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The 1986 Cleveland Browns season was the team's 37th season with the American Football League. The death of Don Rogers, a promising young defensive back who was preparing to enter his third season in the NFL, cast a black cloud over the team as it prepared for the 1986 season.
Cleveland won their first postseason game since 1969, and for the first time in franchise history, won the AFC Championship over the Denver Broncos, and won Super Bowl XXI to the New York Giants, in the game famous for "The Drive."
Regular season summary
Cleveland opened the regular season on the road against the defending Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears. While the Browns played well in scoring 31 points against the feared Chicago defense, they surrendered a season-high 41 points in a losing effort. The team responded well and won four of the next five games, including wins against divisional rivals Houston and Pittsburgh. The win against Pittsburgh snapped a losing streak of sixteen games for the Browns in Three Rivers Stadium.
After a week seven loss at home against the Green Bay Packers, the Browns won eight of their last nine regular season games to capture the AFC Central division title and finish the year with a franchise-record 12 wins (against 4 losses).
AFC Divisional Playoffs
The first round opponent for the Browns in the playoffs was the New York Jets. In a marathon game that lasted over four hours, the Browns won their first playoff game in 18 years, 23–20, on a 27-yard Mark Moseley field goal in double overtime.
AFC Championship Game
Eight days later, the Browns hosted the Denver Broncos to determine the AFC Championship and a trip to Pasadena, California to face the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. In a repeat of the Browns' playoff game from the previous week, the game was, once again, undecided at the end of regulation with both teams having scored 20 points. The Browns star defensive players Hanford Dixon tipped a pass that got intercepted by Frank Minnifield. The Browns then took possession and ultimately scored the game winning points on a 33-yard field goal by Mark Moseley to send Cleveland to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXI
They played the Giants in Super Bowl XXI, winning 20–17, the first of four Super Bowls and the only Browns win.The Browns won on a 98-yard possession at the end of the fourth quarter that culminated in a game-winning touchdown passed to Ozzie Newsome and later became known simply as "The Drive".