It has been a long hiatus from the playoffs for the Cleveland Browns but the last time they made it, the game was nothing short of a classic.
The longest current playoff drought in the NFL belongs to the Cleveland Browns, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002, that is 17 seasons. They’ve had a couple of good years in there, like 2007 when they won 10 games and missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
This season may be the Browns best chance to break that streak, if there is a football season at all in 2020.
But let’s revisit that snowy afternoon in early 2003 when Cleveland took on their hated arch-rival the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. If you have the time I highly recommend finding the game online and give it a watch!
This game was action packed from beginning to end. The Browns were in control for most of the game that featured a quarterback matchup of Tommy Maddox against Kelly Holcomb.
Tim Couch led Cleveland to the playoffs that season but he broke his right leg the week before against the Atlanta Falcons.
Holcomb played nothing like a back-up against Pittsburgh and the Browns started off the game on fire. Actually, they had played better most of the game and held the lead until the fourth quarter.
Cleveland received the opening kickoff and got an 83-yard reception from Kevin Johnson and rookie running back William Green finished the drive off as he ran it in for a one-yard touchdown. This was quite the start on the road against a rival in a snowy playoff game.
Pittsburgh made a surprise substitution on offense as they started Amos Zereoue instead of future Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis because they thought they needed the speed coming out of the backfield.
Steelers rookie Antwaan Randle El muffed a punt that the Browns recovered at the Pittsburgh 32-yard line. Holcomb threw a touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt on the next play and Cleveland was ahead 14-0.
Daylon McCutcheon halted the Steelers next drive with an interception, but the offense couldn’t capitalize as they went three-and-out. Randle El would quickly redeem himself as he took this punt for a 66 yard touchdown.
Cleveland put together another good drive before halftime and Phil Dawson netted a field goal with just under a minute left before halftime. Cleveland took a 17-7 lead to the locker room.
There was another big special teams play to start the second half, except it was Cleveland making the play this time. Northcutt took a punt back 59 yards down to the 14-yard line. Northcutt caught a touchdown pass two plays later as Cleveland took a commanding 17-point lead.
The Steelers started a historic comeback at the end of the third quarter with a touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress to cut their deficit to 10. Cleveland then kicked a field goal, but the Steelers answered with a five play drive ending in a touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman.
Cleveland answered with a five play drive ending in a 22-yard touchdown pass to Andre’ Davis, putting them ahead 33-21 with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
That feeling of security wouldn’t last long as Pittsburgh drove 13 plays in a little bit over two minutes and Hines Ward made a short touchdown catch. The Steelers trailed 33-28, so they could win the game with with a touchdown.
Cleveland got one first down but a delay of game on third down killed thier drive and now the defense just had to keep Pittsburgh out of the endzone and they would advance to the next round.
The drive started with a 24-yard completion to Burress and four plays later they were inside the five-yard line. Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala ran it up the middle for a three-yard touchdown and gave the Steelers a one-point lead with less than a minute to go.
A trick play landed Pittsburgh a two-point conversion to put them ahead 36-33. The Browns moved the ball with several completions and got all the way to the Steelers 45-yard line. However, they couldn’t stop the clock because they wasted all of their timeouts in the third quarter.
Surely Browns fans didn’t think this would be the last time they would watch their team in the playoffs for 17 years, but that has been the case. We can only hope next time they make the playoffs the game is as good as this classic.