Browns took Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to overtime in last games in Cleveland

Tom Brady. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images)
Tom Brady. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images) /

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are two of the greatest QBs to ever play in the NFL. In their last game against the Browns in Cleveland, overtime was needed.

This past Sunday, quarterback Jacoby Brissett and the Cleveland Browns (3-7) welcomed “The GOAT” Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) to FirstEnergy Stadium for a Week 12 matchup.

Tampa Bay and Cleveland only play each other once every four years, due to the rotation of the NFL schedule. Unless Brady leaves the Buccaneers to join an AFC team during the upcoming offseason, then last Sunday was most likely his final game against the Browns in Cleveland.

The ending of Sunday’s game drew a parallel to the ending of Peyton Manning’s final game against the Browns in Cleveland back in 2015. Both quarterbacks had dominant career records against the Browns, but Cleveland had the opportunity to take the final matchup.

Manning and Brady are two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL; Brady is considered by many to be the greatest of all time. When he does retire, he will have to wait out the mandatory five-year period, but after that, there’s a strong possibility that he will be unanimously elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his first year of HOF eligibility, Manning was all but guaranteed to get in.

When Manning and the Denver Broncos galloped into Cleveland in Week 6 of the 2015 season, for what would be Manning’s last game in Cleveland, they came with a 5-0 record. They had outlasted the Oakland Raiders, now the Las Vegas Raiders, 16-10 on the road the week prior. Meanwhile, the Browns were riding the wave of a 33-30 overtime road victory against the Baltimore Ravens, which moved their record to 2-3. Since both teams were coming off crucial wins over divisional opponents, they wanted to keep the momentum going.

Manning was seeking to extend his career undefeated record against the Browns to 7-0. Granted, five of those games were when Peyton was wearing the blue horseshoe of the Indianapolis Colts.

Other than Browns QB Josh McCown throwing a pick-six to Broncos defensive back Aqib Talib who ran it back for 63 yards (while outrunning Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin), and some tough defense, nothing much happened in the first half. At the end of the third quarter, Denver held a slim 13-7 lead.

The scoring ramped up in the fourth quarter. Cleveland put two touchdowns and a field goal on the board while Denver countered with a field goal and a touchdown. As a result, the game was tied at 23 apiece which sent the game to overtime.

Neither team was able to capitalize on their first possession in the extra session. Someone had to get the next score and end it or the game would end in a tie. Late into OT, Manning manufactured a drive that got Denver into field goal range.

The Broncos sent kicker Brandon McManus out to attempt the 34-yard game-winning kick. The ball sailed through the uprights, allowing the Broncos to escape with a 26-23 win. Denver stayed undefeated at 6-0, and they would end the season at 12-4 and win Super Bowl 50. Manning prevented the Browns and their fans from saying that they had beaten him. The loss dropped the Browns to 2-4, and they only won one more game that year (a Week 14 home win against the San Francisco 49ers).

Although Brady wasn’t undefeated against the Browns like Manning, he still had an impressive 7-1 career record against Cleveland heading into this past Sunday’s matchup. Brady’s lone loss against the Browns came in Week 9 of the 2010 season while he was still with the New England Patriots, in a 34-14 shellacking in Cleveland. Colt McCoy was the quarterback and Peyton Hillis was the running back for the Browns.

Tampa Bay was coming off their bye week after beating the Seattle Seahawks the week prior in the NFL’s first-ever game in Germany. Cleveland returned home after getting steamrolled by QB Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins in South Florida and then the Buffalo Bills in Detroit (the game was moved to Detroit due to a major snowstorm in Buffalo).

Brady’s last game in Cleveland played out similarly to Manning’s. The first half saw Tampa and Cleveland trade touchdowns and field goals to knot up the score at 10 at the break. The wet and rainy conditions in Cleveland translated to a low-scoring affair filled with quick three-and-outs and subsequent punting.

With approximately 40 seconds to go in regulation, Tampa had a 17-10 lead. Cleveland had worked the ball down into the red zone, but it was fourth and 10. So, either the Browns were going to get the first down and/or game-tying touchdown or Tampa was going to make the defensive stand and get the win.

Brissett took the snap and found tight end David Njoku, who made a ridiculous one-handed catch in the back of the endzone to tie the game up at 17, sending it to overtime. The home crowd was stunned.

Similar to the 2015 matchup between the Broncos and the Browns, neither Tampa nor Cleveland could do anything in OT. Tampa Bay had the first opportunity to do something. Yet, the first three possessions ended in punts. As overtime wore on, a tie seemed inevitable. With less than a minute to go, Brissett took advantage of the busted coverage and threw an absolute bomb to wide receiver Amari Cooper for 46 yards, which placed the ball inside the five-yard line.

On second and goal, the Browns went to their workhorse as Brissett handed the ball off to star running back Nick Chubb, who bullied his way across the goal line to secure the 23-17 victory for Cleveland. The Browns improved to 4-7 and the Buccaneers fell to 5-6.

Even though the Browns weren’t victorious against both, they forced Manning and Brady to go deep into overtime during their last (or most likely last) games against them. Forcing these two legendary QBs to have to work for the win instead of letting them coast is a testament to the work of then-head coach Mike Pettine (2014-2015) and current head coach Kevin Stefanski. This win against Brady may be the high point in an otherwise tumultuous season, but Browns fans will remember it for years to come.

The prospect of forcing Aaron Rodgers, who is 3-0 against the Browns in his career, to go deep into overtime during his last game against them in Cleveland seems like a realistic possibility. With the way the season is playing out for the Green Bay Packers and the Cleveland Browns, that opportunity could be next season due to the implementation of the extra game on the schedule.

Cleveland might not have beaten Denver in 2015, but they did beat Tampa in 2022. Sunday was an emotionally charged game against Brady and the Browns players can hold their heads high knowing they defeated “The GOAT”.

The Browns cannot dwell on the big victory against Brady and the Bucs, as it was only one win. They have to get ready for another game full of emotion when quarterback Deshaun Watson makes his highly anticipated Cleveland Browns debut against his former team, the Houston Texans, in Houston.