Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
1954: Detroit Lions @ Cleveland Browns
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.

Frank Gatski

Mike McCormack

Maurice Bassett

Bobby Layne

Tom Dublinski

Buddy Parker

The offseason of 1953-54 was a time of change for the Cleveland Browns.
  • First, Otto Graham, the only QB the franchise had ever known, announced at the Pro Bowl in January 1954 that he was contemplating retirement. He eventually decided that the upcoming campaign would be his last.
  • Then Paul Brown lost two of his assistants, one with his blessing and the other contentiously. Blanton Collier, Brown's right hand man, replaced Bear Bryant as head coach at the University of Kentucky, Blanton's native state. Paul agreed that his friend could not pass up UK's lucrative offer.
  • However, the departure of Weeb Ewbank to become the head coach of the Baltimore Colts proved to be another matter entirely. Weeb was the chief architect of the Browns' draft plans. So Brown insisted that Ewbank stay with Cleveland through the draft, and Commissioner Bert Bell agreed. But the plan backfired as the Colts several times picked players that the Browns had on their list, including WR Raymond Berry. It turned out that Weeb, while ostensibly having no contact with Baltimore officials during the draft as ordered by the commissioner, passed notes to them via a Baltimore sportswriter.

    Paul Brown with Weeb Ewbank and Blanton Collier
  • The Cleveland roster underwent upheaval as well. Eleven veterans from the '53 squad departed. With MG Bill Willis having retired and FB Marion Motley sitting out the '54 season with a knee injury, only four original Browns re­mained: Graham, T-K Lou Groza, WR Dante Lavelli, and C Frank Gatski. Even Gatski announced his retirement after a third straight loss in the title game, but Brown persuaded him to return. The coach would also entice veteran HB Dub Jones out of retirement in September.
  • Some new players would perform admirably replacing the old standbys. Rookie Maurice Bassett from tiny Langston College, who was spotted play­ing military ball in California, and Curly Morrison, obtained from the Bears, became serviceable replacements for Motley. rushing for over 800y between them. Mike McCormack returned from two years in military service and ably replaced Willis at MG.

When the '54 season began, the Browns looked like a team in turmoil.

  • The Eagles spanked them in the opener, 28-10. Then, after a 31-7 victory over the lowly Chicago Cardinals, the Browns were clobbered by the Pitts­burgh Steelers 55-27, the team's worst loss since joining the NFL in 1950.
  • After a morose train ride home from the Steel City, Brown gained optimism from watching the film of the game, which included two INT returns for Steel­er TDs and a 78y pass for another. "You know, we played some pretty good football. Actually, the pictures were reassuring. We still are a pretty good football team."
  • With sportswriters trumpeting the demise of a dynasty, the Browns proved their coach's point by ripping off eight straight victories, including revenge wins over the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, to clinch the East Division with one game to play.
  • The Browns thus continued their streak of playing in their league's champ­ionship game every year of their existence starting in the All-America Football Conference in 1946.

The West also produced the same champion for the third year in a row.

  • With essentially the same team that won the NFL title in '52 and '53, Detroit won eight of their first nine.
  • A tie with the Eagles clinched the division and rendered the following week's loss to the Bears meaningless.
  • The Lions won their division despite QB Bobby Layne missing four games. Tom Dublinski served as an adequate replacement, completing 56% of his passes for 1,073y and 8 TDs.
  • As luck would have it, the Lions had one more game to play before the title game against none other than their opponents in that game, the Browns. Originally scheduled for Cleveland October 3, the contest was postponed to the open week before the title game because of the World Series in Munici­pal Stadium that weekend. Since the NFL followed baseball's lead and alter­nated the site of the championship game between the two divisions regard­less of the teams' records, the game amounted to nothing more than a dress rehearsal for the following week's title clash. Both coaches rested some injured regulars.
  • Just as they did in the 1953 championship game, the Lions drove for the winning TD in the final minute to capture the lackluster contest in a steady snowfall 14-10. Following a very conservative game plan, Graham threw just six passes and completed only one for a grand total of 15y.
  • Brown shrugged off the defeat. "We never seem to have much luck against Detroit. We try to get a little more information about the Lions than any of the other clubs. So far, it hasn't seemed to help." Cleveland fans were aghast that their coach took such a casual attitude toward yet another loss to their nemesis.
  • Since that moved Detroit's record to 7-0-1 against Cleveland (counting ex­hibition games), odds makers installed the Lions as 2 1/2 point favorites when they returned to the Mistake by the Lake the following Sunday.
  • Already in a foul mood because baseball's New York Giants had swept their Indians in the World Series, many Cleveland fans had a fatalistic attitude toward the rematch with Detroit. In fact, enthusiasm for the Browns had waned all year, with attendance averaging right at 30,000 per game.
  • Buddy Parker and his Lions simply had Cleveland's number, as Coach Brown had practically admitted.

Even the Browns players bought into that philosophy but determined to do some­thing about it.

  • Graham had chafed for years in the straitjacket that Brown threw around him and thought he could call a better game. Otto had the freedom to audi­ble at the line of scrimmage, but he'd better be able to justify his decision to the head man, especially if the change didn't work. Since this would be his last game, he had no fear of reprisal.
  • Frustrated by their coach's conservative play calling in the three consecutive championship game losses, members of the offense met the night before the game and decided, "If we're going to lose, let's lose our way." With nothing to fear since he was retiring and with his poor play in the 1953 final game still eating at him, Graham told his mates that, if they fell behind the Lions, he would ignore the plays Brown sent in with his messenger guards.

1954 Detroit Lions
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
14 Bob Hoernschemeyer HB 6-0 195 Indiana 9
19 Tom Dublinski QB 6-2 190 Utah 3
20 Bill Stits DB 6-4 194 UCLA 1
21 Carl Karilivacz HB 6-0 185 Syracuse 2
22 Bobby Layne QB 6-1 190 Texas 7
23 Jug Girard HB 5-11 175 Wisconsin 7
24 Jack Christiansen DB 6-1 180 Colorado A&M 4
25 Jim David DB 5-10 175 Colorado A&M 3
33 Bill Bowman FB 6-2 215 William & Mary 1
34 Lew Carpenter HB 6-1 220 Arkansas 2
36 Bob L. Smith FB 6-0 204 Texas A&M 2
37 Doak Walker HB 5-10 173 SMU 5
50 Charles Ane C 6-2 250 USC 2
52 Andy Miketa C 6-2 210 North Carolina 1
53 LaVern Torgeson C 6-0 210 Washington State 4
56 Joe Schmidt G 6-1 218 Pittsburgh 2
62 Jim Martin G/K 6-2 220 Notre Dame 5
63 Dick Stanfel G 6-3 230 San Francisco 3
65 Les Bingaman MG 6-3 295 Illinois 7
66 Harley Sewell G 6-1 220 Texas 2
70 Gerry Perry T 6-4 237 Pepperdine 1
72 Gil Mains E-T 6-2 243 Murray State 1
73 Thurman McGraw T 6-5 235 Colorado A&M 5
74 Bob Miller T 6-3 235 Virginia 3
76 Lou Creekmur T 6-4 250 William & Mary 5
78 Bob Dove E 6-2 222 Notre Dame 5
80 Cloyce Box E 6-4 220 La Tech/W.Tex.A&M 5
82 Leon Hart E 6-5 262 Notre Dame 5
83 Jim Doran E 6-2 195 Iowa State 4
84 Harold Turner DE 6-2 235 Tennessee State 1
85 Sherwin Gandee E 6-1 210 Ohio State 3
87 Dorne Dibble E 6-2 200 Michigan State 3
88 Jim Cain E 6-4 200 Alabama 4
1954 Cleveland Browns
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
14 Otto Graham QB 6-1 200 Northwestern 9
15 Ken Gorgal DB 6-2 200 Purdue 3
16 George Ratterman QB 6-1 182 Notre Dame 8
20 Don Paul S 6-0 187 Washington State 5
22 Ken Konz DB 5-10 182 LSU 2
24 Warren Lahr DB 5-11 192 Western Reserve 6
26 Ray Renfro HB 6-1 185 North Texas State 3
30 Maurice Bassett FB 6-1 230 Langston 1
32 Fred Morrison FB 6-2 215 Ohio State 4
34 Walt Michaels LB 6-0 232 Washington & Lee 4
40 Dub Jones HB 6-4 200 LSU/Tulane 9
42 Tommy James DB 5-10 185 Ohio State 7
44 Chet Hanulak HB 5-10 185 Maryland 1
46 Billy Reynolds HB 5-10 188 Pittsburgh 2
50 Tom Catlin LB 6-1 210 Oklahoma 2
52 Frank Gatski C 6-3 240 Marshall 9
60 Harold Bradley G 6-2 230 Iowa 1
62 Herschel Forester G 6-0 230 SMU 1
64 Abe Gibron G 5-11 245 Valparaiso/Purdue 6
65 Chuck Noll G 6-1 218 Dayton 2
70 Don Colo DT 6-3 258 Brown 5
72 John Kissell T 6-3 245 Boston College 7
74 Mike McCormack T 6-4 245 Kansas 4
76 Lou Groza T 6-3 240 Ohio State 9
78 John Sandusky T 6-1 255 Villanova 6
79 Bob Gain DT 6-3 256 Kentucky 3
80 Len Ford DE 6-4 254 Morgan St./Michigan 7
82 Carlton Massey DE 6-4 220 Southwestern (TX) 1
83 Doug Atkins DE 6-8 250 Tennessee 2
84 Horace Gillom E 6-1 225 Ohio State/Nevada 8
86 Dante Lavelli E 6-0 192 Ohio State 9
88 Warren Brewster E 6-3 205 Purdue 3
Rosters from Cleveland Plain Dealer the day of the game.


Dick Stanfel

Lou Groza

Joe Schmidt

Dorne Dibble
Coach Brown on sidelines

Browns on sidelines

Carl Karilivacz wrestles for a pass with Warren Brewster. The ball ended up in the hands of Ray Renfro.

The weather conditions were an improvement over the previous Sunday: low 40s and clear. The turf was soft after the thaw and muddy between the hash marks. Footing was slippery in the muddy areas of the baseball infield that stayed in the shade of the grandstand. Patches of snow dotted that end zone.
  • Spurred by the unseasonably good weather the day after Christmas, 43,827, a surprisingly good crowd after only 24,000 tickets were sold in advance, gathered in hopes of seeing the Browns break the Lions jinx.
  • Cleveland would play without veteran LB Tony Adamle, out with a broken leg. RBs Maurice Bassett (thigh), the team's leading rusher, and Billy Rey­nolds (ankle) would be limited. However, WR Ray Renfro, perhaps the fast­est Brown, had recovered sufficiently from a bad knee six weeks earlier to give it a go.
  • Parker pronounced his boys ready to go as his Lions tried to become the first NFL club to win three straight championships. "We are in good shape, as good as we've been all year. Every man is ready, including Dick Stanfel, our ace LB." Carl Karilivacz returned to the secondary, freeing Doak Walk­er to concentrate on offense.
  • The Detroit coach couldn't explain why his team had never lost to the Browns. "I guess maybe it's because the boys have a lot of pride, and they put out as much as they can."
  • Paul Brown had a theory though. "If you get a clutch performance by a player or two, you win games like these. And the Lions have been getting these clutch performances from fellows like Layne, Walker, Leon Hart, etc."
  • The game would again be televised by the DuMont network to a record 187 cities. Mutual would handle the radio end. The TV and radio rights earned the league $101,250, all of which went into the players' pool.
  • Commissioner Bell would watch the action from his Philadelphia home after collapsing for the second time on Wednesday. "I will be watching alongside a telephone," Bert said, "and if any important decisions must be made, I'll make them."
  • Detroit's 335-pound MG Les Bingaman announced he would hang up his cleats after the game.
  • Quarter 1
    Jack Christiansen returned Groza's kick from the 1 to the 17. On the very first play, rookie FB Bill Bowman broke through a gaping hole up the middle for a 50y gain to the 33 where he was tackled by Tommy James and Warren Lahr. However, Lew Carpenter took his eyes off a pitchout and fumbled on the next play, and Browns T John Kissell fell on the ball at the 37.
    Kissell (along with E Mac Speedie) had taken a lucrative offer from the Canadian League but returned after just one year to help replace DT Bob Gain, who fulfilled his military obligation. Gain came home from Korea in December in time to play in the last two games, enough to make him eligible for the championship game.
    Moments later, LB Joe Schmidt intercepted Graham's wobbly pass intended for Warren Brewster and returned it 13y to put the Lions back in business on the 35. "Here we go again," many Cleveland fans must have thought.
    Taking the first snap, Layne launched a long pass to Dorne Dibble raced toward the pylon at the 6 a step in front of James. But the pigskin went right through Dibble's hands. It was a portent of the Lions fate on the afternoon. Layne tossed a delayed screen to the right to Carpenter who started up­field with plenty of open space and a blocker in front of him. But Kissell made another great play by tackling Lew from behind after only a 5y gain. After the next play gained only 2, Detroit settled for Doak Walker's 36y FG. Lions 3 Browns 0
    Billy Reynolds, scheduled to enter the Air Force in a month, showed no sign of being injured when he returned Jim Martin's kickoff 46y to the Detroit 41 where Walker made a TD-saving ankle tackle. But the Browns gained only 6 on two runs and an incompletion. So Horace Gillom came on to punt. The result was a confusing play that helped the Browns keep possession. Jug Girard signalled for a fair catch, then moved three strides to his right before being smacked down by a Brown. Meanwhile, the referee threw a flag for roughing the kicker against Harley Sewell. After conferring, the officials ruled that Girard bobbled the ball and never had enough control to warrant a fair-catch infraction. So, instead of offsetting penalties, the roughing the punter violation prevailed and gave the Browns a first down on the 35. A pitchout from Graham to Bassett lost 2y. Then Otto faded straight back behind maximum protection, waited for Ray Renfro to split Bill Stits and Carl Karilivacz, and threw to Ray who caught the ball in stride on the 8 for a TD. It was Otto's first TD pass in a championship game against the Lions. Groza started a perfect day on PATs. Browns 7 Lions 3 with 8:50 on the clock.
    While studying film of previous games against Detroit, Brown noticed that, each time Cleveland lined up in a tight T-formation, the CBs came up in anticipation of a sweep. So he had LWB Renfro circle out of the backfield around the defense into the clear. The play would work beautifully again in Q2.
    Starting from the 20 after Christiansen's return, Layne completed a 17y pass to Dibble. But the possession bogged down on a 4y sack by DE Doug Atkins.
    After Jug Girard's punt to the 23, Graham ran far back to escape two runners, then circled forward for 7y. Bassett gained a first down, but on the next play Christiansen ran in front of Lavelli and snagged Graham's pass, retaining possession long enough before fumbling out of bounds on the 31.
    But on the next play, Layne and his receiver seemed to have their signals crossed. Bobby's pass went straight to Don Paul who meandered 33y to the 8.
    After recovering his own fumble for a loss of 2, Graham tossed a slant in to LE Darrell Brewster, who was knocked down on a necktie tackle by Schmidt. But, not being detained by a defender, Pete lunged the final 2y for the score.
    Browns 14 Lions 3
    When the Lions had to punt, Reynolds took the ball on his 46. Taking advantage of a great block by Chet Hanulak, Billy ran down the sidelines, then cut inside until punter Girard, the last line of defense, brought him down on the 12.
    Bassett broke several tackles to the 4. As the quarter ended, the home team had the ball on the 1' line.

Christiansen intercepts a pass intended for Dante Lavelli.
  • Quarter 2
    On the first snap, Graham stepped through a hole at LG and scored standing up. Otto tossed the ball to an official and ran off the field with no fanfare. Browns 21 Lions 3
    Detroit answered with a TD drive of their own. Starting from the 20 after a touch­back on the kickoff, Carpenter made up for his earlier fumble by blasting 52y to buoy the spirits of the contingent of Lions rooters. DB Ken Konz's tackle saved the TD. Walker scooted around LE with an option pitchout to the 14. But when Layne tried the same play to the right side, LB Tom Catlin threw Bowman for an 11y loss. Dibble made a spectacular catch of a Layne aerial across the middle to 4. The march ended with a 5y bolt by Bowman on a 4th-down pitchout at LE. Walker added the point. Browns 21 Lions 10 with 11:25 left.
    After Cleveland punted, Layne passed into the right flat to Carpenter for 6. A pitchout to Bowman netted 7 around the left side. Two snaps later, MG Mike Mc­Cormack pushed his way up the middle as Layne raised up to pass, reached forward, raked the ball out of Bobby's hands, and fell on it to set the Browns up on the Detroit 31.
    Renfro picked up 3 to set up a play that further illustrated that the ball was boun­cing Cleveland's way in this game. Graham rolled left, twisted, and threw to Brewster inside the 10. The ball and DB Carl Karilivacz hit Pete at the same time. The pigskin bounced back into the hands of the onrushing Renfro for a first down on the 7. Graham pushed to the 5. He tookd the next snap and, not even faking a pass, bootlegged around RE. Escaping the lunging tackle attempt of Lou Creek­mur, Otto turned upfield as a double team pushes the E toward the sideline, leaped over the prone Christiansen, who had been leveled by G Chuck Noll at the 2, and skipped into the EZ. Browns 28 Lions 10
    Detroit's next possession didn't last long. Layne connected with Girard for 16 and Walker for 7 more. Bobby then tried to hit Dibble between two defenders at the 47. But LB Walt Michaels took the ball away from the receiver and made a nice return to the 31.
    From there, the Otto the Great threw toward Renfro racing downfield from the left. Ray came through with a remarkable lunging catch on the 2 and sidestepped the goal post for a TD. Browns 35 Lions 10
    Making a last-ditch effort to narrow the margin, Layne threw to Walker in the right flat. The Doaker raced down the right sideline for 30y to the Cleveland 45. The next aerial went to Girard to the 24. With the clock ticking down, Layne hit Girard racing across the middle. But Konz knocked the ball loose as he tackled Jug, and Michaels was again Johnny-on-the-Spot, recovering on the 15 to end the threat.
    The demoralized Lions left the field with heads hanging

Ray Renfro snags Graham's pass for a TD in Q2.

Charley Ane

Len Ford

Chet Hanulak

  • Quarter 3
    After Reynolds brought the kickoff back 21y to the 31, the Browns needed only six plays to score again. The big play was a 43y connection from Graham to Brew­ster. Otto barely escaped a sack, rolled to his left, and let fly. Pete went up in the air with Walker and David and made a juggling catch on the 7. After a penalty moved the ball to the 4, Otto ran to the 1' line, then sneaked over RG from there for his third TD of the game, a title game record. Browns 42 Lions 10
    Two snaps after the kickoff, Layne and his receiver seemed to be on different pages again as the ball sailed by Walker as he ran down the middle into the hands of DB Ken Konz, who made a leaping INT and raced back 18y to the 13.
    Renfro gained 1, then Morrison took pitch to the right, cut back, and headed toward pay dirt. Sewell just missed a diving tackle at the 5 before Karilivacz hit the ball carrier at the 1 but couldn't stop him from diving into the EZ. Cleveland has now put up more points than have ever been scored on a Buddy Parker-coached team. Browns 49 Lions 10 with 6:35 gone in the quarter.
    Tom Dublinski replaced Layne at QB but started disastrously. Rookie E Carlton Massey broke through and chased him down for a 15y loss to the 10. The new QB fights back with an 18y pass to Girard, not enough to move the chains.
    After an exchange of punts, Tom started moving the Lions. But with the ball on his 41, he took off after dropping to pass for a costly 4y gain. A severe ankle sprain knocked him out of the game. Layne returned and immediately hit Carpenter in the right flat to the Cleveland 31. Dibble got behind the secondary at the goal line only to see Bobby's pass fall wide and short. Walker was the recipient of the next aerial at the 18.
    The Lions seemed more intent on brawling than coming back. Browns DE Massey and Lions T Charley Ane were thrown out of the game for fighting late in the period. Detroit G Dick Stanfel left the game with a back injury.
    Still, the Lions moved 64y in 11 plays with the help of two penalties and were knocking on the door at the Cleveland 6 when the gun sounded.

Fred Morrison scores.
  • Quarter 4
    The visitors' hopes of making the score more respectable were short circuited on the first play of the period. Layne threw a pass straight to his left, but the ball goes straight to DE Len Ford. The 255 lb Detroit native rumbled all the way to the Lions 45. The 57y return set a new championship game record.
    The Browns moved 20y, but Morrison fumbled a pitchout, and Gerald Perry recovered on the 25.
    Konz struck again with his second INT, returning a pass deflected by Kissell 12y to the Lions 39.
    Hanulak broke through G for 24 to the 16. Two plays later, the Browns were at the 10. Graham saw a change in the defense and checked signals at the line of scrimmage. He gave the ball to Chet "The Jet", who burst through a big hole into the EZ. Browns 56 Lions 10 with 9:40 on the clock.
    Layne threw to Dibble for 16. But a low fastball up the middle bounced off Bow­man's hands to Ford, racing back to help in coverage. It isn't often a DE gets two INTs in one game.
    After the next Cleveland possession started, Brown sent George Ratterman out to replace Graham. As Otto left the field, the fans gave him a prolonged standing ovation. Three TDs rushing and three more passing - not a bad day's work.

For the first time in Cleveland football history, the fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts to celebrate their heroes' first championship since 1950. The band played "Auld Lang Syne."

Final statistics:
  • First downs: Browns 17 Lions 16
  • Yards rushing: Browns 45-140 Lions 29-136
  • Passing: Browns 9-12-2/163 Lions 19-44-6/179
  • Return yardage: Browns 7-127 Lions 9-108
  • Fumbles-Lost: Browns 2-2 Lions 3-3
  • Penalties: Browns 4-40 Lions 5-63
  • Punting average: Browns 4-43.0 Lions 6-41.3

Cleveland Locker Room

  • Brown told his team when they reached the locker room: On this given day, you were the finest team I have ever coached. I've got to take my hat off to you. When asked if this edition of the Browns were his best ever, the wily coach sidestep­ped the question. They're champions. You can't go any higher than that. Paul likened the victory to the 55-27 drubbing the Browns received from the Steelers early in the season. In order to score that many points, you've got to get a lot of real good breaks, and, brother, we got 'em. They were a long time coming, though. The Lions always got them before. Brown admitted he hadn't felt this good since win­ning the title in his first year in the NFL and pointed to "a great team effort." The emotional outburst came from within. No one had to stick a needle in them today. They were ready. But he quipped, Only one thing makes me unhappy. I wanted to kick a field goal. On his QB: Why should a guy who can do what he did want to retire? I don't want him to quit.
  • Graham admitted that the standing ovation nearly made him change his mind about retirement. Yeah, it was my last one. I kept saying all along it would be my last game, and nothing happened out there to make me change my mind. That [the ovation] almost made me change my mind, but I've got to quit sometime, and this is as good a time as any. I always said I'd like to go out on top. I told Paul at the begin­ning of the season I'd return if he had no quarterback, but George Ratterman has already signed for next year so that settles that. When asked if he was quitting because of age, Otto replied, Oh no, I still love to play football. Why, it's been my whole life. And despite what a lot of people think, I don't mind the physical condition­ing or the beating you take week after week. Being away from my family so much is one reason why I've decided to quit, and the other is the terrible mental pressure you feel before each game. You have no idea what it's like, and it gets worse and worse as the years go by. I hate that pregame feeling. I lie awake and think that if I have a bad day the whole team goes down with me. Remember the title game last year? Gosh, I felt awful. I wanted to go out and jump off a building. Was finally beating the Lions one of his greatest thrills? One of the greatest, but it doesn't measure up to the kick we got out of winning our first National League title back in 1950.
  • Renfro, who caught two TD passes after being shut out in the '53 title game, was asked about his injured knee. I think that's all it needs for a full recovery.
  • The Browns gave the game ball to veteran DB Warren Lahr, who had been victi­mized for the winning TD in the '53 final. But he deflected any praise to the oppo­site unit. That offensive team has been saving that explosion all season.
  • Konz: The defense wanted to prove something to Paul Brown because of the way they had beaten us. We wanted to prove we had the best defense in the league.
Jubilant Browns

Detroit Locker Room

  • Parker on losing by the second largest score in a championship game after the Bears' 73-0 rout of Washington in 1940: I saw it but still hardly can believe it. It has me dazed. He continued: Our luck simply ran out. The good Lord wasn't with us. They got every break in the world. I guess we just weren't supposed to win. ... We moved the ball all right in the first half. We just got knocked out of the ball game early - that was the trouble.
  • Bingaman said he was retiring because it gets tougher every year to get in shape. It was a sad day to bow out. They got those first four or five breaks, and they took advantage of them ...
  • Layne, who now understood what his Browns counterpart had experienced the last two years, was succinct. They just beat hell out of us. Playboy Bobby also impishly added, I went to bed at 10:00 PM the night before, and we go the devil beat out of us. I know I was awful. I never felt right. Parker accepted Layne's explana­tion with a grin of his own. I guess when a kid's been used to having a drink since he was 14, you don't want to change his habits. Our luck just ran out. We never had so many things go against us so fast.
    In his 1962 autobiography, Bobby insisted that the victory the week before did not make the Lions overconfident. We were as ready as a team could be. On the first play from scrimmage, our fullback, Bill Bowman, got loose through the line and was headed for touchdown territory. But Bowman had a charley horse and couldn't go full tilt. As a result, he was caught from behind and we had to settle for a field goal by Doak Walker [after an exchange of turnovers].
    Even so, we held the Browns for downs and started to move the very next time we had the ball. Dorne Dibble got loose right away and was standing in the open wait­ing for the ball all alone, and it was a sure touchdown. Dibble, who rarely dropped a pass, dropped this one.
    Instead of leading, 14-0, and having the Browns on the run, we had given them life. Against good teams, you can't do this. They get a lift from such breaks, and everything seems to go against the guilty parties.
The receipts totaled $289,126.43.
  • Each member of the Browns earned $2,478.57.
  • Each Lion took home $1,583.63.
1954 Cleveland Browns - NFL Champions
References: Championship: The NFL Title Games plus Super Bowl, Jerry Izenberg (1970)
Pro Football Championships before the Super Bowl: A Year-by-Year History, 1926-1965, Joseph S. Page (2011)
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)
The Best Show in Football: The 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns, Andy Piascik (2007)

Top of Page