Bloomington, Minn. – The Cleveland Browns defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 20-17, at Metropolitan Stadium. However, many Vikings fans may claim the Vikings defeated themselves after Minnesota turned the football over nine times; six fumbles lost and three interceptions. The final Vikings’ fumble of the game by fullback Bill Brown, and his second of the day, proved to be the most costly as Cleveland quarterback Bill Nelsen converted the turnover into a 70-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:19 capped by Leroy Kelly’s plunge from one yard out. Minnesota was grinding out the clock with their own eight-play drive until Brown fumbled the ball.
Minnesota appeared in the early stages to take control of the game with scoring drives in their first two possessions to take a 10-0 first quarter lead. However, a pair of fumbles and a pair of interceptions gave the Browns life, but Cleveland could only convert the four turnovers into a 14-yard Don Cockroft field goal as Minnesota’s defense stood tall. In fact, the vaunted “Purple People Eaters” turned the final Cleveland threat away as Gary Larsen forced and recovered a Leroy Kelly fumble at the Minnesota goal line to preserve a touchdown lead by Minnesota at the half.
Minnesota stopped Cleveland’s first possession of the second half, but on the first play from scrimmage, Brown fumbled and Ron Snidow recovered for Cleveland. Nelsen and the Browns could only covert this turnover into another 14 yard Cockroft field goal to trim the lead to 10-6. After another Minnesota fumble on their subsequent possession, Nelsen finally found paydirt by connecting with tight end Milt Morin on an 18-yard touchdown strike that gave Cleveland a 13-10 lead. But as the third quarter expired, Nelsen threw his third interception of the game deep in their own territory. Karl Kassulke returned the ball to the Cleveland 8. Dave Osborn rushed in from 3 yards for a 17-13 Vikings lead to start the fourth quarter. Osborn led all rushers with 85 yards in 21 attempts.
It was a lead that appeared Minnesota did not wish to keep. The Vikings turned the ball over on their next three possessions in the fourth quarter, the final one being Brown’s miscue that led to the eventual winning touchdown. Both clubs now stand with a 7-1 record and it may surprise nobody if a rematch occurs in the playoffs. The Eagles defeated Washington 30-16. The Lions beat the Falcons at home, 23-20. The Cardinals, led by 242 passing yards by Charley Johnson, pounded the Giants, 34-14.