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.[1][2][3]

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.[4][5]

The Browns successfully defended the title and won their third NFL championship of the 1950s in a second straight rout, 38–14.[2][3] 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.

1955 NFL Championship Game
Cleveland Browns Los Angeles Rams
38 14
1234 Total
Cleveland Browns 314147 38
Los Angeles Rams 0707 14
DateDecember 26, 1955
StadiumLos Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
RefereeRonald Gibbs
Attendance87,695
TV in the United States
NetworkNBC
AnnouncersBob Kelley, Ken Coleman
Los Angeles is located in the United States
Los Angeles
Los Angeles
Location in the United States

Game summary

First half

Browns veteran Lou Groza kicked off; Rams rookie halfback Ron Waller returned the kick, and Groza himself made the tackle. A subsequent Rams drive was stopped at the Cleveland 12 when Kenny Konz intercepted a Norm Van Brocklin pass.

Browns quarterback Otto Graham, who had announced his retirement at the end of the season, drove Cleveland to the L.A. 26 where Groza's FG gave the Browns a 3–0 first quarter lead. The Browns scored again when DB Don Paul intercepted Van Brocklin's pass on the Browns 35 and raced 65 yards for a touchdown, making the score 10–0.

The Rams answered back when Van Brocklin connected with halfback Volney "Skeet" Quinlan for a 67-yard touchdown, pulling the Rams to within 3 points, 10–7, and giving the large crowd hopes of an upset. But late in the second period, Van Brocklin threw his third interception of the half; defensive back Tom James, who had been beaten on the Rams' Tom Fears' title-winning touchdown on the same field four years earlier, grabbed the errant pass and took the ball back to midfield with time running out. The next play turned a close game into a rout; Otto Graham found Dante Lavelli with a 50-yard touchdown pass along the sideline and the Rams, who moments earlier were driving to take the lead, went to the locker room down 17–7.

Second half

Graham earned his place as the star of the game. After moving the Browns from the L.A. 46, Graham kept the ball and ran around right end from the 19 and scored to put the Browns ahead 24–7. On Los Angeles's next possession, Sam Palumbo intercepted Van Brocklin at the Ram 36. Graham drove the Browns to the 4, then scored himself on a sneak. Groza's conversion increased Cleveland's lead to 31–7 with two minutes left in the third quarter.

In the final period, Graham tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ray Renfro and Groza's kick gave the Browns a 38–7 lead. Late in the game, Waller ran four yards for a touchdown and Les Richter's conversion finished the scoring. In the final minutes coach Brown sent in reserve quarterback George Ratterman and allowed Graham to leave the field to an ovation from the Los Angeles crowd.

Cleveland, with its third title of the decade, represented the American/Eastern Conference in the championship game every year since its admission to the NFL, celebrated Graham's farewell. The Rams' Van Brocklin, who threw six interceptions, often was quoted that it was the worst game of his hall of fame career.

Scoring summary

Monday, December 26, 1955
Kickoff: 1 p.m. PST[4][5]

  • First quarter
  • Second quarter
  • Third quarter
    • CLE – Graham 15 run (Groza kick), 24–7 CLE
    • CLE – Graham 1 run (Groza kick), 31–7 CLE
  • Fourth quarter
    • CLE – Ray Renfro 35 pass from Graham (Groza kick), 38–7 CLE
    • LA   – Ron Waller 4 run (Richter kick), 38–14 CLE

Officials

  • Referee: Ronald Gibbs [6]
  • Umpire: Sam Wilson
  • Linesman: Dan Tehan
  • Field Judge: William McHugh
  • Back Judge: Tay Brown [1]
  • Alternate: Emil Heintz
  • Alternate: Cletus Gardner
  • Alternate: James Underhill [7]

The NFL added the fifth official, the back judge, in 1947;[8] the line judge arrived in 1965, and the side judge in 1978.

Players' shares

The gross receipts for the game, including radio and television rights, were over $504,000, the highest to date. Each player on the winning Browns team received $3,508, while Rams players made $2,316 each.[2][9]

References

  1. ^ a b Smith, Wilfrid (December 27, 1955). "85,693 watch Browns take 3d pro title". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 1, part 3.
  2. ^ a b c Kuechle, Oliver E. (December 27, 1955). "Browns crush Rams, 38-14, for pro title before 87,695". Milwaukee Journal. p. 17, part 2.
  3. ^ a b "87,695 fans see Browns defeat Rams, 38 to 14". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. December 27, 1955. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b "Browns 6-point favorite for title". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. December 26, 1955. p. 5, part 4.
  5. ^ a b "Browns choice to beat Rams, keep pro title". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. December 26, 1955. p. 42.
  6. ^ "Ron Gibbs, pro grid referee, here today". Schenectady Gazette. New York. January 25, 1961. p. 20.
  7. ^ "Gibbs to referee Browns-Rams tilt". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. December 24, 1955. p. 4, part 2.
  8. ^ "National League officials to work in crews of six (five)". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. August 19, 1947. p. 6, part 2.
  9. ^ "Each Brown player to receive $3,508". Youngstown Vindicator. Ohio. Associated Press. December 27, 1955. p. 8.

Heaton, Chuck (December 26, 1955). "87,695 See Browns Keep Title". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on October 1, 2012. Retrieved December 12, 2007.

Coordinates: 34°00′50″N 118°17′13″W / 34.014°N 118.287°W

1956 NFL Championship Game

In the 1956 National Football League Championship Game was the league's 24th championship game, played at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx in New York City on December 30.The New York Giants (8–3–1) won the Eastern Conference title and hosted the Chicago Bears (9–2–1), the Western Conference champions. The teams had met in the regular season five weeks earlier on November 25 at Yankee Stadium and played to a 17–17 tie; the Bears entered the championship game in late December as slight favorites. The Giants hosted because the home field for the title game alternated between the conferences; home field advantage was not implemented until 1975.

Both teams had been absent from the league title game for a decade, when the Bears won the championship over the Giants at the Polo Grounds in 1946. The Giants' most recent NFL title was before World War II, in 1938. The 1956 season marked the Giants' first at Yankee Stadium, moving across the Harlem River from the Polo Grounds. This was the first championship since 1949 without the Cleveland Browns, who had appeared in six consecutive since joining the NFL in 1950.

The 1956 Giants featured a number of Hall of Fame players, including running backs Frank Gifford and Alex Webster, offensive tackle Roosevelt Brown, linebacker Sam Huff, and defensive end Andy Robustelli. Two assistants of Giants head coach Jim Lee Howell, offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi and defensive coordinator Tom Landry, later became Hall of Fame head coaches with other franchises; Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packers to five NFL Championships during the 1960s and Landry led the Dallas Cowboys to five Super Bowls, with two wins, during the 1970s. He was the head coach of the Cowboys for 29 seasons, through 1988.

Bobby Cross

Robert Joe Cross (born April 4, 1931) was an American football offensive lineman in the National Football League for the Chicago Bears, the Los Angeles Rams, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Chicago Cardinals. Cross also played in the American Football League for the Boston Patriots and in the Canadian Football League for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, winning a Grey Cup with them in 1953. He played college football for Stephen F. Austin State University.

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.

List of Los Angeles Rams head coaches

The Los Angeles Rams are a professional American football team based in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The Rams compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) West division. The Rams played their first season in 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio. During World War II, the Rams did not play during the 1943 season because of wartime restrictions and shortages. The team became known as the Los Angeles Rams after it moved to Los Angeles, California in 1946. After the 1979 season, the Rams moved south to the suburbs in nearby Orange County, playing their home games at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim for 15 seasons (1980–1994) but kept their Los Angeles name. The club moved east to St. Louis, Missouri before the 1995 season, and moved back to Southern California before the 2016 season.

The Rams franchise has had 26 head coaches throughout its history. Damon Wetzel became the first head coach of the Cleveland Rams in 1936. He served for one season before he was replaced by Hugo Bezdek in 1937 as the Rams became a National Football League franchise. But after losing 13 of 14 games, Bezdek was dismissed and replaced by Art Lewis three games into the 1938 season. Dutch Clark, who was later one of the charter inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, became head coach of the Rams and coached the team for four seasons until the franchise suspended operations for the 1943 season. When the Rams resumed play in 1944, Aldo "Buff" Donelli became head coach and was 4-4 in his only season. In 1945, Adam Walsh became head coach and proceeded to lead the Cleveland Rams to a 9-1 record and the franchise's first NFL championship. Walsh was named the league's Coach of the Year.

Despite the title, the Rams' faltering financial fortunes in Cleveland sparked a move to Los Angeles by owner Dan Reeves. Walsh remained head coach, but left after the Rams finished 6-4-1 in their inaugural season on the west coast. Walsh was succeeded by Bob Snyder, who went 6-6 in his only season in 1947. Clark Shaughnessy took over for the next two seasons and led the Rams to the 1949 NFL Championship game (losing to the Philadelphia Eagles), but he was dismissed for reportedly for creating "internal friction" within the club. Line coach Joe Stydahar was elevated to head coach and guided the Rams back to the NFL championship game in 1950, where they again lost, this time to the Cleveland Browns 30-28. A year later, the teams would rematch, but this time the Rams prevailed 24-17 over the Browns to win the 1951 NFL Championship. Although he was successful as head coach, an internal dispute between Stydahar and assistant coach Hamp Pool spilled over into the public and Stydahar resigned one game into the 1952 season. Pool was elevated to head coach and led the Rams to their fourth straight postseason appearance in 1953, this time losing to the Detroit Lions in a playoff. Pool stayed as head coach for two more seasons before giving way to Sid Gillman, who led the Rams to the 1955 NFL Championship game where they again lost to Cleveland. Although his innovative offensive style would influence pro football for decades to come, Gillman never equaled the success of his first season, and left after five seasons to coach the American Football League's Los Angeles Chargers. The Rams continued without success under head coaches Bob Waterfield and Harland Svare.

In 1966, George Allen was hired as head coach and instantly turned around the Rams' on-field fortunes. In his five seasons, Allen never had a losing record and led the Rams to division titles in 1967 and 1969. But the Rams fell both times to the eventual NFL champion, and that combined with ongoing friction between himself and owner Dan Reeves, made Allen's situation unstable. Allen was originally fired in 1968, but after players interceded on his behalf, Reeves retained him for two more seasons. After failing to make the playoffs in 1970, Allen was released once his contract expired, and he was replaced by former UCLA coach Tommy Prothro, who led the Rams for two unsuccessful seasons.

By this time, Dan Reeves had died, and the franchise was then sold to Robert Irsay, who then immediately traded the franchise to Carroll Rosenbloom in exchange for the Baltimore Colts. Following the 1972 season, Rosenbloom dismissed Prothro and brought in as his replacement Chuck Knox. Installing his trademark "Ground Chuck" offense, Knox led the Rams to a 12-2 record and their first NFC West title, and was named NFL Coach of the Year for 1973. Los Angeles would repeat as division champions four more times under Knox, while also reaching the NFC Championship Game three consecutive years from 1974 through 1976. But the Rams were frustrated each time in their attempt to reach the Super Bowl, and after an upset loss to Minnesota in a 1977 NFC Divisional Playoff, Knox left Los Angeles to take the head coaching job with the Buffalo Bills.

Although he considered hiring future Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh (then the head coach at Stanford, Rosenbloom brought back George Allen to great fanfare. However, Allen's rigid ways clashed with both players on the roster and team administration, including general manager Don Klosterman. The effect of the turmoil on the team was evident, and after the Rams played poorly in a pair of exhibition losses at home, Rosenbloom fired Allen and promoted defensive coordinator Ray Malavasi to head coach.

Malavasi, the lone holdover from Knox's staff, was well-liked by players, and the chemistry showed as the Rams roared to a 7-0 start in 1978 on the way to a 12-4 record and the team's sixth straight NFC West title. Los Angeles finally defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs, but again were denied a chance to play in the Super Bowl when they were shut out 28-0 by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1978 NFC Championship Game. Injuries racked the Rams at numerous positions in 1979 and stumbled to a 9-7 mark, which was still good enough for Los Angeles to claim a then-record seventh straight division championship. In the playoffs, the Rams upset the Cowboys in Dallas, then shut out the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the NFC Championship and, at last, advance to play in the Super Bowl. Though they were more than 10-point underdogs to the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, the Rams had the advantage of playing in the Los Angeles area, and led their opponent after each of the first three quarters. But big plays on offense and a critical interception late in the fourth quarter sealed the game for the Steelers 31-19. In 1980, the Rams moved to Anaheim Stadium and after an 0-2 start, won 11 of the next 14 to earn their eighth straight trip to the NFC playoffs, where they were defeated at Dallas. A contract dispute with quarterback Vince Ferragamo marred the 1981 season, as the Rams fell to 6-10. Next season was even worse, as Los Angeles finished with a 2-7 record in 1982, which was disrupted by a players strike that lasted 57 days. Malavasi was then fired after five seasons.

Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, who had taken over the team following the death of her husband Carroll Rosenbloom in 1979, hired former USC head coach John Robinson for the 1983 season. Bringing a host of former Trojan assistants with him, Robinson installed his trademark running game that worked perfectly with the Rams' powerful offensive line and explosive running back Eric Dickerson. Robinson led the Rams to playoff appearances in six of the next seven seasons, including an NFC West title in 1985 as well as reaching the NFC Championship Games in 1985 and 1989. But back-to-back losing seasons in 1990 and 1991 doomed Robinson, who stepped down after a 3-13 campaign. Robinson ended his NFL career with the most wins (79) in Rams franchise history.

Again, the Rams had the opportunity to go with a well-regarded young offensive mind, having interviewed then-San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren. But as her late husband had once done, Georgia Frontiere opted to play it safe by bringing back Chuck Knox, who had just weeks earlier stepped down from coaching the Seattle Seahawks. But Knox was unable to recreate the magic of his earlier tenure with the Rams, as Los Angeles finished 6-10 in 1992 and got progressively worse each following season. Additionally, Frontiere openly flirted with a possible franchise move to St. Louis, and Knox was fired following the Rams' 4-12 finish in 1994.

Making a fresh start in St. Louis, former Oregon head coach Rich Brooks was installed as head coach. After struggling to win, Brooks was fired after just two seasons and replaced by Dick Vermeil. The former Philadelphia Eagles head coach, Vermeil had not coached on any level since retiring in 1982. But after two double-digit loss seasons, Vermeil shepherded the Rams to remarkable turnaround in 1999. Led by the arrival of running back Marshall Faulk and the emergence of quarterback Kurt Warner, the St. Louis Rams took the NFL by storm and went on to win Super Bowl XXXIV 23-16 over the Tennessee Titans. Vermeil then retired and was succeeded by his offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who would ultimately lead the Rams back to the Super Bowl. But after being upset 20-17 by the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI and then losing to the Carolina Panthers in double overtime during the 2003 NFC Divisional Playoff, Martz began to fall out of favor with Rams management. Five games into the 2005 season, Martz took a leave of absence to treat a bacterial infection in his heart. For the remainder of the season, Martz was replaced on an interim basis by Joe Vitt. The Rams finished 6-10 overall and both Martz and Vitt were fired following the season.

Scott Linehan became the new head coach of the St. Louis Rams in 2006 and showed some promise during an 8-8 campaign in which the Rams rallied to win their final three games to finish just one game behind Seattle in the NFC West standings. But St. Louis faltered to 3-13 in {2007 St. Louis Rams season|2007]] and after an 0-4 start in 2008, Linehan was fired. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was elevated to interim head coach, having previously been head coach with the New Orleans Saints. Though he began his brief tenure with two straight wins, the Rams under Haslett ended the 2008 season with 10 straight losses, and Haslett was not considered as a candidate for the permanent head coaching position. The Rams then hired Steve Spagnuolo as head coach after Spagnuolo's successful stretch running the New York Giants defense. But as dismal as St. Louis was in 2008, when the Rams went 2-14, it was even worse in 2009 as St. Louis went 1-15, with only a 17-10 win at Detroit staving off a winless season. Fortunes improved in 2010 thanks to a strong season from rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, as the Rams went 7-9 and were in the playoff hunt until the season's final week, when Seattle defeated them 16-6 to win the NFC West. But the Rams reverted to their losing form in 2011 with a 2-14 record. After losing their final seven games, Spagnuolo was fired along with general manager Billy Devaney.

New Rams owner Stan Kroenke made his first hire with former Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher taking over. The Rams did show overall improvement during a 7-8-1 season. But it was the best that Fisher would be able to do, as the Rams went 7-9, 6-10, and 7-9 in their final seasons in St. Louis. Following the end of the 2015 season, the Rams were approved to return to Los Angeles, ending the NFL's 21-year absence from the market. Fisher, who had guided the Oilers/Titans franchise in its relocation from Houston to Memphis and ultimately to Nashville, was retained and shepherded the Rams through the turmoil of the move. And while the newly-rebranded Los Angeles Rams began the 2016 season 3-1, the team would win only one of its remaining 12 games. Though he had acquired strong talent in successive drafts with Aaron Donald in 2014, Todd Gurley in 2015, and Jared Goff in 2016, Fisher was unable to put together a consistently winning combination on the field. And after a 42-14 loss at home to the Atlanta Falcons that tied him for the most regular season losses by a coach in NFL history, Fisher was fired on December 12, 2016. Special teams coordinator John Fassel was named interim head coach, but was winless in the final three games of the season.

The Rams interviewed a variety of candidates, but surprised many observers by hiring then 30-year-old Sean McVay as head coach on January 12, 2017. With a work ethic and reservoir of knowledge that belied his age, McVay refashioned the team in his own image. The youngest head coach in modern league history hired longtime NFL coach Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator and retained Fassel as special teams coordinator. The results were overwhelmingly positive as McVay's new-look Rams went 11-5 in 2017 and clinched their first NFC West title since 2003, and McVay was named NFL Coach of the Year. In 2018, the Rams improved to 13-3, tying for the second-most regular season wins in team history, and qualified to play in Super Bowl LIII against the New England Patriots.

Sid Gillman and George Allen have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as coaches. To this date, Dick Vermeil is the only coach to win a Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

List of NFL Championship Game broadcasters

The following is a list of the television networks and announcers that broadcast the National Football League Championship Game from the 1940s until the 1969 NFL season (after which the NFL merged with the American Football League). The National Football League first held a championship game in 1933, it took until 1948 before a championship game would be televised. The successor to the NFL Championship Game is the NFC Championship Game.

List of NFL champions (1920–1969)

The National Football League champions, prior to the merger between the National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL) in 1970, were determined by two different systems. The National Football League was established on September 17, 1920, as the American Professional Football Association (APFA). The APFA changed its name in 1922 to the National Football League, which it has retained ever since.From 1921 to 1931, the APFA/NFL determined its champion by overall win–loss record, with no playoff games; ties were not counted in the winning percentage total. The APFA did not keep records of the 1920 season; they declared the Akron Pros, who finished the season with an 8–0–3 (8 wins, 0 losses, 3 ties) record, as the league's first champions, by a vote of the owners, with the Buffalo-All Americans and Decatur Staleys also claiming the title. According to modern-tie breaking rules, the Buffalo All-Americans tied Akron for the championship. The Canton Bulldogs won two straight championships from 1922 to 1923, and the Green Bay Packers won three in a row from 1929 to 1931.There also has been controversy over the championshipships of the 1921 APFA season and the 1925 NFL season, with the Buffalo All-Americans laying claim to another championship in an incident known as the "Staley Swindle" and the Pottsville Maroons being stripped of their championship in 1925 for playing an exhibition game against college football powerhouse Notre Dame's famed Four Horsemen, leading to a last minute field goal victory for the Maroons, stunning the crowd and nation, and also put the NFL ahead of college football for the first time ever. These three disputed championships contributed to the beginning of the NFL's rich history.

The 1932 NFL season resulted in a tie for first place between the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans, and could not be resolved by the typical win–loss system. To settle the tie, a playoff game was played; Chicago won the game and the championship. The following year, the NFL split into two divisions, and the winner of each division would play in the NFL Championship Game. In 1967, the NFL and the rival AFL agreed to merge, effective following the 1969 season; as part of this deal, the NFL champion from 1966 to 1969 would play the AFL champion in an AFL–NFL World Championship Game in each of the four seasons before the completed merger. The NFL Championship Game was ended after the 1969 season, succeeded by the NFC Championship Game. The champions of that game play the champions of the AFC Championship Game in the Super Bowl to determine the NFL champion.The Green Bay Packers won the most NFL championships before the merger, winning eleven of the fifty championships. The Packers were also the only team to win three straight championships, an achievement they accomplished twice: from 1929–31 and from 1965–67. The Chicago Bears won a total of eight titles, and the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and New York Giants each won four. The Bears recorded the largest victory in a championship game, defeating the Washington Redskins 73–0 in the 1940 NFL Championship Game; six other title games ended in a shutout as well. The Philadelphia Eagles recorded two consecutive shutouts in 1948 and 1949. New York City hosted the most championship games (eight), while the highest-attended title game was the 1955 NFL Championship Game, where 85,693 fans showed up in Los Angeles to watch the Browns beat the Rams 38–14.

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 1955 NFL champions
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