Cleveland Browns fans had waited 18 years to watch their team play in a postseason game, enduring 16 losing seasons and even a winless 2017 campaign in the process.
In Sunday's wild-card round game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they wouldn't have to wait long before the celebration began.
The Browns scored a defensive touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and put up 28 points in the first quarter en route to a 48-37 win over the Steelers, earning their first playoff win since 1994.
Cleveland's most recent postseason victory—a 20-13 win over the New England Patriots in the wild-card round—came just one year before the franchise relocated to Baltimore. In addition to ending that drought, Sunday's win also snapped a 17-game losing streak at Pittsburgh, with the Browns' last road win over the Steelers coming in 2003.
The Browns defense intercepted Ben Roethlisberger three times in the first half and force four first-half turnovers. The first was a fumble recovery in the end zone that occurred on Pittsburgh's opening play when nine-time Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball over Roethlisberger's head and was recovered by Karl Joseph for the score.
Roethlisberger threw an interception on the Steelers' next drive, and a 40-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Jarvis Landry gave Cleveland a 14-0 lead in just over five minutes. Two rushing scores from Kareem Hunt would give the Browns a 28-0 lead by the end of the quarter, marking the first time a team has scored 28 first-quarter points in NFL postseason history.
Pittsburgh finally got on the board with 1:44 left in the second quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by James Conner. But the Browns responded with a nine-play, 64-yard scoring drive, capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to Austin Hooper. A field goal on the final play of the half made Cleveland's lead 35-10 at the break.
The Steelers trimmed the Browns' lead to 35-23 by the end of the third quarter and had the ball at midfield early in the fourth quarter, but opted not to go for it on fourth and short and never got closer than that. Leading 45-29, Cleveland sealed the victory by intercepting Roethlisberger for the fourth time with just over three minutes to play.
Roethlisberger finished the game 47-for-68 for 501 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions, setting the record for most completions in a single game (regular season or playoffs). Mayfield was 21-for-34 for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
The Browns were playing without head coach Kevin Stefanski as well as two assistants and four players, who all tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt took over Stefanski's usual play-calling duties.
With the win, the Browns advance to the divisional round, where they will take on the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road.