1971 Cleveland Browns season

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1971 Cleveland Browns season
Head coach Nick Skorich
Home field Cleveland Stadium
Local radio WHK
Results
Record 9–5
Division place 1st AFC Central
Playoff finish Lost AFC Divisional Playoffs
The Browns hosting the Colts in the 1971 AFC Divisional Playoffs Game..

The 1971 Cleveland Browns season was the team's 22nd season with the National Football League.

After missing the playoffs the previous year, the Browns got off to a good start at 4–1 only to stumble losing 4 straight to fall to 4–5. However, the Browns would rebound to win the final 5 games of the season for the AFC Central Division title. Just as the 1967 Browns returned to the playoffs following a one-year absence, so, too, did the '71 club, which was in its first season under new head coach Nick Skorich after Blanton Collier's final team in 1970 had finished just 7–7, ending a string of three consecutive postseason berths.

As was the case in 1967, the '71 Browns went 9–5 and won a division crown. They captured the AFC Central for the first time, finishing three games in front of the soon-to-emerge Pittsburgh Steelers (6–8). In the playoffs the Browns would fall in the first round 20–3 to the Baltimore Colts. Running back Leroy Kelly was on the downside of his Pro Football Hall of Fame career, but he did manage to rush for 865 yards and 10 touchdowns – still good for a 14-game season. Wide receiver Fair Hooker led the team in receptions with 45.[1]

Roster[edit]

1971 Cleveland Browns roster
Quarterbacks

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen

Linebackers

Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

{{{reserve_lists}}}


Rookies in italics

Exhibition schedule[edit]

Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 August 8, 1971 at San Francisco 49ers L 38–24
40,000
2 August 13, 1971 vs. Los Angeles Rams L 17–5
52,503
3 August 20, 1971 at Dallas Cowboys L 16–15
69,099
4 August 28, 1971 vs. Chicago Bears at South Bend, Indiana L 20–19
43,568
5 September 4, 1971 New York Giants W 30–7
82,710
6 September 10, 1971 at St. Louis Cardinals L 27–13
46,171

Regular season schedule[edit]

Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 19, 1971 Houston Oilers W 31–0
73,387
2 September 26, 1971 at Baltimore Colts W 14–13
56,837
3 October 4, 1971 Oakland Raiders L 34–20
84,285
4 October 10, 1971 Pittsburgh Steelers W 27–17
83,391
5 October 17, 1971 at Cincinnati Bengals W 27–24
60,284
6 October 24, 1971 Denver Broncos L 27–0
75,674
7 October 31, 1971 Atlanta Falcons L 31-14
76,825
8 November 7, 1971 at Pittsburgh Steelers L 26–9
50,202
9 November 14, 1971 at Kansas City Chiefs L 13–7
50,388
10 November 21, 1971 New England Patriots W 27–7
65,238
11 November 28, 1971 at Houston Oilers W 37–24
37,921
12 December 5, 1971 Cincinnati Bengals W 31–27
82,705
13 December 12, 1971 at New Orleans Saints W 21–17
72,794
14 December 19, 1971 at Washington Redskins W 20–13
53,041

Game Summaries[edit]

Week 1: vs. Houston[edit]

The Browns open the regular season by blasting the Oilers, 31-0, in Nick Skorich's first game as coach. Leroy Kelly scores the Browns' first two touchdowns on 1-yard runs, and Bill Nelsen and Mike Phipps both throw a touchdown pass. The Browns intercept five passes (two by rookie Clarence Scott) and yield just 11 first downs.

Week 2: At Baltimore[edit]

The Browns survived a late mistake and upset the defending Super Bowl-champion Colts, 14-13 at Baltimore. After Walt Sumner intercepts a Johnny Unitas pass with five seconds left (Cleveland's fifth interception), he attempts to lateral to Scott, who never touches the ball as Baltimore's Ray Perkins recovers at the Cleveland 27. But the Colts, out of timeouts, watch theclock expire before they can get off a field-goal attempt.

Week 5: At Cincinnati[edit]

The Browns edge the Bengals, 27-24, at Cincinnati on Bo Scott's third touchdown - a 4-yard run with 39 seconds remaining. The win improves Cleveland's record to 4-1 and drops Paul Brown's defending AFC Central-champion Bengals to 1-4. The Browns get a break when defensive end Jack Gregory recovers a fumble at the Cincinnati 10, setting up a Nelsen-to-Scott TD pass.

Week 7: vs. Atlanta[edit]

Week 7: Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Falcons 14 7 7331
Browns 0 0 7714

at Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

  • Date: October 31
  • Game time: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 63°F, relative humidity 72%, round (wind) 11 MPH
  • Game attendance: 76,825
  • TV announcers (CBS): Don Criqui (play–by–play), Irv Cross (color commentator) and Frank Clarke (sideline reporter)
  • [1]
Game information

Week 10 vs. New England[edit]

The Browns snap a four-game losing streak with a 27-7 win over the Patriots at Cleveland Stadium. Kelly rushes for 113 yards and scores two touchdowns, one on a 7-yard pass from Nelsen for the game's first score. The Browns intercept four passes by New England rookie Jim Plunkett, who has trouble adjusting on a windy day.

Week 12 vs. Cincinnati[edit]

The Browns clinch their first AFC Central Division title with a 31-27 win over Cincinnati at Cleveland. Leroy Kelly, who surpassed the 100-yard mark for the 26th time, scores the first and last touchdowns to complement a 224-yard passing performance by Nelsen.

Playoffs[edit]

Round Date Opponent Result Attendance
Divisional December 26, 1971 Baltimore Colts L 20–3
74,082

Standings[edit]

AFC Central
W L T PCT DIV CONF PF PA STK
Cleveland Browns 9 5 0 .643 5–1 7–4 285 273 W5
Pittsburgh Steelers 6 8 0 .429 4–2 5–6 246 292 L1
Houston Oilers 4 9 1 .308 2–4 4–7 251 330 W3
Cincinnati Bengals 4 10 0 .286 1–5 3–8 284 265 L3

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.

References[edit]