There’s a long-standing misconception that insanity is the condition of “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” As every Cleveland Browns fan proves, however, the truly insane will actually expect the same miserable results, but keep doing the same thing anyway.
In their first Monday Night Football appearance in six years, the 2015 Browns managed to somehow unearth yet another improbable, devastating, and yet darkly comedic way to reach that same predictable result, as a potential game-winning field goal against the hated Baltimore Ravens turned into a ridiculous “kick six” and the team’s fourth last-minute, gut punch defeat of the season. If you want to go all the way back to 1999 (and we shall), this marked the 43rd time that the expansion Browns had a chance to win a game in its final moments, and failed. As ex-Brown Josh Cribbs so profoundly put it a few years back, “We almost always almost win,” and the fans have come to respond to this new tradition of Browns football accordingly — with frustration, humiliation, and most tellingly, resignation.
But really, is all this melodrama actually warranted? Have the modern Browns been the Kids of Kardiac Arrest that all of our (repressed) memories make them out to be?
Well, to put it simply: Yes.
WFNY dug into the archives all the way back to the Tim Couch era to revisit ALL FORTY-THREE occurrences in which the Browns either (a) surrendered the deciding score in the final seconds or, (b) had a chance to tie or win a game in the final seconds and came up short. This means we didn’t even include games where the Browns merely blew a substantial lead or lost narrowly without any serious two-minute drama. Nope, this is exclusively a list of all the games where defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory—and boy have the Browns found a lot of ways to do it. Which one was your favorite?!
EVERY LAST-MINUTE BROWNS LOSS SINCE 1999
With 5 seconds left on the clock, Cincinnati quarterback Akili Smith — out to prove something to the team that didn’t draft him — hits Carl Pickens for a 2-yard TD pass to send the Browns to 0-5 in their new incarnation.
Peyton Manning and the Colts score 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, culminating in a Mike Vanderjagt 21-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to end the new Browns inaugural season on a shit note.
Phil Dawson and Ryan Lindell account for all the points in a less than thrilling season opener, which goes Seattle’s way on a 52-yard Lindell boot with 4 seconds remaining.
Chicago ties the game in the final seconds of regulation with a 34-yard bomb from Shane Matthews to James Allen, then Mike Brown picks off Tim Couch in OT and runs in a 16-yard INT return for the game-winning touchdown.
In another overtime game the very next week, the Browns lose the coin flip to Pittsburgh and watch Kordell Stewart and Jerome Bettis march down the field to quickly set up Kris Brown’s game-winning 32-yarder.
This happens to every team, right? Trailing by 5 with a minute to go, Tim Couch drives the Browns deep into Jags territory, hitting Quincy Morgan on a 4th down play for a first down at the Jacksonville 12-yard line. After the Browns have already run their next play, the referees decide — inexplicably — to have another look at the prior Morgan catch, subsequently reversing it. This then leads to a riot and a suspension of the game. Top that!
Forget bottle throwing! Did you know you can lose a game by taking your hat off?! Dwayne Rudd’s infamous, celebratory toss of his helmet (a penalty!) with no time on the clock gave Kansas City the chance to run one more offensive play — which wound up being a 30-yard, game-winning Morten Andersen field goal.
After Phil Dawson misses a 45-yard FG at the end of regulation, Pittsburgh gets the ball in OT and drives inside the Cleveland 10-yard line. Electing to kick on second down, Todd Peterson’s 24-yarder is blocked by the Browns Alvin McKinley… only to be recovered by the Steelers’ John Fiala. Given a second life, Peterson then kicks a 31-yarder to win it for the terrible ones.
Kelly Holcomb tosses a TD to Dennis Northcutt with a minute to go, and Phil Dawson then recovers his own onside kick to gives the Browns a shot to win the game. Holcomb drives Cleveland all the way to the Baltimore 17-yard line, but with 10 seconds left, his attempted end zone strike to Kevin Johnson is intercepted by the living Browns nightmare Ed Reed to end the game.
Trailing by 5, Tim Couch leads a strong 2-minute drill to take the Browns all the way inside the Indy 10-yard line with just over 30 seconds to go. On fourth-and-goal, though, his last effort TD pass flies out of bounds, sealing the win for Manning and the Colts.
Yup, Colts again. In an ugly defensive battle, Peyton Manning starts a drive from his team’s own 8-yard line with 2 minutes to go. Mike Vanderjagt finishes the work with a 45-yard field goal as the final seconds tick off the clock.
Jason Elam ties the game with 10 seconds left in regulation, then wins it in overtime with a 25-yard chip shot.
Jeff Garcia scampers for a dramatic TD to tie the game with 36 seconds left, but after 10 minutes of overtime, Donovan McNabb moves the Eagles into range for David Akers, who nets a 50-yarder to win it in front of a miserable Browns Stadium.
Trailing by a touchdown with 45 seconds to play in Baltimore, Jeff Garcia leads Cleveland to the Ravens 5-yard line with a chance to tie the game. He throws toward Aaron Shea in the end zone, but Ed Reed (of course) intercepts the pass and returns it the entire 106 effing yards to paydirt. Game over.
In a game memorable for sapping the remaining warmth right out of the holiday season, neither the Browns nor Dolphins manage to score for the last 45 minutes of the game, right up until Olindo Mare kicks a 50-yard field goal in the final seconds to seal another 4-12 season for the Brownies.
After Phil Dawson ties the game at 20, Carson Palmer drains the final 4 minutes off the clock on a long drive capped by a Shayne Graham 37-yarder with a second left.
With Cleveland leading 14-12 and knocking on the door inside the Ravens 5-yard line, Charlie Frye is picked off by Chris McAlister in the end zone, cuz I guess Ed Reed was sharing the wealth for a change. Steve McNair then leads a long Baltimore drive to the Browns 33, and Matt Stover wins it with a 52-yarder with 20 seconds on the clock.
After a Josh Cribbs kickoff return for a touchdown, Cleveland holds a 20-10 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. The Steelers’ Willie Parker cuts the lead to 3 with a TD run at the 4 minute mark, then gives Pittsburgh the lead on a 4-yard TD catch from Ben Roethlisberger. Charlie Frye leads Cleveland all the way to the Steeler 22 with 3 seconds left, but fails to hit Braylon Edwards in the end zone as time expires.
Early in a season in which the Browns would wind up missing the playoffs by the narrowest of margins, Phil Dawson’s potential game-winning 40-yard field goal attempt is blocked by Oakland’s Tommy Kelly with 3 seconds to go.
Another Josh Cribbs TD kickoff return puts Cleveland in front in the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger strikes back with a 2-yard TD pass to Heath Miller with 3 minutes left, giving the Steelers a 3-point edge. In the final seconds, Derek Anderson manages to setup a 52-yard Phil Dawson kick to tie it… but it’s no good.
With 6 seconds left, Kellen Winslow appears to bring in a game-winning Derek Anderson lob in the corner of the Arizona end zone. After a replay review, the refs decide the soldier didn’t get both of his feet in, and the Cardinals survive.
Did we mention the 10-6 Browns barely missed the playoffs in 2007? This one was the final killer. After battling back from a 19-0 deficit, Derek Anderson’s last second end zone hurl to Winslow is batted away, leaving the Browns one score short in Cinci.
Once again, the Derek Anderson led Browns, despite looking awful all day, get themselves in position for a game tying field goal with 30 seconds left. Phil Dawson misses a 54-yard attempt at FedEx Field, stopping the momentum Cleveland had built from two straight wins.
In regulation, the Bengals’ Shayne Graham miraculously misses an extra point kick with 2 minutes left, keeping the score 20-20 and eventually sending the game to overtime. Cleveland has three possessions in OT and fails to make anything of them. Graham redeems himself and kicks the game winner for Cincinnati from 31 yards with just 7 seconds left in the OT period.
Brady Quinn has his best game as a pro (304 yards, 4 TDs), but Matthew Stafford trumps him (422 yards, 5 TDs). Trailing 37-31 with 8 seconds to go, the Lions are at the Cleveland 32-yard line. Stafford throws a Hail Mary to Calvin Johnson, but it’s intercepted by Brodney Pool. Game over? Nope. Hank Poteat is called for defensive pass interference. The Lions get a free play with 0:00 on the clock and Stafford finds Brandon Pettigrew for the game winner.
Fresh off shocking wins over the Saints and Patriots, the Browns tie the Jets at 20 on a Colt McCoy to Mohamed Massaquoi strike with 44 seconds left in regulation. In overtime, a promising Browns drive is dashed by a Chansi Stuckey fumble. The game looks destined to finish in a tie, but Mark Sanchez finds Santonio Holmes for a 37-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left to win it.
Just a week after the Jets debacle. In Jacksonville, Maurice Jones-Drew puts the Jags in front with a minute to play. Colt McCoy leads Cleveland to the Jacksonville 29 with 13 seconds to go, then throws to the goal line and has his pass swiped by the Jags’ Sean Considine to dash the rally.
This one probably shouldn’t technically qualify, since the final minute didn’t really see the result in question. But at the 2:13 mark, Ryan Pontbriand’s bounced snap leads to a shocking Phil Dawson shank of a meager 22-yard field goal attempt, crushing what looked like a potential game-winning drive.
Another divisional choke job, as Colt McCoy and the Browns’s 20-10 lead evaporates down the stretch. After Dawson misses a go-ahead 55-yard field goal attempt with 1:55 left, Andy Dalton hits A.J. Green for a 51-yard pass play, setting up Mike Nugent’s game winner from 26.
Cleveland blows a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter, fails to score after winning the coin toss in overtime, then surrenders a 30-yard kick return to Patrick Peterson and a 30-yard pass play from John Skelton to Larry Fitzgerald. Jay Feely boots a 22-yarder to end it four minutes into OT.
With Seneca Wallace at quarterback, the Browns manage to drive to the Steeler 24-yard line with 5 seconds left, trailing by 4. Shooting for Greg Little in the end zone, Wallace’s final throw is batted away by Troy Polamalu.
Dogkiller Michael Vick visits the Dawg Pound and shows there is no justice in the world, as he hits Clay Harbor for a go-ahead TD with a minute left. Brandon Weeden’s very next pass is intercepted to start yet another season on the wrong note.
The Browns advance inside the Baltimore red zone on a Paul Kruger (then a Raven) unnecessary roughness call. Needing a touchdown to tie the game with 2 seconds left, Weeden overshoots Greg Little in the end zone.
In an exciting game in Dallas, Brandon Weeden finds Ben Watson for a 17-yard TD with a minute to go, putting Cleveland up 20-17. A Sheldon Brown pass interference on a Tony Romo deep ball then helps set up a game tying Dan Bailey field goal with 6 seconds on the clock. In overtime, the Browns go three and out on their only possession, and Bailey connects from 38 to win it.
A 95-yard Weeden to Josh Gordon touchdown late in the fourth quarter seems to put the Browns in control, but a blown coverage by Joe Haden allows Chad Henne to find Cecil Shorts in the end zone to give the Jags the edge in the final minute.
Trailing 26-14 with a minute to go, Tom Brady and the host Pats have a 0.1 percent win probability. They win, of course, as a recovered onside kick is sandwiched in between touchdown passes to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. To add a little more salt in the wound, the Browns still have a shot to win when Billy Cundiff’s 58-yard field goal attempt at the horn very nearly goes through.
Brian Hoyer leads one of the greatest comebacks in Browns history, overcoming a 27-3 deficit to tie the game. Rather than living on in local lore, though, the team falls victim to old Three Rivers mojo, choking away late possessions and opening up an all too familiar late drive for Big Ben, wrapped up with a 41-yard Shaun Suisham field goal in the final second.
Much like the Steeler game two weeks earlier, the Browns can’t extend possessions late in the game, and Joe Flacco takes advantage of a short field to give Justin Tucker the glory of the last second game winner.
With an inevitable QB controversy finally engulfing the surprisingly competitive Browns, Coach Mike Pettine’s faith in local boy Brian Hoyer over celebrity back-up Johnny Manziel doesn’t pay off. Despite the Browns’ defense forcing four turnovers and hassling Andrew Luck all day, a 21-7 Cleveland lead slowly fizzles as Hoyer and the offense fail to stay on the field. Luck finally pushes Indy ahead for the first time in the game with a 2-yard TD pass with 32 seconds to play. After Josh Gordon fails to come down with the first of two subsequent Hoyer Hail Marys, Brian’s next attempt is ironically caught by a guy named Josh Gordy, who plays for the Colts. The Browns fall to 7-6, as their playoff hopes end for a 12th straight year.
After an ugly first three quarters, Josh McCown puts the snazzy new-look, bright-orange Browns in position for a game-tying score against a weak Raiders secondary. Unfortunately, the geriatric Charles Woodson still has the ups to leap in front of Travis Benjamin on a deep ball down the sideline, closing the festivities in oh so familiar fashion. New clothes, same old Browns.
McCown appears to redeem himself one week later in San Diego, putting together a 300-yard game and connecting with his favorite target Gary Barnidge for a game-tying touchdown with two minutes to play. That leaves way too much time for Phillip Rivers, however, as the Charger quarterback moves his team into field goal range with two seconds on the clock. Incredibly, kicker Josh Lambo’s 39-yard kick is wide right as the time ticks off. We’re heading to overti– oh wait. Is that a flag I see? Yes, Tramon Williams is called for jumping offsides on the play (even though replays later show the ball was snapped before Williams crossed the line of scrimmage). Given a second chance from five yards closer, Lambo boots through the game-winner with zero seconds remaining.
For an incredible fourth consecutive week, the finish comes down to the final moments as Cleveland tries to beat Peyton Manning for the first time ever and end a 25-year / 11-game losing streak against Denver. The 2-3 Browns stunned the Ravens in overtime the Sunday prior, and are looking to carry that momentum back home with them. The undefeated Broncos certainly leave the door open to an upset, too, as three Manning interceptions appear to be the old man’s undoing. Unfortunately, an ugly McCown pick late in regulation kills one golden opportunity to win the game, and in overtime, a Barkevious Mingo theft of Manning inside Bronco territory only results in an embarrassing three-and-out for Cleveland, as McCown is sacked twice. Given a second possession in sudden death, Manning is able to set up a Brandon McManus chip shot, which he barely sneaks through the uprights to end the Browns’ upset hopes.
Their season already rotting away like the last leftovers of your Thanksgiving feast, the 2-8 Browns host the Ravens on Monday Night Football. It’s Cleveland’s first MNF appearance in six years, and though another Johnny Manziel benching and a half empty stadium drain some of the enthusiasm out of the event, the night would not soon be forgotten. With the human pinata Josh McCown knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter, it’s back-up Austin Davis, rather than Manziel, who steps in and leads an impressive late touchdown drive to tie the score at 27-27 with 1:47 to play. Incredibly, the Browns and Ravens then manage to swap possessions three more times, culminating in Cleveland kicker Travis Coons attempting a 51-yard field goal with 3 seconds to play. The Browns had mangled their clock management leading up to the kick, and though the rookie Coons had yet to miss a FG try as a pro (18-for-18), this one is a bit out of his range. As you might presume, because… sure, the potential game-winner is blocked, and Baltimore’s Will Hill picks it up and dances down the sideline all the way to pay dirt. A new way to lose! The “kick six” marks the 22nd time in the faux Browns’ 16 year history that they were defeated on the absolute final play of a game.