September 20, 2015

1964: Browns and Cards Battle to Tie in Back-and-Forth Contest

The Cleveland Browns hosted the St. Louis Cardinals on September 20, 1964, the second week of the NFL season, in what was an early showdown between two teams widely viewed as contenders in the Eastern Conference. Both had won their opening-week games.

The Browns, coached by Blanton Collier, finished second in 1963 with a 10-4 record. The key to the offense, as it had been since he joined the club in 1957, was FB Jim Brown (pictured above), but QB Frank Ryan and flanker Gary Collins were up-and-coming talents, and they were being joined by rookie split end Paul Warfield, who brought needed speed to the receiving corps. The defense was capable, if showing some age, and was especially shaky in the backfield.

St. Louis was coming off of a 9-5 record in ’63 under Head Coach Wally Lemm. QB Charley Johnson was a productive passer with excellent receivers to throw to in split end Sonny Randle and flanker Bobby Joe Conrad. There was good depth at running back, and star HB John David Crow was back after missing virtually all of ’63 due to injury, although HB Bill Triplett was sidelined due to illness.

There were 76,954 fans in attendance at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium on a warm and sunny day. The Cardinals got a break on the first play from scrimmage when LB Larry Stallings intercepted a Frank Ryan pass and returned it 18 yards to the Cleveland 22. On the next play, Charley Johnson tossed a short pass to John David Crow that went the distance for a touchdown. Jim Bakken added the extra point for the quick 7-0 lead.

Flanker Walter Roberts returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the St. Louis 44 and, with Jim Brown carrying most of the load the Browns reached the 25 before 40-year-old Lou Groza (pictured at left) kicked a 32-yard field goal. Now it was Cleveland’s opportunity to benefit from a turnover on the next series as Bobby Joe Conrad fumbled after catching a short pass from Johnson and DE Bill Glass recovered for the home team at the St. Louis 20. HB Ernie Green ran for five yards and Brown carried twice for another 14, but after advancing to the one, a penalty moved the Browns back and they had to settle for a 12-yard Groza field goal that made it a one-point contest.

The Cards put together a good drive in the waning minutes of the opening period. Johnson completed a pass to HB Joe Childress for 21 yards and Crow and Childress both ran effectively. Bakken kicked a 30-yard field goal and the visitors extended their lead to 10-6 heading into the second quarter.

The Browns went three-and-out on their next possession but got the ball back on an interception by CB Ross Fichtner. Starting from the St. Louis 33, the home team reached the 16 but was flagged for a personal foul on a third down play that not only backed them up 15 yards but cost them the services of Green, a capable blocker as well as running mate for Brown, who was ejected. Groza kicked his third field goal of the contest, from 37 yards, and the Cards’ lead was once again narrowed to a single point at 10-9.

On the next series, the Cardinals advanced past midfield as Crow and Childress again ran well and Johnson tossed a pass to Conrad.  The drive stalled at the Cleveland 44, but Bakken came through with a 51-yard field goal, which was a club record at the time and made the score 13-9. The Browns moved quickly to take the lead on the next possession, going 69 yards in just three plays. Ryan threw to Paul Warfield for 12 yards and Gary Collins for 17 more, and then followed up with a long pass to Warfield for a 40-yard touchdown. Groza converted and Cleveland was now ahead at 16-13, which remained the score at halftime.

St. Louis started off the third quarter with a 71-yard drive in seven plays. Crow carried four straight times for 18 yards and Childress added another nine before Johnson connected with Sonny Randle (pictured at right) for a 38-yard TD. Bakken added the point after and the Cards were back on top by 20-16.

The Cardinals got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff when Roberts fumbled and OT Herschel Turner recovered at the Cleveland 43. The short series was followed by another Bakken field goal, this time from 44 yards for an extended margin of 23-16.

The Browns went three-and-out and punted but now it was the Cardinals turning the ball over once more as Johnson faded back to pass and fumbled when hit by Glass. DT Dick Modzelewski recovered at the St. Louis 28. Ryan passed to Collins for 21 yards and then hit the flanker again for a seven-yard touchdown. Groza converted and the score was tied at 23-23.

The teams exchanged punts but the Cardinals were on the move at the end of the period and, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Johnson completed a pass to Randle for a 50-yard TD. Bakken added the PAT to make it a 30-23 game.

The Browns responded with a long drive of 72 yards that took 13 plays. Ryan was successful on three passes and ran out of the pocket for 17 yards to the St. Louis 12. However, he was also sacked for a 14-yard loss and, while a toss to Brown got eight yards back, Cleveland had to settle for another Groza field goal, from 25 yards, cutting the visitors’ lead to 30-26.

The Cards went three-and-out and punted on their next series and the Browns responded with a 12-play, 61-yard possession. Facing a fourth-and-19 situation at the St. Louis 45 after Ryan was sacked, and with only 1:28 remaining on the clock, Ryan completed a pass to Collins for 43 yards. Two plays later, Brown swept into the end zone from a yard out and, with Groza’s extra point, Cleveland was back on top by three points at 33-30 and appeared to have the game in hand.

St. Louis took over following the kickoff at its own 25 with 28 seconds to play. Johnson passed over the middle to Childress for a gain of 24 yards and then to Randle at the sideline for 14. Another completion, this time to Crow, put the Cards at the Cleveland 21 with the clock now down to seven seconds. Bakken came on to kick a 28-yard field goal and the game ended in a 33-33 tie. 

The Cardinals had the edge in total yards (344 to 281) while Cleveland had more first downs (18 to 17). While St. Louis had more net passing yards (241 to 189), the rushing totals were almost even (115 to 114, in favor of the Browns). Each club recorded two sacks and turned the ball over three times.  Jim Bakken (pictured below) and Lou Groza both were a perfect four-for-four on their field goal attempts. The Cards were penalized eight times, to two flags thrown on the Browns.

Charley Johnson completed 14 of 27 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns while giving up one interception. John David Crow rushed for 58 yards on 11 carries and caught three passes for 29 yards and a TD while Joe Childress contributed 52 yards on 14 rushing attempts and also pulled in three passes, for 50 yards. Sonny Randle led the Cards with four pass receptions for 121 yards and two TDs.

For the Browns, Frank Ryan, who was battered by the pass rush throughout the contest, was successful on 12 of 26 throws for 189 yards and two TDs and was intercepted twice. Gary Collins caught 6 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown and Paul Warfield added three receptions for 63 yards and a score. Jim Brown ran for 79 yards on 21 carries that included a touchdown.

Both teams remained in a battle for the top spot in the Eastern Conference throughout the season. The Cardinals got off to a 3-0-1 start before losing three of four while Cleveland lost just one game during that stretch to open up a two-game advantage. While the Cards finished strong, including a win over the Browns in the rematch at St. Louis, they finished in second place at 9-3-2 while Cleveland took the crown at 10-3-1 and went on to upset the Colts for the NFL Championship.

Jim Brown, for the seventh time in eight seasons, led the league in rushing with 1446 yards. Frank Ryan threw the most touchdown passes (25) while Gary Collins had 35 catches for 544 yards (15.5 avg.) and eight TDs and Paul Warfield had an outstanding first year with 52 receptions for 920 yards (17.7 avg.) and nine scores.

Charley Johnson (pictured above) led the NFL in pass attempts (420), completions (223), yards (3045), and, less fortunately, in interceptions (24). Sonny Randle appeared in only seven games due to a shoulder injury and compiled 25 pass receptions for 517 yards (20.7 avg.) and five touchdowns.

Lou Groza and Jim Bakken, who matched each other field goal for field goal in the Week 2 game, ended up tied for second in scoring with 115 points. Bakken led the NFL with 25 field goals (in 38 attempts), while Groza placed second with 22 (out of 33 tries). Groza had the edge in extra points by 49 to 40.