On This Date in Sports December 27, 1964: The Browns Last Championship

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Cleveland Browns blanked the Baltimore Colts 27-0 to win the NFL Championship at Municipal Stadium. It is Browns’ first championship without legendary coach Paul Brown and the last they have won. Frank Ryan had three touchdown passes to Gary Collins, while the Cleveland defense limited Johnny Unitas to 95 yards with two interceptions. Collins accounted for 130 yards on five receptions while Jim Brown rushed for 114 yards.

The Cleveland Browns ended a seven-year drought and returned to the NFL Championship Game after posting a 10-3-1 record in 1964 under coach Blanton Collier. Jim Brown led a balanced attack for Cleveland, rushing for 1,446 yards to lead the league for the seventh time in eight years.

The Baltimore Colts, meanwhile coached by Don Shula, had an outstanding 12-2 season to win the Western Conference. The Colts were led by Johnny Unitas, who had an MVP season passing for 2,824 yards with 19 touchdowns. Despite playing in Cleveland, the Colts went into the NFL Championship Game as a seven-point favorite.

A light snow fell throughout the first half as both offenses were bogged down. Both teams had long drives that ended with an interception, as the Colts botched a chip shot field goal when holder Bobby Boyd was not able to handle a high snap. The game would go into the half scoreless.

After pinning the Colts deep with the second-half kickoff, the Browns got good field position thanks to the wind. This helped set Lou Groza up for the first score of the game as he a 43-yard field goal to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead. After the Colts were unable to answer, the Browns got the ball back and finally found pay dirt as a long run by Jim Brown set up Frank Ryan from the Colts 18-yard line where he found Gary Collins in the end zone to make the score 10-0. On the ensuing kickoff, the Colts were again trapped deep in their own end. After another short puny, Ryan and Collins hooked up again from the 42 to give the Browns a 17-0 at the end of the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Colts were able to get the ball across midfield, but a crucial fumble by Lenny Moore blunted any chance Baltimore had to get back in the game, as the Browns drove down the field and made it 20-0 and chip shot by Groza. After turning the Colts away on defense again, the Browns drove in the final nail in the coffin, as Frank Ryan had his third touchdown of the game to Gary Collins going for 51 yards to make the final score read 27-0.

The Browns would again play for the NFL Championship in 1965 and lost back to back championship games to the Colts and Minnesota Vikings in 1968 and 1969. In the 50 years since the Browns lost three AFC Championship Games in four years but remained one of four teams that have never played in the Super Bowl. Of those four teams, only the Lions and Browns existed before the merger.