1954 NFL Championship Game

The 1954 National Football League championship game was the league's 22nd annual championship game, held on December 26 at Cleveland Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Billed as the "1954 World Professional Football Championship Game," the turnover-plagued contest was won by quarterback Otto Graham and the Cleveland Browns, who defeated Bobby Layne and the Detroit Lions by a score of 56 to 10.

1954 NFL Championship Game
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Cleveland Stadium under construction
Detroit Lions Cleveland Browns
10 56
1234 Total
Detroit Lions 3700 10
Cleveland Browns 1421147 56
DateDecember 26, 1954
StadiumCleveland Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
RefereeTom Timlin
Attendance43,827
TV in the United States
NetworkDuMont
AnnouncersByrum Saam and Chuck Thompson
Radio in the United States
NetworkMutual
AnnouncersEarl Gillespie and Chris Schenkel

Background

The Detroit Lions (9–2–1) of the Western Conference met the Cleveland Browns (9–3) of the Eastern Conference in the NFL title game for the third consecutive year. The Lions won the previous two: 17–7 at Cleveland in 1952 and 17–16 at home in Briggs Stadium in 1953. They were attempting to become the first team to win three consecutive league titles in the championship game era (since 1933).[1] The Browns, who entered the league only in 1950 with the demise of the All-America Football Conference, faced a particularly daunting task in taking on the Lions, having lost all eight of the franchise's previous matches against the Detroit club.[2]

The Lions were led by quarterback Bobby Layne, running back Doak Walker, and head coach Buddy Parker. The Browns were led by head coach Paul Brown and quarterback Otto Graham. The Lions had won the regular season meeting 14–10 the week before on December 19, also at Cleveland, with a late touchdown.[3] Detroit was a slight favorite (2½ to 3 points) to three-peat as champions.[4][5]

The underdog Browns won the title at home in a rout, 56–10; placekicker Lou Groza made eight extra points, a new title game record, among many.[6]

Starters

Note: Players often played both offense and defense in this period. Although free substitution existed from 1943, what are today considered defensive starters were categorized as "substitutes" in this era.

Cleveland Browns

Chuck Noll 1954
Cleveland Right Guard Chuck Noll went on to become the Hall of Fame coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Detroit Lions

Doak Walker practicing (8679147364) (2) (cropped)
Detroit Left Halfback Doak Walker is the namesake of the annual award presented to the best running back in college football.

Game Summary

First quarter

On its first possession, Lions' fullback Bill Bowman ran for 50 yards but lost the ball to Cleveland on a fumble.[2] The Lions regained possession at the Cleveland 35 when Joe Schmidt intercepted an Otto Graham pass. The Browns defense held and Detroit was forced to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Doak Walker.[2]

Billy Reynolds returned the subsequent kickoff 46 yards, crossing midfield to the Lions' 41 yard line. Cleveland was forced to punt but a roughing penalty gave the Browns new life and Graham hit Ray Renfro with a 35-yard pass for a touchdown. Following the Lou Groza conversion, the score stood at Cleveland 7, Detroit 3.[2]

On the next possession another Layne interception by defensive back Paul was run back 33 yards, setting up Cleveland in the red zone on the Detroit 8 yard line, with Graham hitting left end Darrell Brewster for the score. Following Groza's kick the score was Browns 14, Lions 3.[2]

Second quarter

Detroit was again stopped on their next possession and its punt was taken by Cleveland's Billy Reynolds and returned 46 yards to the Detroit 10 yard line. Grinding the ball to the 1 yard line, Graham ran a quarterback sneak and hit paydirt. Following the Groza conversion the score stood at Browns 21, Lions 3.[2]

Lion running back Lewis Carpenter tore up a 52-yard run in Detroit's next possession, setting up Detroit for its only touchdown of the day when fullback Bill Bowman scored from five yards out. Following the conversion by Lions kicker Doak Walker, it was Browns 21, Lions 10.[2]

Cleveland was forced to punt, but on the next Detroit possession defensive lineman McCormack ripped the ball from Layne, with the Browns recovering on the Detroit 31. Four plays later Graham ran for another touchdown, reaching the end zone standing up. With the conversion the score was Browns 28, Lions 10, and the route was on.[2]

Yet another Bobby Layne pass was intercepted by Cleveland's Michaels, who was listed as a substitute fullback and was thus probably playing the modern equivalent of the safety position. With the ball on the Lions' 31, Otto Graham launched a pass to halfback Ray Renfro, who made a great catch at the five yard line and took the ball over the score. With Groza's conversion, the halftime score was Browns 35, Lions 10.[2]

Third quarter

The Browns opened the second half with a six play drive, highlighted by a 43-yard strike from Otto Graham to Darrell Brewster, who was stopped just short of the goal line. Graham scored his third touchdown of the day with a quarterback sneak, with Groza converting to make the score Browns 42, Lions 10.[2]

Kenny Konz grabbed the first of his two interceptions, running the ball back to the Detroit 13. Two plays later substitute fullback Curly Morrison scored on a 12-yard run. Following the Groza extra point, the third quarter score stood at Browns 49, Lions 10.[2]

Fourth quarter

Yet another pick by Konz set up the final touchdown of the day, when substitute halfback Chet Hanulak scored from the 10. With Groza's extra point, the final score was reached: Browns 56, Lions 10.[2]

Line summary

Sunday, December 26, 1954
Kickoff: 2 p.m. EST

  • First quarter
    • DET – FG Walker, 36 yards, 3–0 DET
    • CLE – Renfro 35-yard pass from Graham (Groza kick), 7–3 CLE
    • CLE – Brewster 8-yard pass from Graham (Groza kick), 14–3 CLE
  • Second quarter
    • CLE – Graham 1-yard run (Groza kick), 21–3 CLE
    • DET – Bowman 5-yard run (Walker kick), 21–10 CLE
    • CLE – Graham 5-yard run (Groza kick), 28–10 CLE
    • CLE – Renfro 31-yard pass from Graham (Groza kick), 35–10 CLE
  • Third quarter
    • CLE – Graham 1-yard run (Groza kick), 42–10 CLE
    • CLE – Morrison 12-yard run (Groza kick), 49–10 CLE
  • Fourth quarter
    • CLE – Hanulak 10-yard run (Groza kick), 56–10 CLE

Game statistics

  • Total yards: Cleveland 303; Detroit 331
  • Passing: Cleveland: (9-12) 165 yards; Detroit (19-44) 195 yards
  • Yards rushing: Cleveland 140; Detroit 136
  • First downs: Cleveland 17; Detroit 16
  • Turnovers: Cleveland 4 (2 int., 2 fum.); Detroit 9 (6 int., 3 fum.)
  • Punts: Cleveland 4 (43.0 average); Detroit 6 (41.3 average)
  • Penalties: Cleveland (4 for 40 yards); Detroit (5 for 63 yards)

Officials

  • Referee: Tom Timlin
  • Umpire: Sam Wilson
  • Head Linesman: Dan Tehan
  • Field Judge: William McHugh
  • Back Judge: James Hamer [7]

The NFL added the fifth official, the back judge, in 1947; the line judge arrived in 1965, and the side judge in 1978.

Financial summary

  • Paid attendance: 43,827
  • Gross receipts (includes TV and radio): $289,126.43
  • Net receipts: $263,606.07
  • Total players' pool (70% of net): $184,524.25
  • Winners' pool: $99,643.10 ($2,478.57 per player)
  • Losers' pool: $66,428.73 ($1,585.63 per player)
  • Pool for second place clubs (Eagles, Bears): $18,452.42
  • Browns ownership share: $19,770.45
  • Lions ownership share: $19,770.46
  • League share: $39,540.91

Legacy

Detroit quarterback Layne (18 for 42, passing for 177 yards) was intercepted six times, with Len Ford and Kenny Konz pulling in two each. The Browns also recovered three Detroit fumbles, with two of the recoveries leading to scores.

The 56-10 score of the 1954 NFL Championship game was the second most lopsided in the 22-year history of the event, exceeded only by the 1940 game, in which the Chicago Bears embarrassed the Washington Redskins by a score of 73 to 0.[2] The victory was the second World Professional Football Championship win for the Browns.[2]

The gross receipts for the game, including over $101,000 for radio and television rights, were just over US$289,000. Each player on the winning Browns team received $2,478, while Lions players made $1,585 each.[6][8]

Footnotes

  1. ^ The Green Bay Packers won three consecutive (1929, 1930, 1931) when the title was determined by the regular season final standings.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Al Ennis (ed.), "1954 World Professional Football Championship Game," Professional Football: Official 1955 Year Book of the National Football League. Baltimore, MS: Stadium Publishing Co., 1955; pp. 5-7.
  3. ^ "Mixture as before: Lions beat Browns". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. December 20, 1954. p. 21.
  4. ^ Livingston, Pat (December 26, 1954). "Lions battle Browns for NFL title". Pittsburgh Press. p. 1, section 4.
  5. ^ "Browns-Lions clash in Cleveland today for grid title". Youngstown Vindicator. Ohio. Associated Press. December 26, 1954. p. D1.
  6. ^ a b Stolle, Lawrence M. (December 27, 1954). "Graham features as Cleveland crushes Detroit 56-10, for pro grid championship". Youngstown Vindicator. Ohio. p. 8.
  7. ^ Strickler, George (December 27, 1954). "Browns whip Lions, 56-10, for pro title". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 1, part 4.
  8. ^ "Facts and figures". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. December 27, 1954. p. 10, part 2.

Further reading

Coordinates: 41°30′22″N 81°42′00″W / 41.506°N 81.700°W

1954 in Michigan

Events from the year 1954 in Michigan.

1955 NFL Championship Game

The 1955 National Football League Championship Game was the 23rd league championship game, played on December 26 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.It was between the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Browns (9–2–1), the defending league champions, and the Los Angeles Rams (8–3–1), champions of the Western Conference. The attendance of 87,695 broke the NFL championship game record by nearly 30,000. This was the first NFL championship game played on a Monday and the first televised by NBC. In their sixth consecutive NFL title game, the Browns were six-point favorites.The Browns successfully defended the title and won their third NFL championship of the 1950s in a second straight rout, 38–14. Their next (and most recent) league title was in 1964, 55 years ago.

This was the Rams' fourth title game in seven seasons, with one victory in 1951. They did not reach the league's big game again until Super Bowl XIV in January 1980, and did not win until Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000, as the St. Louis Rams.

1957 Detroit Lions season

The 1957 Detroit Lions season was the franchise's 28th season in the National Football League (NFL) and their 24th as the Detroit Lions. The Lions winning their fourth and most recent NFL championship.In the penultimate regular season game with the Cleveland Browns on December 8, hall of fame quarterback Bobby Layne was lost for the season with a broken right ankle. With backup Tobin Rote in at quarterback in the second quarter, the Lions won that game and overcame a ten-point deficit at halftime the following week to defeat the Chicago Bears 21–13, whom they had lost to three weeks earlier at home. They ended the regular season with three consecutive wins and an 8–4 record. All four losses were within the Western Conference, splitting the two games with all but the Green Bay Packers, whom they swept.

Detroit tied with the San Francisco 49ers (8–4) for the conference title, which required a tiebreaker playoff game. Played at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco on December 22, the 49ers entered the game as three point favorites. Down by twenty points in the third quarter, Detroit rallied with a 24–0 run to win 31–27.The Lions were home underdogs for next week the NFL championship game on against Cleveland. Played on December 29 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, the Lions led 17–0 after the first quarter and won in a rout, 59–14. Through the 2017 season, the Lions have yet to return to the NFL title game (including the Super Bowl), an absence of nearly sixty years. It is the 4th-longest drought in all 4 Sports. Also the 2nd-longest drought in the NFL (Arizona Cardinals 1947).

Bears–Lions rivalry

The Bears–Lions rivalry is a National Football League (NFL) rivalry between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. The franchises first met in 1930 when the Lions were known as the Portsmouth Spartans and based in Portsmouth, Ohio. They moved to Detroit for the 1934 season. The Bears and Lions have been division rivals since 1933 and have usually met twice a season since the Lions franchise began. The two teams play in the two largest metropolitan areas in the Midwest. Chicago and Detroit’s home stadiums, Soldier Field and Ford Field, are 280 miles apart and both are easily accessible from I-94.

This rivalry is the longest-running annual series in the NFL as both teams have met at least once a season since 1930. (Due to the 1982 strike, the Bears–Packers rivalry, which began in 1921, was not played that season.)

The Bears lead the overall series 99–74–5. The Bears won the only playoff meeting between the two teams, the 1932 NFL Championship Game, 9–0.

Cleveland Stadium

Cleveland Stadium, commonly known as Municipal Stadium or Lakefront Stadium, was a multi-purpose stadium located in Cleveland, Ohio. It was one of the early multi-purpose stadiums, built to accommodate both baseball and football. The stadium opened in 1931 and is best known as the long-time home of the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball, from 1932 to 1993, and the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL), from 1946 to 1995, in addition to hosting other teams, sports, and being a regular concert venue. The stadium was a four-time host of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, one of the host venues of the 1948 and 1954 World Series, and the site of the original Dawg Pound, Red Right 88, and The Drive.

Through most of its tenure as a baseball facility, the stadium was the largest in Major League Baseball by seating capacity, seating over 78,000 initially and over 74,000 in its final years. It was superseded only by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from 1958 to 1961, while it was the temporary home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and by Mile High Stadium in 1993, the temporary home of the expansion Colorado Rockies. For football, the stadium seated approximately 80,000 people, ranking as one of the larger seating capacities in the NFL.

Former Browns owner Art Modell took over control of the stadium from the city in the 1970s and while his organization made improvements to the facility, it continued to decline. The Indians played their final game at the stadium in October 1993 and moved to Jacobs Field the following season. Although plans were announced to renovate the stadium for use by the Browns, in 1995 Modell announced his intentions to move the team to Baltimore citing the state of Cleveland Stadium as a major factor. The Browns played their final game at the stadium in December 1995. As part of an agreement between Modell, the city of Cleveland, and the NFL, the Browns were officially deactivated for three seasons and the city was required to construct a new stadium on the Cleveland Stadium site. Cleveland Stadium was demolished in 1996 to make way for FirstEnergy Stadium, which opened in 1999. Much of the debris from the demolition was placed in Lake Erie to create an artificial reef.

Dick Stanfel

Richard Anthony Stanfel (July 20, 1927 – June 22, 2015) was an American football player and coach with a college and professional career spanning more than 50 years from 1948 to 1999. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player in 2016. He was also named to the National Football League (NFL) 1950s All-Decade Team.

A native of San Francisco, Stanfel served in the United States Army and later played college football on both offense and defense at the University of San Francisco from 1948 to 1950. He was selected as a first-team All-Coast defensive guard in 1950.

Stanfel was selected by the Detroit Lions with the 19th pick in the 1951 NFL Draft, missed the 1951 season due to injury, and then played seven seasons as an offensive guard for the Detroit Lions from 1952 to 1955 and Washington Redskins from 1956 to 1958. He was a key offensive player on the Lions' 1952 and 1953 NFL championship teams and was named the Most Valuable Player on the 1953 team. He was selected by the Associated Press as a first-team All-NFL player in five of his seven NFL seasons and played in five Pro Bowls.

Stanfel also spent more than 35 years as a football coach, principally as an offensive line coach. His coaching career included stints with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1959–1962), California Golden Bears (1963), Philadelphia Eagles (1964–1970), San Francisco 49ers (1971–1975), New Orleans Saints (1976–1980, 1997-1998), and Chicago Bears (1981–1992). Bears head coach Mike Ditka called Stanfel the best offensive line coach in football after the Bears led the NFL in rushing three straight years and won Super Bowl XX.

Doak Walker

Ewell Doak Walker II (January 1, 1927 – September 27, 1998) was an American football player. He played college football as a halfback at Southern Methodist University (SMU), where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1948. Walker then played professionally in the National Football League (NFL) with the Detroit Lions for six seasons, from 1950 to 1955.

Walker was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. The Doak Walker Award, awarded annually since 1990 to the top running back in college football, is named after him.

Joe Schmidt (American football)

Joseph Paul Schmidt (born January 19, 1932) is a former American football linebacker and coach.

Schmidt played professional football in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions for 13 years from 1953 to 1965. He won two NFL championships with the Lions (1953 and 1957), and, between 1954 and 1963, he played in ten consecutive Pro Bowl games and was selected each year as a first-team All-Pro player. He was also voted by his fellow NFL players as the NFL's most valuable defensive player in 1960 and 1963, named to the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1973.

From 1967 to 1972, Schmidt was the head coach of the Detroit Lions. In six years under Schmidt, the Lions compiled a 43–34–7 record and finished in second place each year from 1969 to 1972. After retiring from the Lions, Schmidt worked as a manufacturer's representative in the automobile industry in Detroit.

A native of Pittsburgh, he played college football for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers team from 1950 to 1952. He was selected by the International News Service as a first-team All-American in 1952 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

Len Ford

Leonard Guy Ford Jr. (February 18, 1926 – March 14, 1972) was an American football player from 1944 to 1958. He played college football for the University of Michigan and professional football for the Los Angeles Dons, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976 and the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1996.

Ford was an all-city athlete at his high school in Washington, D.C., and attended Morgan State University after graduating in 1944. After a brief stint in the U.S. Navy the following year, he transferred to Michigan, where he played on the Michigan Wolverines football team as an offensive and defensive end. He played for Michigan from 1945 to 1947 and was a member of the undefeated 1947 team that has been selected as the best team in the history of Michigan football.

Ford was passed over in all 32 rounds of the 1948 NFL Draft, but was selected by the Los Angeles Dons of the rival All-America Football Conference (AAFC), where he played for two seasons as an offensive and defensive end. After the AAFC dissolved in 1949, Ford played eight seasons as a defensive end for the Cleveland Browns. During those eight seasons, the Browns advanced to the NFL championship game seven times, won three championships, and allowed the fewest points in the NFL six times. Ford was one of the dominant defensive players of his era, having a rare combination of size and speed that helped him disrupt opposing offenses and force fumbles. He was selected as a first-team All-NFL player five times and played in four Pro Bowls.

Ford was traded to the Packers in 1958, but played there just one season before retiring. He worked for the Detroit recreation department from 1963 to 1972. He suffered a heart attack and died in 1972 at age 46.

Lew Carpenter

Lewis Glen Carpenter (January 12, 1932 – November 14, 2010) was an American football player and coach. He played college football for the University of Arkansas and professionally for ten seasons in the National Football League (NFL) as a halfback and fullback with the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and Green Bay Packers. He played on three NFL Championship teams, with Detroit in 1953 and with Green Bay in 1961 and 1962. After his playing career ended, Carpenter spent 31 years as an assistant coach in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings (1964–1966), Atlanta Falcons (1967–1968), Washington Redskins (1969), St. Louis Cardinals (1970–1972), Houston Oilers (1970–1974), Green Bay Packers (1975–1985), Detroit Lions (1987–1988), and Philadelphia Eagles (1990–1994). Carpenter also coached the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World League of American Football in 1996 and at Southwest Texas State University. He concluded his 47 years of playing and coaching football at the end of the 1996 season. Scientific tests on his brain diagnosed post-mortem that he had an advanced case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Lions–Packers rivalry

The Lions–Packers rivalry is an NFL rivalry between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. They first met in 1930 when the Lions were known as the Portsmouth Spartans and based in Portsmouth, Ohio. The team eventually moved to Detroit for the 1934 season.

The Lions and Packers have been division rivals since 1933, having both played in the NFL's Western Conference from 1933 to 1970 and in the NFC North since 1970 (known as the NFC Central from 1970 to 2001). They have met at least twice a season since 1932, without any cancelled games. This is therefore the longest continuously-running rivalry in the NFL.

Green Bay is one of three teams with a winning record against all of their divisional opponents with 100-plus head-to-head games played (along with the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs). Detroit is one of only two teams with a losing record against all of their divisional opponents with 100-plus head-to-head games played (along with the Los Angeles Chargers). This holds true as of the end of the 2018 season.

Mike McCormack (American football)

Michael Joseph McCormack (June 21, 1930 – November 15, 2013) was an American football player and coach in the National Football League (NFL). He played with the Cleveland Browns from 1954 through 1962 and served as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Baltimore Colts and the Seattle Seahawks. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.

NFL playoff records (team)

This is a list of playoff records set by various teams in various categories in the National Football League during the Super Bowl Era.

Cleveland Browns 1954 NFL champions
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