At stake: the first win of the season for one of the teams. Both were 0-2 heading into the contest, although the Raiders were clear favorites. They were at home and coming off two straight playoff seasons, whereas the Browns hadn't seen the playoffs since the 1989 Conference Championship loss to the Broncos.
The Raiders were loaded on both sides of the ball, with new quarterback Todd Marinovich leading a team with a future Hall of Famer, Tim Brown, and two Hall of Fame running backs, Marcus Allen and Eric Dickerson.
The Oakland defense was amazing, with Ronnie Lott, Howie Long, Greg Townsend, Aundray Bruce, Chester McGlockton, and Anthony Smith (who'd go on to have 13 sacks that year).
The Browns, however, were starting third-string quarterback Todd Philcox, due to injuries to starter Bernie Kosar and backup Mike Tomczak. The run game had Metcalf as a situational runner behind an aged James Brooks and Kevin Mack. Leroy Hoard and Tommy Vardell were rare-carry fullbacks.
The receivers? Michael Jackson, the leading receiver, ended up with 47 catches the entire year. The defense was also laughable, save for defensive monster Michael Dean Perry.
Also notable was linebacker Clay Matthews, Sr., who, at 36 years old, recorded nine sacks and an interception that season.
It seemed inevitable that the Raiders would rebound from their early season woes and take out their frustration on the poor Browns.
Eric Metcalf, the dangerous X-Factor of Cleveland, must have had a different ending to the story in his mind as he put on one of the best single game performances of all time, which has been long-forgotten over the last two decades.
The first quarter began, and it seemed early on that the Raiders defense was up to the task. Gearing their efforts to stopping the run, they dared Cleveland's third stringer to take to the air.
He did, and an early four-yard touchdown pass to Metcalf gave the Browns a 7-0 lead. Eric wasn't done yet, and added a six-yard TD run as well, to give the Browns a nice 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Raiders could only manage a field goal, but they at least stopped Eric Metcalf from scoring again, if only temporarily. At the half it was 14-3 and the Raiders hoped to settle down and get back into the game in the third quarter.
The third quarter saw an increase in action as Marinovich hit Willie Gault for a touchdown and brought the Raiders closer, 14-10.
Things looked good for the Silver and Black as another field goal got them even closer. It seemed only a matter of time, as the Raiders were running and passing up and down the field. Turnovers and missed opportunities kept them from truly taking over the game, however, which built the Browns' confidence.
At the close of the third quarter, Eric took over again. Todd Philcox hit him for a streaking 69-yard touchdown pass to open the lead again, 21-13.
The fourth quarter began, and soon Metcalf struck again, this time scoring on a 63-yard touchdown pass—and sealing the game in the process. A late field goal did little to lift Oakland's spirits as they fell 28-16.
Eric Metcalf scored all four touchdowns in the game for the Browns, for the Raiders could do nothing to stop him. He touched the ball 11 times and scored four times.
His final stat line: four carries for 10 yards and one TD, five catches for 177 yards and three TDs, and two punt returns for 14 yards.
Even more amazing is the comparison of the two teams' stats:
Cleveland had 31 yards total rushing vs Oakland's 110.
Cleveland had 200 passing yards (177 to Metcalf) vs Oakland's 395.
Cleveland threw zero interceptions, however, vs three for Oakland. The Browns didn't fumble once, while Oakland lost two fumbles. Cleveland also had six sacks in the game, whereas Oakland had zero.
In the annals of history, maybe it was just a game between two 0-2 teams on their way to respective 7-9 seasons. But for true fans of the game who watched that day, they got to see an exhibition of will by a player who carried his team to a dominant victory on a sunny September Sunday.
Eric Metcalf would play from 1989-2002 and have many great seasons, including a 104 catch/1189 yard season for the Falcons in 1995. But this one game early in his career would define everything about how exciting and dangerous this son of a former NFL star truly was.
Eric still holds the record for career punt return touchdowns with 10. Adding in his two kickoff return touchdowns, his total return TDs of 12 is second all time to Brian Mitchell (13). His total career combined yardage was in the top 10 in history when he retired—he is currently number 12 in all time yardage gained.
In fact, if you look at certain video watching/sharing sites, such as YouTube, you can see the touchdowns for yourself from this dominating performance, and others.