Browns: Has Cleveland Been Successful On Thanksgiving?


Though the Cleveland Browns are not playing this year, the team has played on Thanksgiving. Dating back many years, have the organization been successful on this annual holiday?

The Cleveland Browns have played in six Thanksgiving games in their team’s history. Yet, none of them have been played since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 and the last game that was played on Thanksgiving was in 1989.

With the said, lets take a look at the team’s games on the fourth Sunday of November.

Cleveland faced the Los Angeles Dons in their first two Thanksgiving games during the 1947 and 1948 seasons. Who are the Dons you may ask? They were an active team from 1946-1949.

The Browns were down 10-0 in their first ever Thanksgiving game, but Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham led Cleveland back to a 27-17 win. That win improved Cleveland’s record to 11-1-1. During the game Graham threw for two touchdowns for 18 yards and 69 yards respectively.

The following season’s game was very successful for the Browns as they improved to a 12-0 record on a 31-14 win over the Dons. Graham both passed and rushed for a touchdown. Pro Football Hall of Fame kicker Lou Groza kicked a 36 yard field goal while also knocking through four extra points.

Cleveland continued to add to their undefeated streak on Thanksgiving after a 14-6 win over the Chicago Hornets during the 1949 season. The 1949 season was the first year that the Browns played a Thanksgiving game at home. Cleveland’s record improved to 9-1-2 with the win. Groza kicked the two extra points and Pro Football of Fame fullback Marion Motley had a six yard rushing touchdown.

The Browns later became the American Athletic Football Conference’s (AAFC) champions in all three of those aforementioned seasons.

Exactly 17 years later to the date in 1966, the Browns started their run of match ups versus current NFL teams. The streak started with a game against the Dallas Cowboys on the road. Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Leroy Kelly rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown but the Browns lost 26-14, which dropped their record to 7-4.

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Thanksgiving day on 1982 was a disappointment for Browns fans. Cleveland was facing Dallas again for the 4PM game, but there was not much of a game that year because the Browns were down 31-0 after three quarters!

Cleveland did manage to score two touchdowns in the 31-14 loss. The loss dropped Cleveland’s record to 2-2. QB Brian Sipe had a very bad game throwing for only 85 yards on 11/23 passing with three interceptions.

Their only Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions was their last one in 1989. The good news with this game is that the Browns played better than in 1982. On the other hand, Cleveland still lost the game 13-10. With the loss Cleveland’s record fell to 7-4-1 and are currently on a three game losing streak on Thanksgiving.

That afternoon QB Bernie Kosar went 28/38 passing for 296 yards with an interception. RB Eric Metcalf rushed for only 19 yards on 11 rushing attempts.

A 3-3 record on Thanksgiving is not a bad record. Outside of the Lions and the Cowboys, teams do not know if they will be playing on Thanksgiving until their schedule is released. Yet, it has been 26 years since the Browns played on Thanksgiving!

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Yes, Cleveland is a bad team, but many other teams have had the chance to be selected to play on Thanksgiving since Cleveland’s last time. So when is it going to be the Browns’ turn again? History is always a factor and when the next opportunity to play on Thanksgiving is decided on, Cleveland will have a decent shot of winning. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!