Cleveland Browns QB Brian Sipe threw a devastating interception that ended the game and his team's season.
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Relive 'Red Right 88': The Play Call Every Cleveland Browns Fan Would Like to Forget


Cleveland, Ohio, knows a thing or two about "named" highlights. The only thing is, Cleveland is almost always on the losing side of them.

There's "The Shot," "The Decision," "The Catch" -- all of which saw the city of Cleveland suffering. The Cleveland Browns own most of these illustrious named events, including "The Drive," "The Fumble" and "The Move."

Another such play, "Red Right 88," is actually named for the fated play call that effectively ended the Browns' 1980-81 season.

"Red Right 88" Sinks Cleveland's Playoff Hopes


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On Jan. 4, 1981, the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders met in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. At the time, this game was the coldest NFL game since the so-called "Ice Bowl". (This would be beaten the following season by a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers.)

The temperature may have played a part in the fated play call by contributing to the struggles of Browns kicker Don Cockroft. Cockroft missed two field goals, had an extra point blocked and had an issue with the snap on a separate attempt. Cleveland quarterback Brian Sipe and Oakland quarterback Jim Plunkett traded interceptions and frustrations throughout the game. When Raiders running back Mark van Eeghen punched it in for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, the score was only 14-12. This was nothing new to the Browns, who had made such a habit of playing close games that they were known as the "Kardiac Kids."

After moving down the field with big plays to Greg Pruitt and Mike Pruitt late in the fourth quarter, the Browns found themselves on the Raiders' 13-yard line with under a minute remaining and a chance to win the game. Well within range of a game-winning field goal, the contest seemed to be over. But as previously mentioned, Cockroft struggled all game with the weather and, as was learned after the season, some injuries such as a couple herniated discs in his back.


With that all in mind, Cleveland head coach Sam Rutigliano called in the next play: "Red Slot Right, Halfback Stay, 88" or "Red Right 88." He also famously told Sipe to "throw it into Lake Erie" if the play wasn't wide open, as it was only second down. Sipe would then make the wrong read and not see that wide receiver Dave Logan was open, and he moved to his second read, tight end Ozzie Newsome. What Sipe also didn't see was Raiders safety Mike Davis, who intercepted the ball before the Browns Hall of Famer could complete the catch in the end zone, effectively ending the game and the Browns' season.

Sipe could potentially take solace in the fact that he would win the MVP award that season, but I have to imagine he'd give that up for another shot at that pass. I know the city of Cleveland and all Browns fans would. The Raiders would go on to face the Chargers and eventually the Philadelphia Eagles en route to winning Super Bowl XV. The Browns would eventually move to Baltimore and become the Ravens, but that's another story to hurt Cleveland fans another day.

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