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Browns 5 Most All-Time Memorable Wins Against the Broncos

DEC 20 1970, DEC 21 1970; Denver Broncos (Action); All Wrapped up in His Work; Quarterback Bill Nels

4. Browns 27, Broncos 13, Dec. 20, 1970 at Denver

Blanton Collier’s final game as the Browns’ head coach. Collier had announced in the days before the contest that he would be stepping down, in large part because of the hearing problems that made it difficult to hear his players and coaches.

Collier was the coach when the Browns routed the Baltimore Colts, 27-0, in the 1964 NFL championship game. His Cleveland teams went 76-34-2 in eight regular seasons. The Browns also lost NFL championship games to the Green Bay Packers in 1965; to the Colts in 1968; and to the Minnesota Vikings in 1969. The final two losses each left the Browns a game short of the Super Bowl, which was first played at the end of the 1966 season.

Browns players carried Collier off the field after this victory. Cleveland extended a 10-6 halftime lead to 27-6 in the third quarter on Don Cockroft’s second field goal and Bill Nelsen touchdown passes of 43 and 23 yards, respectively, to wide receiver Homer Jones and Bo Scott.

Nelsen completed 11 of 22 passes for 215 yards, the two TDs and no interceptions. His top receivers were Scott (three receptions for 52 yards), tight end Chip Glass (three for 46) and Fair Hooker (three for 42). Scott also ran two yards for a second-quarter score.

The win allowed the Browns to finish 7-7, capping one of the most disappointing seasons in their history. They had moved to the AFC Central Division from the old NFL prior to the campaign as part of the merger agreement. Cleveland was expected to coast to the division title with little resistance from its foes: the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Houston Oilers and the third-year expansion team Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati was owned and coached by Paul Brown, who had coached the Browns to remarkable success during their first 17 years as a franchise before he was fired by Cleveland owner Art Modell and replaced by Collier.

The Browns, though, faltered due to injuries and the effects of two ill-fated trades, and finished second by a game in the Central to Cincinnati, which closed the regular season with a stunning seven-game winning streak. Following the 1969 season, the Browns had dealt all-pro wide receiver Paul Warfield to Miami for the Dolphins’ first-round draft pick, quarterback Mike Phipps. Then, in an effort to replace Warfield, Cleveland sent solid veteran defensive tackle Jim Kanicki and promising running back Ron Johnson to the New York Giants for Homer Jones.

Phipps enjoyed a degree of success with the Browns during the 1972 and 1973 seasons, but struggled with a deteriorating roster around him and was traded to the Chicago Bears after the 1976 campaign. Jones’ touchdown against Denver was just his 10th reception in what would be his last NFL season. His only other score with the Browns came on a 94-yard kickoff return during Cleveland’s 31-21 season-opening home win over the New York Jets — the first game of the new Monday Night Football television series.

Denver finished 5-8-1.

OCT 27 1974, OCT 28 1974; Denver Broncos (Action); There was no hole up the middle for Browns Quarte

5. Browns 23, Broncos 21, Oct. 27, 1974 at Cleveland

Brian Sipe had touchdown runs of eight yards and one yard for the win after he replaced Mike Phipps at quarterback with the Browns trailing 21-9 early in the fourth quarter.

Sipe’s only NFL game experience prior to this was two mop-up roles in Browns’ defeats earlier in the season. He had spent 1972 and 1973 on the Browns’ “taxi squad,” the rough equivalent of today’s “practice squad.” Sipe then made seven total starts in 1974-75 and then took over for an injured Phipps during a 1976 season-opening win over the Jets. Sipe then basically held the starter’s job before leaving the Browns for the United States Football League after the 1983 season.

The winning touchdown was set up by Greg Pruitt’s 72-yard punt return to the Denver 4. Prior to Sipe’s scores, all of the Browns points had come on three Don Cockroft field goals.

Sipe was 4-of-6 passing for 32 yards. Phipps completed just 8 of 25 passes — although for 170 yards — and was intercepted once. Running back Hugh McKinnis caught six passes for 111 yards.

With the win, the Browns were 2-5. They finished 4-10, the team’s worst record ever at the time and their second losing season out of what was then their 29-year history. Denver became 3-3-1 on its way to a 7-6-1 finish.

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Mike Peticca covered the Indians and Cavaliers for The Associated Press from 1976 to 1998 and the Browns from 1976 to 1995. The Akron native doubled as a Plain Dealer sports writer for several years, and then covered high school, college and professional teams for The PD until 2013. He is a longtime baseball Hall of Fame voter.

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