By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has won a few playoff games. Actually, he’s won a lot. A whole lot.
Belichick has won 31 playoff games, in fact, which is 11 more than any other head coach in history. And while he’s mostly known for his 30 wins at the helm of the New England franchise, his prior life as a head coach — during which he won his first playoff game — is now getting some attention.
With a wild 48-37 win in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, the Cleveland Browns won their first playoff game since the 1994 playoffs. The Browns technically did not exist from 1996-98 after the franchise moved to Baltimore, so three years can be knocked off that drought. Nevertheless, 26 years is a looooong time for a city to have waited for a reason to celebrate in the NFL postseason.
The last time that Cleveland experienced that joy came on New Year’s Day in 1995, when the 11-5 Browns hosted the 10-6 Patriots at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Bill Parcells was on the sideline for New England, and his 42-year-old mentee was in charge of Cleveland.
At that time, the Patriots had dealt with quite the postseason drought themselves, having missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons from 1987-93. With a 1-15 record in 1990 under Rod Rust and a 2-14 record in 1992 under Dick MacPherson, Parcells getting the Patriots to the playoffs in his first year was considered a big win for the franchise.
The game, though, was another story. The Patriots actually took a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter, when Drew Bledsoe completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Leroy Thompson. The Browns answered, though, with Vinny Testaverde hitting Mark Carrier for a five-yard score on the following drive.
The Patriots would tie the game at 10-10 before halftime thanks to a successful fake punt, but Bledsoe threw two picks in the fourth quarter, and despite a successful onside kick attempt inthe final minutes by New England, the Browns held on for a 20-13 win.
Those are the details. The visuals are better.
Clearly, that game was played a little while ago. And for a quarter-century, that stood as the best memory for Browns fans. In fact, after Cleveland lost the following week in Denver, the Browns only participated in one playoff game in the 22 seasons that followed.
Fortunately, they have something new to etch into their memory banks. They broke their playoff drought, and more importantly, they broke their playoff win drought — and against their hated division rival, no less.
For the sake of everyone in Cleveland, here’s hoping the next Browns playoff win comes before 2046.