Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
1951: Cleveland Browns @ Los Angeles Rams
This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped without losing the continu­ity of the article.

Norm Van Brocklin

Otto Graham

Elroy Hirsch

Dick Hoerner

Dan Towler

After just one season in the NFL, the Baltimore franchise that came over from the AAFC folded.
  • The players on the team were made available in the 1951 draft.
  • The chief acquisition from the Colts was QB Y. A. Tittle, whom the 49ers selected with their first round pick.
  • Now the American and National Conferences contained six teams each.

No major rules changes were enacted.

  • No offensive tackle, guard, or center would be eligible to catch or touch a forward pass.
  • Aluminum cleats were banned.

Browns fans received a scare in the off-season.

  • Coach Paul Brown interviewed for the vacant position at Ohio State, where he had coached from 1941-43. However, the board selected Woody Hayes.
  • With only six new faces, the Browns were essentially the same team that validated their status as one of football's greatest teams by capturing the 1950 NFL champion­ship in their first season in the league after taking all four titles of the defunct AAFC.
  • After losing their first game at San Francisco 24-10, Cleveland won all eleven re­maining games, including two hard-fought 14-13 and 10-0 battles over the team that beat them twice in 1950, the New York Giants.
  • The Browns led the league in fewest points allowed with 152 (12.3 per game).

The National Conference also had a repeat winner.

  • Second-year coach Joe Stydahar had needed his experience as a tackle for George Halas's Bears because he entered the season without a single veteran at his old position after losing both his starting and replacement offensive tackles by trade or retirement in the offseason. But line coach Ray Richards immediately rebuilt his unit so that it functioned almost as well as the previous year's group.
  • The Rams also shifted from their two running systems – the "Bull Elephant" backfield and the scatback backfield – to a quick-strike, long-pass offense.
  • So even though they had 13 rookies, the Rams again led the NFL in points scored, averaging 32.7 per game.
  • With four losses, including one to Cleveland, the Rams didn't seem the equal of the Browns.
  • Norm Van Brocklin, who shared the quarterback position with Bob Waterfield, threw for 554y in the season opener against the New York Yankees to break the record for yardage in a single game by nearly 100.
Players from the two teams dominated the league's passing statistics.
  • Passing Yards
    2. Otto Graham, Cle - 2205
    4. Norm Van Brocklin, LA - 1725
    5. Bob Waterfield, LA - 1566
  • Completion %
    2. Graham - 55.5
    5. Van Brocklin - 51.5
  • touchdown Passes
    2. Graham - 17
  • INT Percentage
    3. Van Brocklin - 5.7
    4. Waterfield - 5.7
  • Receptions
    1. Elroy Hirsch, LA - 66
    5. Dante Lavelli, Cle - 43
  • Receiving Yards
    1. Hirsch - 1496 (NFL record)
  • Receiving Average
    1. Hirsch - 22.7
    4. Dub Jones, Cle - 19.0
    5. Mac Speedie, Cle - 17.3
  • Receiving touchdowns
    1. Hirsch - 17 (tied Don Hutson's record)
  • Total touchdowns
    1. Hirsch - 17
    2. Jones - 12
  • Total Points
    1. Hirsch - 102
    2. Waterfield - 98
The Browns were favored by seven points to take their sixth straight pro title.
  • The consensus of pundits was that the game would hinge on which team could mount the more effective pass rush. The key matchups would be Rams DE Andy Robustelli against Browns OT Lou Groza and Larry Brink on the other end of the line against the Cleveland's other tackle, Lou Rymkus.
  • The weather was expected to be much improved over the rain-soaked day of the 1949 finale between the Eagles and Rams. In fact, the temperature reached 70 when the Browns practiced at Pasadena City College on Saturday before attending a movie in the evening. Stydahar gave his Rams the day off. "If our boys can rise to the occasion, we'll have a good chance to win. But we'll have to be at our absolute peak because we know the Browns always are in a championship game."
  • After losing the previous two championship games, the Rams were anxious to beat the Browns for the first time.
  • Both teams had large, fast backs who supplemented the dangerous passing attacks. Ram coach Joe Stydahar had employed his "Bull Elephant Backfield" consisting of three of the best fullbacks in the league: Dick Hoerner (220 lb), Deacon Dan Towler (225), and Paul "Tank" Younger (225). The three had pounded out 1,646y with Towler gaining over half the total (854y). The trio had particularly excelled in the late-season matchup at Chicago when they combined for 338y in the 42-17 victory. All three aided the passing game with their blocking and receiving as safety valves.
  • The Browns tended to utilize a shorter passing game than the Rams as evidenced by Cleveland's 12.6 yards-per-completion compared to LA's 16.9.
  • Could the Browns control the ball and keep the high-powered Ram offense off the field? Which team would put more pressure on the opposing quarterback?
  • The Cleveland defense had held Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch to his lowest output of the season October 7 - 69y although 34 of those came on a touchdown pass early in the game. But pay too much atten­tion to Hirsch, and you'll get burned by Tom Fears, who had 32 receptions for 528y despite playing only seven games because of injuries. Also, the pre-Elephant Back­field Rams had gained only 88y on the ground that day.
  • Unknown to the public, the headstrong Van Brocklin had earned a spot in Styda­har's doghouse by ignoring a running play the coach sent in during the last regular season game. He was pulled from that contest immediately and replaced by Water­field.
1951 Cleveland Browns

1951 Cleveland Browns
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
20 Hal Herring C 6-1 210 Auburn 3
22 Frank Gatski C 6-3 233 Marshall 6
24 Tommy Thompson C 6-1 221 William & Mary 3
30 Bill Willis G 6-2 213 Ohio State 6
32 Lin Houston G 6-0 213 Ohio State 6
34 Abe Gibron G 5-11 243 Valparaiso/Purdue 3
35 Alex Agase G 5-10 212 Purdue 5
38 Bob Gaudio G 5-10 220 Ohio State 4
42 Derrell Palmer T 6-2 240 TCU 6
44 Lou Rymkus T 6-4 231 Notre Dame 7
45 John Kissell DT 6-3 245 Boston College 4
46 Lou Groza T 6-3 240 Ohio State 6
48 Forrest Grigg T 6-2 294 Tulsa 6
49 John Sandusky DT 6-1 250 Villanova 3
50 Bob Oristaglio E 6-2 214 Pennsylvania 3
52 George Young E 6-3 214 Baldwin-Wallace 6
53 Len Ford DE 6-4 245 Morgan St./Michigan 4
56 Dante Lavelli E 6-0 191 Ohio State 6
58 Mac Speedie E 6-3 203 Utah 6
59 Horace Gillom E 6-1 221 Ohio State 5
60 Otto Graham QB 6-1 196 Northwestern 6
62 Cliff Lewis DB 5-11 170 Duke 6
70 Emerson Cole FB 6-2 215 Toledo 2
72 Chick Jagade FB 6-0 213 Indiana 2
74 Tony Adamle FB 6-0 215 Ohio State 5
76 Marion Motley FB 6-1 232 South Carolina St. 6
80 Warren Lahr HB 5-11 189 Western Reserve 3
82 Tommy James DB 5-10 185 Ohio State 4
84 Ken Carpenter DB 6-0 195 Oregon State 2
86 Dub Jones HB 6-4 202 LSU/Tulane 6
90 Rex Bumgardner HB 5-11 193 West Virginia 4
96 Don Shula DB 5-11 190 John Carroll 1
98 Carl Taseff DB 5-11 192 John Carroll 1
1951 Los Angeles Rams
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
7 Bob Waterfield QB 6-1 200 UCLA 7
10 Tom Keane E 6-1 190 Ohio State 4
11 Stan West G-C 6-2 235 Oklahoma 2
13 Tank Younger FB 6-3 225 Grambling State 3
24 Tommy Kalmanir HB 5-8 170 Pittsburgh 3
25 Norm Van Brocklin QB 6-1 190 Oregon 3
26 Bill Lange G 6-1 240 Dayton 1
27 Marvin Johnson DB 5-11 183 San Jose State 1
30 Woodley Lewis DB 6-0 185 Oregon 2
31 Dick Hoerner FB 6-4 220 Iowa 5
32 Dan Towler FB 6-2 225 Washington & Jeff. 2
33 Jerry Williams HB 5-10 175 Idaho 3
40 Elroy Hirsch E 6-2 190 Wisconsin 6
41 Glenn Davis HB 5-9 172 Army 2
42 Herb Rich DB 5-11 180 Vanderbilt 2
50 Leon McLaughlin C 6-2 228 UCLA 1
52 Joe Reid C 6-3 225 LSU 1
55 Tom Fears E 6-2 215 Santa Clara 4
56 Jack Zilly E 6-2 212 Notre Dame 5
57 Don Paul LB 6-1 228 UCLA 4
58 Jack Finlay G 6-1 217 UCLA 5
63 Larry Brink E 6-5 240 Northern Illinois 4
67 Dick Daugherty G 6-1 220 Oregon 1
70 Charlie Toogood T 6-0 232 Nebraska 1
71 Tom Dahms T 6-5 240 San Diego State 1
72 Bobby Collier T 6-3 230 SMU 1
73 Jack Halliday T 6-3 240 SMU 1
76 Don Simensen T 6-2 220 St. Thomas 1
77 Vitamin Smith HB 5-8 180 Abilene Christian 3
78 Jim Winkler T 6-2 250 Texas A&M 1
80 Bob Boyd E/DB 6-2 200 Loyola Marymount 2
84 Andy Robustelli DE 6-1 230 Arnold 1
86 Norb Hecker DB 6-2 193 Baldwin-Wallace 1
Both teams came into the game physically sound.
  • The Dumont network paid $75,000 to telecast the game, the first champion­ship clash to be seen coast to coast (although parts of the South, like New Orleans, would not receive the coaxial cable until the summer of 1952).
  • The Liberty Broadcasting system provided nationwide radio coverage.
  • The temperature stayed around 70, and the game started in bright sunshine. However, clouds rolled in later in the afternoon. All in all, Los Angeles enjoy­ed the best weather ever for an NFL title game.
  • An NFL title game record crowd of 59,475 showed up at the Los Angeles Colise­um. Though short of the 70,000 that was anticipated and 8,000 less than at­tended the regular season game between the two teams, the num­ber still was over 35,000 more than sat through persistent rain in the title game in the Coli­seum two years earlier.

Cleveland Plain Dealer cartoon day of championship game

Dub Jones

Larry Brink

Hirsch snares a pass in front of Lewis.

Andy Robustelli

Motley sets sails in Q2 after receiving screen pass.

Jones scores Browns' first touchdown.

Brink clobbers Graham, causing fumble.

Robustelli scoops up pigskin. Motley at the left chases Andy down.

Towler scores in the third quarter.

Marv Johnson returns interception to the one.

Bill Willis

Graham runs down the sidelines for 32y.

Carpenter scores the tying touchdown.

Fears sets sail for end zone as the
safeties collide.

Quarter 1
Ken Carpenter returned Woodley Lewis's kickoff to the 23 for the Browns. Deter­mined to improve their rushing defense after giving up 293y on the ground in the reg­ular season loss to Cleveland, LA deployed a seven man front with both linebackers standing on the line of scrimmage between the down linemen. After HB Dub Jones gained one on a pitchout, Otto Graham connected with Mac Speedie for 12y and a first down. Otto threw again, this time to his other end, Lavelli, to the Cleveland 49. Motley slammed up the middle to the 45. Graham went back to pass but rolled away from the rush to the 35. Jones fumbled the handoff but recovered immediately at the line of scrimmage. Graham fired over the middle to Lavelli who caught the ball on his knees at the 19. LB Don Paul hit Jones after a 1y advance. Graham faded back, but 240lb LE Larry Brink hit him as he threw, the ball falling far short of Lavelli. Motley smashed up the middle to the 17. On 4th-and-seven, Groza tried a 23y field goal that sailed wide left.
From the 20, "Tank" Younger gained one before Dan Towler swung around right end to the 30. First down. DE Len Ford stopped Younger for just 1y again. QB Bob Waterfield pitched out to Towler around the left side for another yard. Waterfield, back to pass, instead ran for six as Tony Adamle brought him down. Waterfield punted to Cliff Lewis who returned 13y to the 34.
Graham connected with Lavelli for 17 to the LA 49. But two incompletions and a short run forced Horace Gillom to come in and launch a towering punt that was fair caught on the 12.
After giving to Towler for four, Waterfield threw for E Tom Keane, but DB Tommy James almost intercepted. Towler slashed up the middle for 7y and a first down on the 23. Younger slammed off left tackle for 14 and another first down. After an incompetion, Waterfield, under pressure, hit Hirsch for 20 to the Cleveland 43. Towler was thrown for a loss, but the Browns were guilty of holding. After an incom­pletion, Bob arched the pigskin to Elroy Hirsch too long inside the 10. The Browns were doing an excellent job of covering LA's two outstanding receivers, Hirsch and Fears. Waterfield took the next snap and evaded the rush for two. Then he punted into the end zone.
With the Rams massed in the middle, Graham decided to get the ball to Motley with a screen pass in the left flat for 7y, but the gain was nullified by backfield in motion. Carpenter picked up four around right end. But DE Andy Robustelli threw Otto for a 3y loss. A pitchout to Jones to the left gained only one as Paul made another tackle. So Gillom punted to Vitamin T. Smith, who fair caught on the LA 45 as the quarter ended. Rams 0 Browns 0
Graham was getting hit repeatedly, which would take its toll on him as the game progressed. Robustelli was beating Groza with his quick inside moves, and Brink was overpowering Rymkus and rookie sub John Sandusky.
But the Rams' offense was scoreless also. Coach Stydahar had received reports from a spy in Cleveland who watched the Browns' practices from a tree at their practice field. The spy told Stydahar the Browns were planning to use a six-man line on defense. Imagine the Rams' surprise when the Browns started the game with their standard four-man front.

Quarter 2
The Rams finally mounted a scoring drive although it started shakily. Younger fum­bled, but Keane recovered for a 4y gain. Towler was held to no gain by Adamle. Waterfield flipped to Smith over the middle for 18 to the Browns 33. Then Smith swung wide around left end, but James nailed him for a 5y loss. Waterfield tossed a middle screen to FB Dick Hoerner to the 24. On third-and-one, Smith cut back for seven and a first down on the 17. Then the same play netted three more. After over­throwing Fears in the end zone, Waterfield threw an incompletion to Smith, but interference was called on Adamle to place the ball at the 12. The Rams then ran the ball four straight times: Hoerner for four, Smith for two, and Towler around right end to the one, where he was driven out of bounds. On 4th-and-goal, Hoerner pushed over up the middle to draw first blood. Waterfield booted the PAT. Rams 7 Browns 0

Towler runs to the one to set up touchdown as Lahr eludes Hirsch's block.
Carpenter came out of the end zone and down the sideline with the kickoff to the 20, where he fumbled but recovered back at the 14. Graham to Speedie across the mid­dle for 17. Graham-Speedie again out of bounds six inches short of the first down at the 41. Carpenter plunged to the 43 to move the chains. A screen pass to Ken picked up 17 to the LA 40. Then Graham threw long to Jones, but rookie DB Marvin Johnson broke it up on the five. Otto retreated to pass again but was sacked by Robustelli for a 6y loss. The next play produced the same result, but this time the other big end, Brink, was responsible for a 9y loss. Gillom punted, Smith fair catching at the 18. Waterfield tried to get the ball to Hirsch in vain. Then Bob threw down the middle. DB Warren Lahr leaped and stole the ball from Crazy Legs on the Cleveland 45.
Graham threw to Speedie for 10. Then Johnson, a thorn in the Browns' side all day, broke up a pass to Jones. So Otto went to Carpenter who dropped the ball. Graham tried Ken again, but he lost control while being tackled. So Groza lined up for a 52y field goal that soared easily through the uprights to eclipse the championship game record by 10y. Rams 7 Browns 3
After a touchback on the kickoff, Hoerner drove up the middle for two. Waterfield threw two incompletions to force a punt out of bounds at the Cleveland 46.
Energized by the field goal, the Browns scored in three plays. Graham hit Speedie for 14 to LA 40. Then a left screen to Motley, who went out of bounds on the 17. Taking the next snap, Graham rolled right and threw to Jones who caught the ball on the run at the three and ambled into the end zone. Groza's PAT succeeded. Browns 10 Rams 7 with 2:30 on the clock.
If any team could score with so little time on the clock, it was the Rams. From the 20 after a touchback, Waterfield threw long for Hirsch, but the ball sailed out of bounds. After Towler dropped a screen pass, Davis took a flare pass for 11 and a first down. Bob hit Hirsch to the 46. A pass down the left sideline to Davis flew too long. Following a loss of two by Smith around left end, the Waterfield-Hirsch combo put the ball on the Cleveland 39. Bob fired to Fears for 18 with 58 seconds left. Adamle tackled Davis for a loss of two on a flat pass. Waterfield threw under heavy pressure to Fears, but James intercepted on the one as the half ended. Browns 10 Rams 7

Quarter 3
Jerry Williams took Groza's kickoff on the five and returned to the 26. Waterfield spun and handed to Davis up the middle for four. On the next snap, Bob did a double spin, faking to Glenn and handing to Towler who ran around right end for three. Tow­ler toted again for five and a fresh set of downs at the 38. After Smith was smacked down by Hal Herring for a loss of three, Davis trudged over right tackle to the 40. Waterfield threw to Hirsch streaking over the middle for 14. But the march ended abruptly when Thompson crashed head-on into Towler, causing a fumble that Herring recovered on his 41.
But after an incompletion, Brink broke through and horse-collared Graham who was back to pass, knocking the ball loose. Rookie RE Andy Robustelli scooped up the pigskin on the 30, juggled it as he headed toward pay dirt, dropped the ball, picked it up on the run, and continued until Motley tackled him on the two.
Robustelli on his fumble return: "I never got a really good grip on the ball because I just grabbed it off-balance and began to run. I stumbled as soon as I started, and it seemed I kept stumbling all the way down the field, trying the keep the ball in my grasp."
It took three tries, but Towler finally rammed over right tackle into the end zone with nine minutes remaining. Rams 14 Browns 10

Towler scores the Rams' second touchdown.
Lewis kicked off to Carpenter 5y in the end zone. Ken returned nicely to the 27. Motley fought and twisted up the center of the 7-4 defense for four hard-earned yards. Graham tossed short over the middle to Jones running free for a 26y gain. Motley hit the middle for one measly yard. Carpenter then dropped another pass. Graham lofted a long one to Lavelli that was deflected into the hands of Williams, who returned from his 23 to the 33.
But the Rams went three-and-out, Waterfield booting to Carpenter who careened forward 6y to the 23 only to have a clipping penalty put the ball back on the nine.
Graham pitched out to Jones, who fumbled, picked it up on the first bounce, and salvaged a 2y gain around right end. After an incompletion and an offside penalty, Otto threw down-and-out to Lavelli to the 30 for a first down. Taking the next snap, Graham arched one a little too long to Carpenter behind the defense. Then the pride of Northwestern flipped a flat pass that was almost intercepted by a diving Herb Rich. Speedie caught the next pass on the ground at the 40. Motley jumped over the line and rambled for 11, his longest gain of the day, to the enemy 49. Graham threw to Speedie wide open at the 23, and Mac waltzed into the end zone. However, a holding penalty, Groza on Robustelli, moved the pigskin to the 25. The Browns continued backwards as Andy corraled Graham for a loss of 11. Otto passed to Lavelli, but Williams knocked it away. Perhaps because his arm was tired, Graham handed to Jones around left end, but Bob Boyd tackled Dub after just a 1y gain. So the Rams took over after a fair catch on the Cleveland 49.
Stydahar said he picked his quarterbacks based on who "had the hot hand." So he inserted a fresh pitcher to replace the tiring Waterfield, young Norm Van Brocklin.
Stydahar explained his move. "The Dutchman had nearly three-quarters of the game to get an idea of what was working and what was not, and most importantly, why these things were happening. He had a great football mind, almost photogenic when it came to looking at alignments and formulating his own plan of attack to suit them."
The change immediately paid off when, after an incompletion to Hirsch, Norm fired a pass to Fears on the run at the 20. Tom was tackled at the 10 but got up before the whistle blew and fought his way to the one. But the defense, with Motley in at line­backer, bowed its back. The white suits stopped Hoerner cold, then tossed Towler for successive one and 2y losses.
Because of a penalty, the Rams found themselves facing 4th down back at the 16 when the period ended. Rams 14 Browns 10

Quarter 4
Davis knelt to take the field goal snap but tried to run with the ball. The Browns weren't fooled and smothered him at the 18. As the jubilant defenders left the field, little did they know that they would be forced to make another stand in a few plays.
Graham flipped to Jones for a 5y gain. Then under the heavy rush he experienced all afternoon, Otto threw the ball away over Lavelli's head. The next pass went right into the hands of Johnson on the 36. Marvin ran untouched down the sideline until Jones knocked him out of bounds at the one.
Van Brocklin handed to Hoerner, who gained a half yard at left tackle. The same play gained even less on second down. Van took the snap as soon as he stepped under center, but his sneak met a stone wall. A flag for backfield in motion put the pigskin back to the six. Norm threw in the flat to Davis for -1. Ready to settle for the field goal this time, the Rams took a 5y penalty for too much time in the huddle to give Waterfield a better angle. Bob split the uprights. Rams 17 Browns 10
Waterfield's field goal goes through the uprights.
Lewis's kick flew between those same uprights to Carpenter 5y deep in the end zone. Ken snaked his way to the 30. Expecting the Browns to pass, Stydahar pulled his linebackers and went with seven defensive backs, including Hirsch at safety. Eschewing the run anyway, Graham threw to Speedie, who stepped out of bounds at his 48. Following two incompletions to Jones. Otto rolled right but, not finding an open receiver, turned back to his left and, helped by timely blocks, rambled 32y down the sideline to the 18. The momentum continued as Carpenter gained five. Then Graham took the snap, paused a moment, and sneaked to the 11. Then the dependa­ble Jones found a hole through left guard for 1st-and-goal at the five. Dub carried a pitch around right end to the one. Graham tried the delayed sneak again, but no hole opened, and DT Jim Winkler stopped him for a yard loss. On third down, Carpenter fought into the end zone at right tackle. Groza kicked the tying point with 7:50 left. Rams 17 Browns 17
On the Rams sideline, Van Brocklin stomped about in frustration while the Browns drove to the tying touchdown. He was confident he could answer the Cleveland touchdown with one of his own. Rams assistant coach Hampton Pool said, "Van Brocklin had the uncanny knack of getting a mental picture of an opponent's pass coverage from a given formation and retaining that picture. Whenever he wanted something, he'd dig that picture out of his mind and use it to his own advantage."
After a touchback, Davis swung around right end for two but offside on Cleveland changed the gain to five and saved the down. Then came the Play of the Game, indeed the Play of the Year.
The LA coaching staff had discovered a weakness in the Cleveland pass defense that they could exploit. The Browns safeties were taught to key on the fullback and shift toward the side he lined up on.
When the ball was snapped, LE Fears, lined up on the side opposite the fullback, started downfield covered by Cliff Lewis, who was right with him. Van Brocklin arched a beautiful pass that Fears caught in stride at midfield just out of the reach of the leaping Lewis and the other safety, James, who had shifted a bit to the other side of the field. To make matters worse, the two safeties knocked each other offstride as they went for the ball. Tom easily outraced James to the end zone. Rams 24 Browns 17
Fears said of the touchdown: "That was the best thrown pass I ever caught in my life. He laid it right in there when I was going full stride."
Afterward Lewis felt he had cost his team the game on the touchdown, but Lahr came to his defense. "He missed by an eyelash [of knocking the ball down]. It was that close."
James, the other safety, also took some of the blame. "I should have played Fears and made the tackle. But I thought I had a good chance to get it [the ball]."
With eight minutes remaining, the visitors had plenty of time to strike back as they did to pull out the '50 title game with less than two minutes remaining. But on the first play after Carpenter's 26y return to the 28, Graham, visibly weary with no backup the caliber of Van Brocklin and under a heavy rush, threw a pass directly into Don Paul's hands on the 40. The linebacker bulled his way to the 14.
But the Cleveland defense rose to the occasion again. Two runs for -2 and a Van Brocklin incompletion forced another short field goal attempt that could put the game away. But G Bill Willis blocked Waterfield's boot from the 23, the pigskin rolling out of bounds back at the 38.
With plenty of time – five minutes – to move the ball downfield with short passes as they had all game, Graham overshot Lavelli on a long pass. Then Otto connected with Carpenter for 12 and a first down at midfield. Forced to flee the pocket, Graham lost three. After an incomplete pass stopped the clock, he threw to Carpenter over the middle to the LA 43. Facing 4th and one and not gaining much through the center of the defense all day, Graham tossed to Jones circling left, but rookie DB Norb Hecker from Baldwin-Wallace College in suburban Cleveland threw Dub for a 2y loss to turn the ball over on downs.
Keep possession for 2 1/2 minutes and the title is yours, Rams. After three short runs and an intentional delay of game penalty, Waterfield punted into the end zone with 15 seconds left.
Needing a miracle, Graham tried the hook-and-ladder play. He threw quickly to Speedie, who pitched to Carpenter, who ran out of bounds at the 38. Six seconds left. So the Browns tried the double pass. Graham pegged laterally to Carpenter, who threw downfield to Lavelli, who was double covered. The Rams batted it down and started celebrating.
The city of Cleveland's six-year streak of having a championship pro football team came to an end.
The Rams on the sidelines hoisted Coach Stydahar, all 275lbs of him, and carried him off the field. The rest of the NFL owners who didn't start in the AAFC exulted as well.

Watch the 1951 Championship Game

Stydahar and Rams erupt as game ends.
Final statistics:
  • First downs: Rams 20 Browns 22
  • Yards rushing: Rams 43-81 Browns 23-92
  • Passing: Rams 30-13-2/253 Browns 41-19-3/233
  • Return yardage: Rams 5-21 Browns 6-145
  • Fumbles-Lost: Rams 2-1 Browns 4-1
  • Penalties: Rams 5-25 Browns 6-41
  • Punting average: Rams 5-43.4 Browns 4-37.0

The Rams 7-4 defense did a good job of blunting Cleveland's running game, holding them to 92y, 43 of which came on Graham's scrambles. Motley gained only 23y on five carries.

  • Jumbo Joe Stydahar was so overcome, all he could say was, "What a great bunch of guys." Regaining his composure, he added: "It was the defense that did it. We kept the pressure on Otto Graham all the time. We gave him a bad time by rushing him with our line and our linebackers. In that last quarter, especially, we had the Browns upset by the way we mixed up our defenses."
  • A grinning Van Brocklin said: "I wanted to win so badly, I couldn't sleep last night."
  • LB Stan West: "I was scared until the last three minutes. And I wasn't comfortable after that either."
  • LB Don Paul: "We've blown three games against these guys. I never felt we had 'em until the final gun."
  • Ram owner Dan Reeves made arrangements for a big party for his newly crown­ed champions. The millionaire stock broker wore his biggest grin since his Cleve­land Rams won the 1945 NFL title. He had another reason beside the champion­ship to celebrate - the '51 Rams made a profit for the first time in team history, going back to their time in Cleveland.
  • Paul Brown walked into the LA locker room and shook Tom Fears' hand. "Here's the guy who did it, right here."

The Browns had little to say in their new role as title game losers.

  • In his own locker room, Brown told reporters: "We lost a football game, that's all. We played as hard as we could ... It was Joe Stydahar's turn. ... It was a strange day. But that's part of the business. We've had a strange day coming for some time."
  • Seeing his downcast quarterback, Brown walked to him.
    "Get your nose up, Otts."
    "I let you down," Graham replied.
    "No, you didn't. Not in the least, Otts."
    "I'll make up for it, Paul, I promise you that."
    "It's all a part of living. Nothing to do now but forget it and start thinking of next season."
The players split 70% of the net receipts of $156,551, a new record.
  • Each Ram pocketed $2,108.
  • Each member of the losing team earned $1,483, which was more than twice what each Brown took home as victors the previous year.
References: Championship: The NFL Title Games plus Super Bowl, Jerry Izenberg (1970)
Pro Football's Greatest Moments, Jack Clary (1989)
75 Seasons: The Complete Story of the National Football League 1920-1995 (1994)
The Gridiron's Greatest Quarterbacks, Jonathan Rand (2004)
Paul Brown: The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Football's Most Innovative Coach, Andrew O'Toole (2008)
Paul Brown: The Man Who Invented Modern Football, George Cantor (2008)
100 Yards of Glory: The Greatest Moments in NFL History, Joe Garner and Bob Costas (2011)
Pro Football Championships before the Super Bowl: A Year-by-Year History, 1926-1965, Joseph S. Page (2011)
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