A Football Game Fit For Hollywood

 A Football Game Fit for Hollywood
With his beloved Browns, Mike Payne wins his 1,000th online game
By Mike Payne
            The game of Strat-O-Matic Football has been a hobby of mine for many years. In March of 2010, I was approaching my 1,000th win in online play. After getting win number 999 in a college game, I lost a pretty meaningless non-league game. Next was a league game with my All-Star Browns facing the All-Star Steelers.           
            The Browns stood atop the AFC Central at 5-0, with the Steelers trying to fight their way back in the race at 3-2. Arthur Cooke was coaching the Steelers; he is one of the best Strat footballers I’ve faced. Hollywood could not have scripted this any better with my love for the Browns, and winning this one versus our most bitter, most hated rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. 
            The 1st quarter was typical Browns-Steelers football. Big hits and little scoring, until Rod Woodson broke a punt return for a 49-yard TD to put the Steelers ahead 7-0 with 2:42 left in the first quarter. (Lou Groza had missed a 42-yard FG earlier.)

            The Browns, with Jim Brown returning from his two week holdout, tied the score on their next possession. A six play 60 yard drive led by Otto Graham who completed a 17-yard pass to Gary Collins and then passes of 9 and 16 yards to Dante Lavelli after a 19-yard Motley run. Graham hit Paul Warfield from 13 yards out two plays later to tie the game 7-7.

            A Pittsburgh punt followed by a Cleveland punt followed by another Pittsburgh punt opened the second quarter. Free Safety Jack Butler then picked off Graham’s short pass to Collins at the Steelers 43 yard line and returned it 20 yards to the Browns’ 37. Two correct double teams by the Browns defense didn’t rattle Bradshaw who calmly dumped off to Buddy Dial for a 16-yard gain, and Jerome Bettis for a gain of 13 yards to the Browns’ 8. Bradshaw then found Rocky Bleier in the end zone for a TD and a 14-7 lead.

            On 3rd and 7, a Graham scramble for 8 yards and a first down was negated by an offsides on the Browns. They ended up punting with 2:24 left in the half and Arthur and his Steelers drove 52 yards in 10 plays for a 39-yard Gary Anderson FG and a 17-7 lead at the half.

            The Steelers opened the third quarter with another drive for a FG from 20 yards out to gain a 20-7 advantage.

            Graham and the Browns answered with a 10 play, 69 yard drive. Key plays on this drive were a 15 yard short pass to Leroy Kelly, a 12-yard Jim Brown run, a 12-yard run by Kelly, and a 10-yard pass to Collins to the Pittsburgh 5. The Steeler defense dug in and forced two incomplete passes, but on 3rd and goal, Leroy Kelly’s run had the Browns back in the game – 20-14 Steelers, midway through the third quarter.

            During the next drive, Kelly scored from 9 yards out on an end run. Groza somehow shanked the extra point (2-11) and the score was 20-20 with 1:48 to play in the third quarter.

            A sack by Big Bill put Pittsburgh in a hole to force 2nd and 16, but Arthur got his Steelers out of it. On 3rd and 11 he found Louis Lipps for a gain of 16 to the Cleveland 47. On 3rd and 1 from the Cleveland 38, Franco Harris was stripped of the ball by Willis after a 2 yard gain, but Left Guard Jeff Hastings recovered for Pittsburgh. Willis then stuffed Harris for a gain of 0. On 2nd and 10, Big Bill stopped Harris again after a gain of 2 and ripped the ball from him.

            Three plays later on 3rd and 4, sure-handed Ozzie Newsome gained 5 yards on a pass in the flat. Jack Ham was there to greet him. Donnie Shell recovered for Pittsburgh on the Browns 45 with 11:24 to play and still tied 20-20.

            After Pittsburgh gained a first down at the Cleveland 22, Thom Darden picked off Bradshaw’s short pass to Dial at the Browns’ 9, and returned it 4 yards out to the 13. After a punt, Pittsburgh took over at its own 12 and reached the Cleveland 43 at the two-minute warning when Bradshaw dumped off to John Henry Johnson for 30 yards.

            Arthur tried to use as much clock as possible, and put his trust in his defense. On 3rd and 8, a draw play to Johnson gained just 1 yard as the Browns stuck with their base 4-3 defense. Anderson came out to kick a 32-yard FG and it was good to give the Steelers a 23-20 lead with just 1:00 left to play.

            The home town crowd never let up and the deafening cheers turned to a sudden gasp as Greg Pruitt nearly fumbled the kick return (I said nearly…we rolled a 2..NOT A 3!) and as Pruitt raced down the left sideline toward the Dawg Pound, the old Municipal Stadium erupted, and fell silent again as he was tackled 88 yards later on the Steelers’ 7-yard line with 0:45 left
in regulation.

            Two short passes to Jim Brown and Ozzie Newsome guessed right by Arthur out of a 3RB/2TE set fell incomplete. On 3rd and goal, Leroy Kelly was stopped at the 5 by Right Linebacker Andy Russell. Lou Groza then made a 12-yard FG to tie the game 23-23 to send it into overtime.

            The Browns got the ball first, and went three-and-out. Bradshaw then gave the Cleveland crowd another reason to cheer as his short pass to Lynn Swann was intercepted by Erich Barnes at the Pittsburgh 38 with no return.

            Brown and Kelly got Cleveland to the Pittsburgh 30 and a 3rd and 2. Otto Graham then hit Collins for a gain of 17 to the Steelers’ 13 and I immediately sent out Groza for the 2-10 FG. Right End Dwight White made a HUGE play for the Steelers, breaking through and blocking the kick. You could hear a pin drop.

            Steelers ball on the Pittsburgh 27. Enter Mr. Bradshaw…Again, first play from scrimmage, with Bob Gain breathing down his neck, Bradshaw’s’ short pass to Buddy Dial is intercepted this time by Left Cornerback Frank Minnifield at the Steelers’ 42 and returned 15 yards to the 27.

            A 5 yard run by Brown and a 13-yard flat pass to Newsome put the Browns on the Steelers 9, and not at all losing faith in Lou "THE TOE" Groza, I immediately sent him out for the FG.

            Browns win 26-23 in overtime.

            AWESOME GAME, Arthur!

To view the box score from Mike’s game, click here