Similar to the year prior, the Browns had a successful regular season in 1987, with the offense being one of the best in the league once again. Cleveland finished with a 10-5 record, earning the second seed in the AFC and another first-round bye.
The Browns had a much better Divisional Round compared to the year prior. Cleveland entered the fourth quarter with a 21-14 lead over the Indianapolis Colts. The Browns were able to spread the lead to 31-14 with just under four minutes to go. The Colts were able to cut into the lead and then recover an onside kick, creating tense moments in Cleveland. However, Frank Minnifield forced an interception and turned it into a touchdown, giving the Browns a 38-21 victory.
The Browns victory over the Colts set up a rematch in the AFC Championship against the Denver Broncos, with this game occurring in Denver. It gave the Browns a chance to overcome “The Drive” and have another shot to reach the Super Bowl.
Denver was able to take a commanding 21-3 lead into halftime, as it appeared the Browns were once again going to end up one game short of the Super Bowl, just with less drama. However, the Browns offense was able to turn things on in the third quarter, scoring 21 points to cut the Broncos lead to just seven entering the fourth quarter.
Both teams were able to match touchdowns in the fourth quarter, giving the Broncos a seven point lead with time winding down. After Denver’s touchdown with just over four minutes remaining in the game, Cleveland was able to drive down the field and into the red zone with one minute remaining in the game, trailing 38-31.
The Browns gave the ball to running back Earnest Byner at the eight-yard line and looked like he was about to run into the end zone to tie the game, until the worst-case scenario happened for Byner. Byner was stripped right before he reached the end zone and the Broncos recovered – better known as “The Fumble” in Cleveland.
Cleveland was moments away from sending the game into overtime. Instead, they fell just short of the Super Bowl and created another everlasting memory in Cleveland for all of the wrong reasons.
Separated by just one year, the Browns were minutes away from reaching the Super Bowl twice. It was the closest they have ever come to reaching the Super Bowl. But there is one season that the Browns would have a had a decent chance, but they could not get out of their own way.