On Christmas Eve of 2016, I was in the process of driving from my mother-in-law’s house near Peoria, Illinois to my own parent’s home in the Cleveland area. We left just in time to catch the opening kickoff of the Browns matchup with the then-San Diego Chargers on the radio.

It’s a car ride I’ll never forget. Most Browns fans remember that fateful day and know the name Jamie Meder because of it. With the Browns now at 7-7 and struggling desperately to stay afloat in the crowded AFC postseason race on Christmas Eve 2021, it’s important to look back five years and see just how far the team has come.

The Browns entered that game against the Chargers at 0-14. The losing streak extended back into the 2015 season to 17 straight games. That 2015 team went 3-13 with the motley crew of Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown splitting the quarterback duties, with a couple of games of Austin Davis sprinkled in as a reminder that it could, in fact, get worse.

Cleveland had won just four of its last 37 games going back to the 2014 season, when Mike Pettine’s Browns dropped six of their final seven games to finish 7-9. Going 3-34 is exceptionally depressing, no doubt about it. Nobody wanted Hue Jackson’s Browns to go winless in 2016, but it sure looked like that dreadful fate was coming.

That’s when Meder stepped up and inserted his name into Browns lore. A Northeast Ohio native, Meder blocked a potential game-tying, 32-yard field goal attempt from Josh Lambo late in the fourth quarter to preserve the fragile 20-17 Browns lead.

I’ll never forget the radio call from Jim Donovan on the Browns radio network. The roar of the Dawg Pound fans was cacophonous even over the radio as we approached Toledo on the Ohio Turnpike. That fantastic play didn’t technically win the game, however; Lambo missed a 45-yard attempt as time expired, too. But Meder’s heroics live on as the key to snapping the horrible losing spell.

It was, alas, the brightest spot of the Hue Jackson era. Coming on Christmas Eve, it was a much-needed present for the long-suffering fans. My family had a noticeable bounce in their steps when we arrived, and it wasn’t just from seeing us. Browns fans know the feeling.

It’s why we can all still sing all the verses of the 12 Days of a Cleveland Browns Christmas penned for “Rutigliano’s Super Bowl team” back in 1980. It’s the fond memory of beating the Oilers just before Christmas in 1989 to win a division title when Kevin Mack plunged into the end zone. Those are part of why Browns fans stuck through the prolonged, soul-sucking misery.

This humble site, the Browns Wire, was one week away from launching on the day the Browns beat the Chargers. I had just been hired to create and develop it, a very merry gift indeed. It made the car ride across the Great Lakes that much more enchanting, paying more attention to the little details of the radio call. The victory was some much-needed juice to energize us behind the scenes but also for fans to see some coveted light and joy.

No, the light didn’t stay on. The following season saw 0-17. It took 21 months of running this site before I finally covered a Browns win. I don’t ever forget that. It hurt. Still does, honestly.

So I look at these current Browns and their Christmas challenge. As weird and injured and exhilaratingly frustrating as this 2021 season has been, it’s still been a far more joyous time than the ghosts of Browns teams’ past. And with a new Jamie Meder-type moment on Christmas Day, all of the vast Browns fandom around the world can revel in the good tidings and great joy of celebrating a great win for Cleveland.

Merry Christmas, and go Browns!