Despite taking the Browns to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, head coach Marty Schottenheimer was fired at the end of the 1988 season. He left the Browns having compiled a record of 44–27 (a 62% winning percentage) with the team.
Oilers cornerback Richard Johnson's interception set up kicker Tony Zendejas' game-clinching 49-field field goal with 1:54 left in the game. After the Browns scored first on a 33-yard field goal by Matt Bahr, Houston marched 91 yards to score on quarterback Warren Moon's 14-yard touchdown pass to running back Allen Pinkett. Then on Cleveland's next drive, Oilers defensive lineman Richard Byrd recovered quarterback Don Strock's fumble to set up Pinkett's 16-yard touchdown run. Bahr later made two field goals to cut Houston's lead, 14–9, before halftime. In the third quarter, backup quarterback Mike Pagel, who replaced an injured Strock, threw a 14-yard touchdown completion to wide receiver Webster Slaughter to put the Browns ahead, 16–14. However, the Oilers marched on a 76-yard drive that was capped with running back Lorenzo White's 1-yard rushing touchdown. After Johnson's interception and Zendejas' subsequent game-clinching 49-yard field goal, Slaughter caught a 2-yard touchdown reception to close out the scoring.