We still call them the Browns.
Art Modell might have picked his woeful Browns up and moved them from the Midwest to the Eastern seaboard, but we haven’t forgotten what our Denver Broncos did to them beforehand. Their team colors are black and purple now; but the franchise poised to face the orange and blue at Mile High on Saturday are our most familiar playoff opponent of all time.
The people of Maryland may call them the Ravens, but to Denver fans the team that now resides in Baltimore is still the same old Cleveland Browns that we thumped in the ’86, ’87 and ‘89 AFC Championship games. We remember “the Drive”. We remember “the Fumble”. We remember Denver’s dominance against Marty Schottenheimer, Bernie Kosar, Earnest Byner and the rest. And to us nothing has changed.
As Keith Bishop once said, “We’ve got them right where we want them.”
When Modell’s squad returns to Denver, the Broncos will continue one of the proudest traditions in NFL playoff history by beating them yet again. They abandoned their real fans in 1996, backfilling a market into which John Elway once refused to drafted, but the Broncos never left. The tradition that existed here in the Super Bowl years of the 1980s still remains and so do the memories of triumph after triumph over the also-rans now known as the Ravens.
Maryland people aren’t necessarily aware of their club’s history with John Elway and his teams. To them the gut-wrenching feeling they feel on Saturday night will be all new. The “Ravens” are 6-4 all-time against Denver, but in their previous incarnation (the Browns) they went 5-21 all time against the Broncos. Denver’s winning percentage against them was 80.8.
The Broncos have surrendered only one playoff loss this franchise. It was in the Wild Card round following the 1999 season, Modell’s first in Baltimore. It took his relocating to snap the curse of Elway. It also took Denver having Gus Frerotte at quarterback. It will be Peyton Manning this time. Manning is undefeated is his last nine match-ups with the former Browns.
Elway will be back for this one, too. The man who gave Browns fans nightmares back in the eighties is an executive now. He will be a thorn in the side of the franchise – and the City of Baltimore once again.
Ray Lewis is the face of the Baltimore Ravens today. To Broncos fans, however, they’re still our bumbling half-rivals, Modell’s team, Marty and the boys. Baltimore had the Colts when John Elway refused to play there, before the Colts had Manning. Cleveland had the Browns before the Browns became the Ravens and stuck the people of Ohio with the memories of all those Broncos losses.
Maryland inherited a new team back in 1996 and along with that team it inherited a history. When it comes to facing the Denver Broncos that history is as bleak as a Baltimore slum.