The Falcons will kick off just their 16th meeting ever against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 of the 2022 season. With Cleveland being an AFC opponent who originally lost their football team and were rendered inactive for a few years in the ‘90s until expansion reestablished their proud franchise, the meetings between the Falcons and Browns have been few and far between.
When they have met, it’s normally been an exercise in Cleveland beating up on the Birds. Atlanta’s all time record of 3-12 against the Browns makes for their third-lowest win percentage in a head to head matchup against anyone. They’ve only had less success against the Colts and the Steelers.
These teams played at the very beginning for the Falcons, with a Browns 49-17 victory in Atlanta’s inaugural season in 1966 being a harbinger of things to come over the next five decades.
An established powerhouse at this period of time which did not see a losing season in 17 consecutive years between 1957-1973, the Browns were in a far more advanced position as a franchise than the newly minted Falcons, and they put together another blowout win in 1969 before Atlanta came away with a surprise road upset in 1971. That was a victory which helped them to their first ever winning season.
After that, the Browns rattled off six straight head to head wins through 1990, before the Falcons finally stopped the bleeding a little bit with a 1993 victory where both teams were below .500. Luckily for the Falcons, they only had to play the Browns once during Cleveland’s dominant run of playoff appearances and division titles between 1985-1989, which was conversely a period of exclusively below .500 football for the Birds.
Due to Cleveland’s loss of the franchise and subsequent expansion, there was a nine year period where these teams did not meet between matchups in 1993 and 2002. Since ‘02, the Browns have won four of five head to head matchups, with Atlanta’s only victory coming against the QB duo of Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace in 2010.
The Falcons were feeling themselves going into their game against the Browns in Week 10 of the 2018 season — they were coming off of three straight wins to move to 4-4, while the Browns had lost four consecutive games and were sitting at 2-6-1.
It seemed to be another one of “those years” for the Browns, who at this point had suffered 10 consecutive losing seasons, were without a playoff appearance since 2002 and were coming off of just the second 0-16 season ever in 2017.
The Falcons, meanwhile, were just two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, had won a playoff game the year before and were overcoming the adversity of some early season injuries and a 1-4 start to make that playoff push we were all anticipating. The Browns weren’t taken seriously — this was just going to be a speed bump for Atlanta to overcome.
Then, the Browns absolutely kicked Atlanta’s ass. It was bully ball, with Baker Mayfield managing his way to a 151.2 quarterback rating and throwing three touchdowns despite just 20 passing attempts, and the Browns as a team rushing for 211 yards. The highlight of the day was Nick Chubb’s 92-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter which served as the dagger in a 28-16 win. The scoreline looked closer than it was because of an Atlanta garbage time touchdown.
This began a spiral of five straight defeats for Atlanta which was the beginning of the end for Dan Quinn as the team’s head coach. The Browns, meanwhile, were boosted to a series of five wins in six games which served as the beginning of their journey toward becoming a respectable NFL franchise once again.