Eric Metcalf amassed over 17,000 all-purpose yards in his illustrious career. Today we take a look at his five most memorable games as a member of the Cleveland Browns.
The Cleveland Browns have had their share of dynamic players over the years. Even though multiple Hall of Famers have lined up at running back in the Browns’ franchise history, Eric Metcalf should still be near the top of that list. Simply put; Metcalf was electric with the ball in his hands.
Metcalf was drafted at No. 13 overall in the first round of the 1989 NFL draft out of the University of Texas. It was an extremely talent-rich draft that produced five Hall of Famers just from the first round alone. Metcalf was the fourth running back selected, well technically the position he was drafted at was wide receiver, but his primary position for the Browns coming out of college was at running back.
Metcalf was such a special athlete that it was hard to put a label on him. If you were to define Metcalf, the best word you could use to describe him is — playmaker. You just had to get the ball in his hands and let him do what comes naturally to him; make plays.
Eric Metcalf is the son of a playmaker; his father Terry Metcalf was a former NFL Pro Bowl running back/wide receiver and return man himself. The father and son duo share numerous striking similarities.
They were both swiss army knives of athletic brilliance, they shared an eerily similar build, and both had the knack for making would-be tacklers look foolish.
Metcalf came to Cleveland at the tail end of an era that saw the Browns reach the playoffs in four straight seasons. His rookie campaign would culminate with the fifth straight playoff appearance and the third AFC championship appearance in four years. He was an immediate contributor to the teams’ success.
Metcalf played six seasons in Cleveland, and during that time, he took the fans' breath away on countless occasions. Now let’s look back at number 21’s five greatest games for the Cleveland Browns.
5. Divisional Playoffs vs Buffalo Bills — Jan. 6, 1990
Eric Metcalf’s rookie season ended with a trip to the playoffs, something Browns’ fans were accustomed to during that time period. The Browns were winners of the Central division. Sadly, it was the last time the Browns were Central division champions.
In the divisional round of the playoffs, Cleveland drew the pre-surging Buffalo Bills. After this season, the Bills would go on to play in four straight super bowls. Luckily for Cleveland, this would be a home game, an advantage that the Browns would desperately need.
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Metcalf’s offensive workload would be low for this game, as he would see only five touches on the offensive side of the ball. This was consistent with the final two games of the regular season, as the Browns recently had workhorse running back Kevin Mack return from a 12-game hiatus. Metcalf was still able to find a way to be invaluable to the Browns.
With the score sitting at 24-21, Cleveland was in danger of letting what at one point was a 10-point lead slip away. The Bills were an extremely potent offense, and the Browns needed to answer if they had any hope of advancing.
Cleveland didn’t have to wait long. Metcalf returned the following kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. The rookie looked like he was shot out of a cannon, taking the kickoff up the middle of the field and then braking to the right sideline after he gashed through the first wave of would-be tacklers. Not a single Buffalo Bill had a chance in the world at bringing Metcalf down.
While Metcalf had better overall games for Cleveland, sometimes timing is everything and the timing of this game-breaking play lands at number five on this list.
4. Browns vs Bengals — Dec. 6, 1992
Eric Metcalf had made a career out of killing the Cincinnati Bengals. His first NFL touchdown came against the Bengals on an unworldly jump cut that showed everybody what he was capable of on Monday Night Football. Even after his tenure as a Brown came to an end, he still would put on a show every time he played against the Bengals.
Metcalf’s best game against the Bengals as a member of the Browns came towards the end of the 1992 season. His usage had become sporadic as a running back, but on that day in December, he logged a season-high nine carries and produced 53 yards rushing.
Where Metcalf made the biggest difference on that day was as a receiver. He was targeted six times and caught all six balls thrown his way for 73 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came as Metcalf lined up out wide and Bernie Kosar hit him in stride on a perfectly executed slant route. Metcalf made the initial defender miss and then it was off to the races. He ran straight into the loving embrace of the dawg pound who almost did not let go.
Metcalf added an additional 75 yards in punt returns and would end up with 210 yards of total production on the day. His overall output puts this performance against a divisional rival at number four on the list.
3. Browns at Tampa Bay — Nov. 5, 1989
The third game on this list came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at just over the halfway point of Metcalf’s rookie season. Coming into the contest, Metcalf had either run, thrown, or caught a touchdown in four straight games. Head coach Bud Carson decided to ride that momentum all game long in Tampa.
Metcalf carried the ball 17 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. The 42-yard touchdown came on a fake reverse where Metcalf scampered down the left sideline and then cut back across the middle of the field out running every Buccaneer defender easily. His ability to see the field and the confidence he had in his speed was a sight to behold.
Metcalf added an additional 52 yards and a touchdown as a receiver against a back-peddling Tampa Bay defense. His versatility allowed him to be a mismatch anytime a linebacker attempted to cover the rookie. As he was prone to do, Metcalf caught a ball going towards the sideline and then performed a jump cut that would make his father proud and took it to the house.
The do-it-all dynamo also added 94 yards on three kick returns against the Buccaneers. Metcalf ended up with 233 all-purpose yards on that November afternoon. If that isn’t enough, Joe Namath also gave Metcalf the Budweiser player of the game. That's a pretty amazing day to be at only number three on this list.
2. Browns at Los Angeles Raiders — September 20, 1992
The second game on this list was Metcalf’s memorable day against the Los Angeles Raiders back in September of 1992. The Browns entered the contest winless at 0-2 and, had lost their starting quarterback Bernie Kosar to a broken ankle suffered in a gut-wrenching loss the week before.
Kosar’s backup, Todd Philcox, was named the starter and the team traveled to Los Angeles without their veteran signal-caller even making the trip. The chips were stacked against a young Browns team that had moved on from several pieces of their previous winning regime. The prospects of leaving the Los Angeles Coliseum with a win were not looking good.
The Browns, and primarily Metcalf, took it to the Raiders early. Metcalf scored two touchdowns in the first quarter.
First, Metcalf hauled in a four-yard touchdown pass from Philcox and then added a six-yard touchdown run. The shifty running back had given the Browns an early lead.
Through the second quarter and majority of the third, the Raiders kept it close and inched closer to the Browns lead. Halfway through the third quarter, the Raiders had cut the Browns lead to a single point at 14-13. Metcalf was having none of it, ripping off a 69-yard slant all the way to the endzone.
Then in the fourth quarter, he put an exclamation point on his historic day by scoring another touchdown through the air; this time for 63-yards.
When the dust had settled, Metcalf finished the day with 201 total yards, with 177 of those coming through the air, and scoring 4 touchdowns. Metcalf lighting up Los Angeles lands at number two on this list.
1. Browns vs Pittsburgh — Oct. 24, 1993
Here we are, Eric Metcalf’s most memorable game as a member of the Cleveland Browns. It’s a doozy. If you are going to have yourself a career day, there is no better time than to have it than against your bitter division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns and Steelers met up with identical records at 4-2 and with first place in the Central division at stake. It was a home game for the Browns and the 78,000 plus in attendance at Municipal Stadium were riled up. Luckily, for everyone involved they didn’t leave disappointed.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Browns struck first on a 62-yard score from Vinny Testaverde to Michael Jackson. Later in the quarter, Metcalf put his stamp on the game with a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown. Metcalf weaved his way up the left sideline using his vision, agility, and pure game-breaking speed to take the punt to the house.
The Browns gave up a couple of short Barry Foster touchdown runs over the next quarter and a half, and after a giving up a 30-yard Gary Anderson field goal found themselves down 14-17. Cleveland answered with a touchdown pass to Ron Wolfley. This back and forth affair would go down to the wire.
After two Pittsburgh field goals, the Browns found themselves down 23-21 and with time running out. The Browns were able to force a Steeler punt. The rest is history.
Metcalf caught the punt at the 25-yard line and used a hesitation move to freeze up the initial would-be tacklers, and then bolted for the right sideline. From there he blazed up the sideline, cutting in, out, and back in again and won the foot race to the endzone.
It wasn’t just a game-winning play, it was a moment in time for Browns fans who could tell you exactly where they were when it went down. It also must be noted that Metcalf was questionable to play all week with a knee injury that prevented him from practicing until Friday. His performance that Sunday afternoon was nothing short of magical and it lands at number one on this list.