New York Jets at Cleveland Browns, 1978
Our last game features the New York Jets, under new coach Sam Rutigliano. The Browns were playing well again for the first time in several years, but they lost a few close division games and found themselves at 7-7. Still they had a chance to make the playoffs if they could just win out.
At any rate, this game is first of all played in a Lake Erie windstorm with the temperature at 15 degrees and getting colder, and the wind chill well below zero. Perfect conditions! The field is frozen, hard and slippery.
Many experts say that such conditions favor the big straight-ahead fullback-type runner, and is bad for the small elusive halfback style runner. Well, okay, but do not tell little Greg Pruitt that. You will see Pruitt absolutely tear it up on runs, receptions and kick returns in this video.
This fan believes an elusive runner has an advantage when the defender bites on a fake on a slippery field. It is very hard to recover. On the other hand, if there is a sprint to the sidelines, defense does have an advantage on side-to-side runs because it is easier to make the running back fall down. Anyway, watch this game and decide for yourself if an elusive runner can succeed in slick conditions.
The Browns used four running backs in this game, including small backs Pruitt and Cleo Miller, as well as the big guys in Mike Pruitt and Calvin Hill. The smaller backs combined for 32 carries and 200 rushing yards for an average of 6.3 yards per carry. Evidently they were not hurt too badly by the frozen field. Pruitt and Hill combine for 11 carries and 29 yards (2.6 yards per carry). This is just one of a million examples where small backs have big games on slippery fields.
What cold weather does affect is the ability to hang on to the football. The Browns fumbled five times and Matt Robinson of the Jets threw four interceptions.
With the playoffs at stake, the Browns seem to dominate, but back then we used to say, “the game is never over with the Browns, no matter what the score is, how much time is left, or who is ahead.”
Could any team seriously blow a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter? Well, yeah! The Jets caught fire behind an aerial bombardment by Matt Robinson. The Jets got an onside kick recovery and on the ensuing kickoff, Keith Wright fumbled the ball. The Jets not only made up the 17 points, they went ahead by seven points in the fourth quarter with under two minutes left. Is that the end of the Browns’ playoff chances? I am not even going to try to explain what happens next. You just have to see the video.