Game Recap: Cleveland Browns latest playoff appearance

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 5: Kelly Holcomb #10 of the Cleveland Browns looks down in frustration after an incomplete pass late in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Wild Card game on January 5, 2002 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 36-33. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 5: Kelly Holcomb #10 of the Cleveland Browns looks down in frustration after an incomplete pass late in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Wild Card game on January 5, 2002 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 36-33. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

With the NFL Playoffs rolling along, we take a look back to the last time the Cleveland Browns found themselves playing during the postseason

Tough to watch the playoffs without the Cleveland Browns in it, something Browns fans have had to endure for going on two decades now.

Anyone remember the year of the Browns’ last postseason appearance?

Some helpful social clues:

  • Nickelback had the number one song
  • George W. Bush was only in his second year as U.S. President
  • the TV show ‘Friends’ was still pumping out new episodes
  • Gas cost $1.61 a gallon.

Some helpful Browns clues:

  • Butch Davis was head coach
  • Tim Couch was starting quarterback
  • Browns went 9-7
  • AFC North second place

The NFL season was 2002, the third year of the expansion Browns after previous owner and man whose name causes every Cleveland fist to clench Art Modell sold his soul and stole Cleveland’s team off to Baltimore.

Starting quarterback Tim Couch was in his fourth of five seasons with the Browns and under his leadership, the team won nine games – five of them were in the final two minutes and seven were by ten points or less.

But then in typical Browns fashion, injury struck, and Couch suffered a broken leg in the final game of the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The result? A backup quarterback, Kelly Holcomb, in his fourth ever start, had to lead the Browns in their first and only playoff game of the twenty-first century against their much-hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Holcomb had a helluva game – 429 passing yards for three touchdowns and one interception – but the team just couldn’t get the job done in the final few seconds and suffered their third loss to the bloody Steelers that season.

For those without the time to watch the entire classic 2002 Browns vs. Steelers Wild Card Matchup, here’s a quick game recap to give you a little taste of what happened that freezing cold January day at the Three Rivers of Heinz Field.

Side note: solid tech shout out to High Def Television; forgot how painfully difficult it was to watch football without you!

Browns vs Steelers 2002 Wild Card Matchup

Date: January 5, 2003

Game time: 4:01 pm EST

Game weather: snow lightly falling, 27 degrees Fahrenheit (-2.8 degrees Celsius), wind 5 mph

Calling the game: Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms

First Quarter

Browns get the ball to start the game, their offensive coordinator Bruce Arians takes advantage of Holcomb’s arm, who hits Kevin Johnson for a 20-yard diving sideline pass that Steelers’ head coach Bill Cowher challenges. After almost four minutes, it’s overturned.

Side note: shout out to the current NFL challenge system, because four minutes is unacceptable!

Very next play, Holcomb hits Johnson again for an 83-yard bomb to the Steelers 2-yard line. Running back William Green runs the ball in for a touchdown.

End of first quarter: Browns 7, Steelers 0

Second Quarter

Browns Chris Gardocki punts the ball to start the quarter but the Steelers fumble it when Cleveland defensive back Lewis Sanders times his hit perfectly. On the very next play, Holcomb throws his second deep ball over Steelers cornerback Hank Poteat and Browns receiver Dennis Northcutt cradles the ball over his shoulder in the end zone for six. Browns 14, Steelers 0

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A Gardocki punt to the Steelers 35-yard line is returned for a touchdown by speedy tackle-breaker Antwaan Randle El. Browns 14, Steelers 7

Holcomb lobs a perfect throw to running back Jamel White, who backward-dives at the outer edge of the two-yard line to make the catch just before falling out-of-bounds. After Browns get stuffed three times in a row, on fourth-and-goal Cleveland placekicker Phil Dawson kicks a 32-yard field goal.

End of second quarter: Browns 17, Steelers 7.

Third Quarter

Two plays after Browns’ Northcutt returns a punt for 59-yards, Holcomb hits him in the corner of the end zone and Northcutt cradles another perfect over the shoulder catch. Browns 24, Steelers 7

Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox hits Plaxico Burress for a 6-yard touchdown pass.

End of third quarter: Browns 24, Steelers 14.

Fourth Quarter

Browns start the fourth quarter third-and-one with the ball on the Steelers’ 7-yard line, but Holcomb can’t connect with an end-zone-diving Jamel White who’d floated from out of the backfield. Dawson kicks a 24-yarder. Browns 27, Steelers 14

Steelers battle the ball down the icy field and score on a Maddox 3-yard pass to tight end Jerame Tuman. Browns 27, Steelers 21

Three plays after using a new tight end formation to break a big run from Green, Holcomb takes the play clock dangerously close to double-zero and then throws an end zone dime to a wide open Andre Davis. Browns go for two and fail. Browns 33, Steelers 21

With five minutes remaining in the game, the Steelers stop the Browns and return the punt to their own twenty-three.

And then in typical Browns fashion, Browns draw three penalty flags and give the Steelers three first downs which eventually leads to a five-yard Maddox bullet to Hines Ward who falls between four Browns players into the end zone. Browns 33, Steelers 28

Browns have the ball, and with less than three minutes left in the game, a Maddox pass flies through the outstretched arms of Northcutt and the Browns fail to convert on a third-and-twelve, Steelers get the ball back on their own forty.

Maddox works the ball down the field and with fifty-four seconds left on the clock, Steelers running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala takes the ball into the end zone on a three-yard run.

Then Steelers’ receiver Randle El takes the direct snap and hits Tuman in the end zone for the two-point conversion. Browns 33, Steelers 36

With no timeouts remaining, Holcomb expertly brings the Browns down to the Steelers 46-yard line and with six-seconds left and another double-zero on the play clock, hits wide receiver Andre King at the 28-yard line. King quickly dives to get out-of-bounds but the clock expires just before he can.

Final Score: Browns 33, Steelers 36

It’s tough to watch the NFL playoffs without the Browns in it, but John Dorsey and Baker Mayfield are putting together a 2019 team that’s going to end all that.

Next. Garrett wants to bring Von Miller to Cleveland. dark

And then in atypical Browns fashion, the postseason will be exciting for Cleveland Browns fans to watch.