This time, the Cleveland Browns are on the right side of history. In Sunday night’s wild-card playoff game against the Steelers, Cleveland screamed out to a 28-0 first quarter lead. The Browns’ 28 first quarter points is the most by a team in NFL postseason history. The Browns parlayed their fast start into a 48-37 victory.
The scoring spree started when Karl Joseph scooped up Maurkice Pouncey’s high snap in the end zone on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Moments later, after M.J. Stewart picked off Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry connected on a 40-yard touchdown pass. A Pittsburgh punt was followed by Kareem Hunt’s 11-yard touchdown run. Sheldrick Redwine’s pick of Roethlisberger on Pittsburgh’s next possession set up Hunt’s eight-yard touchdown run.
The win was the Browns’ first in the postseason since 1994, when Cleveland — led by Bill Belichick — defeated Bill Parcells’ Patriots in the wild-card round. Cleveland had a 24-7 lead over the Steelers in the 2002 wild-card round (the last time Cleveland was in the playoffs) before Tommy Maddox rallied Pittsburgh to a 36-33 win.
While a 28-point first quarter is staggering enough, making the Browns’ quick start even more jaw-dropping is the fact that Cleveland was forced to practice virtually for most of the week due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, a Coach of the Year candidate, is watching the game at home after testing positive for the virus. The Browns are also playing without starters Olivier Vernon, cornerback Denzel Ward and offensive lineman Joel Bitonio.
The Browns may have set the first quarter postseason scoring record, but Washington’s 1987 team still holds the record for the most points scored in a single playoff game. Washington, behind four Doug Williams touchdown passes, scored 35 points in the second quarter of their 42-10 win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.