by Don Cockroft. The Cowboys took a 10-3 lead thanks to a 44-yard touchdown from Chuck Howell on a fumble return.
It looked like the Browns would head into the half trailing, but Bill Nelsen hit Leroy Kelly with a 45-yard touchdown pass to tie the game just before halftime.
The Browns took control on the opening drive of the second half when Dale Lindsey returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown. Three plays later Ben Davis picked off another Don Meredith pass and, one play later, Kelly scored on a 35-yard run to give the Browns a 24-10 lead.
Cleveland would add a final touchdown on an Ernie Green run following another interception to help close out a 31-20 win. The defense held the Cowboys to just 86 rushing yards and 12 pass receptions.
The next week the Browns hosted the Baltimore Colts with a trip to Super Bowl III on the line only to fall 34-0 to the Colts.
The Browns and Cowboys were back at it in the 1969 Eastern Conference playoffs, only this time the game would be held at the Cotton Bowl.
It didn’t matter, though, as the Browns thoroughly dominated the Cowboys by scoring the first 24 points of the game on their way to a 38-14 victory – still the last road playoff win in franchise history.
Quarterback Bill Nelsen threw for 184 yards in the first half against what was considered one of the best defenses in NFL history. Wide receiver Paul Warfield had 99 receiving yards and running backs Bo Scott and Leroy Kelly combined for three rushing touchdowns, equaling the number the Cowboys had allowed all season.
The defense got in on the act as well, forcing three turnovers and putting the icing on the cake with an 88-yard interception return for a touchdown by Walt Sumner in the fourth quarter.
The win set up a meeting the following week with the Minnesota Vikings for a spot in Super Bowl IV, but just like the year before, the Browns had nothing left and fell to the Vikings, 27-7. – TM
Next: No. 24: William Green’s run to the playoffs