In early 1983, one AFC Wild Card playoff game pitted the 4-5 Cleveland Browns against the 8-1 Los Angeles Raiders after a strike-shortened 1982 season. Two years prior in Cleveland, the teams met in the infamous “Red Right 88” game, in which the Raiders came out victorious in the frigid snow 14-12.
Fortunately for both teams, the 1983 AFC Wild Card game would be played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 80° clear and sunny weather.
The Raiders, first in the AFC West, came into the game with the second ranked offense behind the arm QB Jim Plunkett and the legs of RB Marcus Allen. That season, Plunkett passed for 2,034 yards and 14 touchdowns. Allen gained 697 yards on the ground and scored 11 rushing touchdowns.
The Raiders won the toss and elected to receive. WR Cle Montgomery returned the K Steve Cox kickoff to the Raiders 21-yard line. With the first play of the game the Silver and Black decided to go deep with Plunkett connecting with WR Cliff Branch down the middle for 64 yards to the Browns 15-yard line. The Raiders, unable to cross the goal line, settled for a 27-yard field goal by K Chris Bahr making the score 3-0 with 12:28 still remaining in the opening quarter.
The Cleveland Browns started their first possession of the game on their 20-yard line after a touchback. The Browns drive stalled at their 27-yard line and Cox came on to punt.
The Raiders started their second drive at their 31-yard line. RB Marcus Allen ran up the middle on the first play from scrimmage for 13 yards. After a run of no gain, Plunkett dropped back to pass looking for TE Todd Christensen. The pass was deflected and ultimately intercepted by CB Clarence Scott for the game’s first turnover.
The Browns took over on their 33-yard line, but the Raiders stout defense prevented them from gaining any momentum. Cleveland was forced to punt ant the Raiders took over on their 24-yard line.
DE Howie Long (75) sacks Browns QB Paul McDonald. The Raiders sacked McDonald six times on the day.
The Raiders offense took the field and began to march downfield. Passes to Christensen and runs by Allen and RB Kenny King brought the Silver and Black the Browns 42. Unfortunately, Plunkett’s attempt on third and three to connect with Christensen for the second time on drive resulted in a CB Hanford Dixon interception.
The Browns took control on their 18-yard line with 4:01 left in the first quarter. RB Mike Pruitt took a pitch to the right for 6 yards. QB Paul McDonald connected with WR Ozzie Newsome for 17 yards and after a 5-yard face mask penalty, the Browns had the ball on their 46-yard line. On 2nd and 6 at midfield, Raiders LB Ted Hendricks broke through the line and sacked McDonald for a loss of 10 yards. Cleveland, facing 3rd and 16, gained 15 yards on a McDonald pass to WR Dwight Walker. The Browns went for it on 4th and 1. Pruitt took the handoff from McDonald and was immediately tackled by LB Matt Millen and DE Lyle Alzado, resulting in no gain and a turnover on downs.
Los Angeles started their possession on their 45-yard line with 1:46 left in the quarter. The first play from scrimmage resulted in a loss of 3 yards after Allen fumbled in the backfield and Plunkett recovered. On 2nd and 13, Plunkett connected with WR Malcolm Barnwell for 12 yards. On 3rd and 1 Plunkett threw a swing pass to Allen which resulted in a 35-yard gain and a first down. The Raiders ended the first quarter deep in Cleveland territory on the Browns 11-yard line.
On 2nd and 7, Plunkett was sacked for a loss of 9 yards by LB Clay Matthews. On 3rd and 16 a desperation pass by Plunkett into the end zone was almost intercepted by Scott, forcing the field goal team to enter the game. On 4th and 16, Bahr attempted a 35-yard field goal which missed wide left.
Cleveland took over and started their first drive of the second quarter. Their first play from scrimmage resulted in a 47-yard gain when McDonald connected with WR Ricky Feacher. On the Raiders 33-yard line, the Browns were unable to gain another first down and were forced to attempt a field goal. The 52-yard field goal was good with 12:34 left in the half and the game was tied at 3-3.
RB Marcus Allen looks for running room. AP Photo.
The Raiders offense finally began to hit its stride on their next possession. Starting at their own 12-yard line, Plunkett opened the drive with a pass to Branch for 11 yards and a first down. King ran the ball for 2 yards and Allen caught a screen pass for 9 yards and another first down. Now 1st and 10 on their 34-yard line, Plunkett connected with Christensen for a 24-yard gain and another first down on the Browns 42-yard line. The Raiders offense got another first down after King caught a Plunkett pass for 11 yards. On the Cleveland 31-yard line, Allen ran for 5 yards. On 2nd and 5, Plunkett connected with Branch who took it all the way to the Cleveland 2-yard line before fumbling it out of bounds. On 1st and goal Allen took a pitch left and scored a touchdown with 9:08 left in the half. After the Bahr extra point, the score read 10-3 Raiders.
The teams traded punts on the next two possessions.
With 3:38 left in the half, Cleveland took over on their 24-yard line. Charles White ran the ball for 6 yards on first down. On 3rd and four after a run of no gain, McDonald connected with Dwight Walker for 10 yards and a first down. White took a sweep for 5 yards but a CB Lester Hayes unnecessary roughness penalty moved the ball 15 more yards to the Los Angeles 43-yard line. On the ensuing play, the Browns would put their first and only touchdown on the board when McDonald connected with Feacher for a 43-yard touchdown with 2:02 left in the half. The game was tied at 10-10, but not for long.
The Raiders offense took the field after a great kickoff return to their 40-yard line. With 1:50 left in the half, Plunkett scrambled up the middle for a gain of 11 yards and a first down. Plunkett passed to Allen for another 8 yards with the clock still running. On the next play, Plunkett’s pass was incomplete intended for Barnwell. On 3rd and 2, Plunkett’s pass over the middle was caught by Christensen for 11 yards and a first down. With :12 left in the half, Plunkett connected with Branch for 7 yards setting up a last second field goal attempt from Bahr. With nine seconds left in the half, Bahr split the uprights on a 37-yard field goal attempt, making the score 13-10 Raiders to end the half.
The Browns opened up the second half with possession at their own 32-yard line. The Browns, who gained momentum from their last drive of the first half continued their success in the second half moving the ball to the Los Angeles 14-yard line. On 1st and 10, White fumbled the ball and committed Cleveland’s first turnover of the game.
The Raiders took over on their 11-yard line. The team would drive 89 yards in 12 plays culminating in a Marcus Allen 3-yard run into the end zone with 4:40 left in the third quarter. After the Bahr extra point, the Raiders led the Browns 20-10.
The Browns wouldn’t come close to scoring the rest of the game.
The Raiders secured the win on their first drive of the fourth quarter. Starting at their 35-yard line, Plunkett connected with Barnwell on third down for a gain of 26 yards. On the Cleveland 39-yard line, Plunkett passed to Branch down the left side for another 15 yards. A RB Frank Hawkins run for 10 yards went all the way to the Cleveland 5-yard line. Hawkins would score two plays later on a TD run for one yard. The Raiders went 80 yards in 11 plays to make the score 27-10 with 12:01 left in the game.
With the large cushion, the Raiders defense stifled the Browns offense for the rest of the game not letting them past the Raiders 47-yard line on any of their remaining possessions.
The final score in the contest was 27-10 Raiders. QB Jim Plunkett finished the game with 386 yards of total passing and WR Cliff Branch had five receptions for 121 yards.
The win advanced the Raiders to Divisional Round of the Playoffs where they would face the New York Jets.