Pivotal Pro Football Plays
1946: Graham Leads Go-Ahead Drive and Intercepts
All-America Football Conference Title Game: New York Yankees @ Cleveland Browns
The second championship game of the AAFC pitted the East Division champion New York Yankees, owned by Dan Topping, part owner of the baseball Yankees, and the West Division champion Cleveland Browns, owned by Mickey McBride, who made his fortune from his Yellow Cab fleet and the newspaper business. The Browns had defeated the Yankees twice during the season, 24-7 and 7-0.
The temperature prediction for Sunday, December 22 was right on target but not the clear skies. Fine, wet flakes of snow drifted lazily into the stands of Municipal Stadium on the shore of Lake Erie during most of the game, and a damp wind off the lake penetrated every corner of the horseshoe. Snow from earlier in the week was piled along the sidelines. Some sections of the field were muddy because of melted snow.

Harvey Johnson boots an 11y field goal to put the Yankees ahead 3-0.
The underdog Yankees led 9-7 in the final period when the Browns received a third down punt on their 24. Frustrated because they had outgained the Yankees by a large margin and racked up more first downs but facing possibly their last possession if they failed to score, the Browns started by giving the ball to FB Marian Motley, who ripped off 10. But two runs gained only a yard.
Browns FB Marion MotleyBrowns QB Otto GrahamBrowns HB Edgar Jones
L-R: Marion Motley, Otto Graham, Edgar "Special Delivery" Jones
3rd-and-nine on your 35 trailing by two calls for a special play. Cleveland QB Otto Graham took to the air and, finding wide receivers Mac Speedie and Dante Lavelli covered, fired the ball to HB Edgar Jones streaking across the middle. Special Delivery scooped up the ball at his shoe tops and fell to the ground. The 24y gain moved the ball to the NY 42. Continuing to mix his plays, Graham called for a reverse, Lavelli throwing forward to HB Don Greenwood for eight. Jones slipped off left tackle for seven and a first down at the 27. Tommy Colella made another first down when he took Graham's lateral and ran around right end to the 16. Otto then called for the same play that had produced the only touchdown in the 7-0 victory on a rainy night in Yankee Stadium in October. Known for running precise patterns, Lavelli had been having a hard time trying to shake DB Eddie Prokop. But this time, Dante started straight down, then cut to his right, and headed for the corner of the field. Graham hit him on the six just out of the reach of Prokop's diving effort, and Dante carried the ball and two Yankees into the end zone. Lou Groza's PAT boot made it 14-9 with 4:13 on the clock.
Yankees TB Ace Parker
L-R: Dante Lavelli, Eddie Prokop, Ace Parker
That was plenty enough time for the Yanks to mount a TD drive. The New Yorkers started to move until Graham, inserted at safety in the prevent defense, jumped between a pair of receivers with such fury that he lost part of his shirt but came down with TB Ace Parker's desperation pass to clinch the championship.
Cleveland coach Paul Brown was asked if he was worried in the fourth quarter. "Worried? You bet I was worried! I didn't stop worrying until it was all over ... They all were great - played a marvelous game. It was really a team triumph."
Browns celebrate with their coach.
L-R: Otto Graham, Dante Lavelli, Paul Brown, and Mac Speedie
When Graham pulled off the remaining shreds of his jersey, he revealed an egg-shaped bump where, he said, opposing linemen were rapping him after each pass. He gave credit for his 16 completions (out of 27 attempts) to Lavelli and Speedie. "All I do is throw the ball. When you have ends like that, it's simple."
Lavelli discussed his winning reception. "I knew he (Prokop) was right behind me on that touchdown pass from Otto. I turned and found the pass practically in my arms, then looked around and saw the diagonal stripe of the end zone. I thought, 'Gosh, will I ever make it before Prokop gets me?' I think I must have said a few prayers."