Browns' top plays: Gary Collins' catch

Malcolm Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. Yesterday we featured Lou Groza’s kick to win the NFL title in the Browns' first season in the league, and tomorrow we’ll go over “The Fumble” (enough said). Please vote for your choice as the Browns’ most memorable play.

Score: Cleveland 27, Baltimore 0

Date: Dec. 27, 1964 Site: Cleveland Municipal Stadium

The Cleveland Browns were double-digit underdogs to the mighty Baltimore Colts when they hosted the 1964 NFL title game in front of 79,544 at old Municipal Stadium (moment of silence, please). But after playing the Colts to a scoreless tie in the first half, the Browns felt they could win the game.

They started the second half with a field goal from old reliable Lou Groza, who never flinched in making a 43-yard kick in swirling winds in the cavernous old stadium, his eighth field goal in the ’64 playoffs. After forcing a punt, Jim Brown ran twice, the second for 46 yards, to put the ball at the Colts 18-yard line.

On the next play, Ryan dropped back, avoided a rush and hit Gary Collins on his patented post pattern for the touchdown that catapulted the Browns to the title. Groza would kick another field goal, and Ryan and Collins would convert on two more touchdowns as the Browns won 27-0.

There were many standouts in the game. Brown ran for 114 yards. Linebacker Larry Benz made the defensive play of the game, blowing up a screen pass in the first half to Lenny Moore when Benz was the only player capable of making the tackle. Ryan had the three touchdown passes, and Collins had 130 yards and a title-game-record three TDs.

But the post pattern epitomized the Browns of that era -- gritty, hard-working, dependent on the team. It took courage to go over the middle, but Collins made his living there. When he retired in 1971, his 70 TD receptions ranked as the sixth-highest total in NFL history. In 1963, he led the NFL in touchdown passes with 13, a team record that wasn’t broken until 2007 when Braylon Edwards (of all people) broke it. And he played in an era when teams played 14 games.

Collins blocked, and in 1965 led the league in punting with a 46.7-yard average. He was not the fastest, but he was among the toughest and the most dependable. Collins rarely dropped a pass, and when Ryan needed a play, he’d call the old post pattern.

In the last professional championship in Cleveland history of any kind, Collins’ post pattern and catch ignited an inspiring win.