Pivotal Pro Football Plays
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that changes the momentum of a playoff game.
1947: Brown Challenges Motley
All-America Football Conference Title Game: Cleveland Browns @ New York Yankees
The two division winners from the inaugural AAFC season in 1946 repeated in '47. This time, the East winner would host based on alternating sites.
The Browns had defeated the Yanks 26-17 in October at Cleveland. The teams tied at 28 in November at Yankee Stadium when the Browns roared back from a 28-0 deficit. Neither team would score as many points in the title game on a slippery field with snow pushed to the sidelines before 61,879, the largest attendance ever for a pro football play­off contest.
On the field before the kickoff, Cleveland Coach Paul Brown called over his big FB Marion Motley. "Marion, you see all those people out there? Guess what they're here for." The fullback gave the obvious answer - to see a football game. "No, Marion," Brown replied, "the thing they want to know is whether you or Buddy Young is a better man." Young was the Yankees' sensational 5'4" rookie halfback. Ever the master motivator, Paul knew that his best chance to win against a tough defense on a treacherous field was to emphasize Motley's running interspersed with short, quick passes.

L-R: Paul Brown, Marion Motley, Otto Graham, Buddy Young
Near the end of the first quarter, the Browns broke the scoring ice. From his 36, QB Otto Graham flipped a long lateral to Motley. The giant fullback sped through right tac­kle, cut toward the middle of the field, then headed for the sidelines again. He got past everyone except DB Harmon Rowe who closed in and nicked Marion's feet, causing the ball carrier to stumble out of bounds at the NY 13 to complete the 51y jaunt. Three plays later, Graham passed to LE Mac Speedie cutting across the middle. Mac made a leaping catch amid three defenders, who wrestled him down at the one. Graham pushed into the snow-covered end zone on a quarterback sneak. Lou "The Toe" Groza converted.


Motley's 51y run from freeze frame images from the video of the game
The Yankees got a field goal in the second period. From the Cleveland 22, Young took a swing pass from TB Spec Sanders and sprinted to the left sideline, then skittered on the icy turf to the nine. On 1st-and-goal, Young plunged to the six. Brown inserted 230lb Motley as a linebacker in the goal-line defense. Spec, fortified by a trio of blockers, skirted wide to his right as Motley chased him. It looked like a certain touchdown if he could cut in. But it was too icy to do so, and LB Tony Adamle brought Spec down for no gain. Next, Young took a handoff wide left but was tackled for a 1y loss. So Harvey Johnson booted a field goal from the 12 to make it 7-3 Browns.
The defensive struggle continued well into the third period, and it was a good bet that the next team to score a touchdown would win the game. Not surprisingly, it was a defen­sive play that set up the score. Cleveland DB Tommy Colella made a shoestring inter­ception of Sanders' jump pass and returned it 14y to the NY 41.

Tommy Colella intercepts Spec Sanders' overthrown jump pass.
Motley broke away on a trap play for 16y to the 25. Graham hit HB Edgar "Special Delivery" Jones for 11 before HB Lewis Mayne took a pass to the six. Jones halved the distance to the goal line on successive runs, then scored the touchdown from the three on a play that had the Yankees baffled. Reaching into the Browns' seemingly inexhaustible bag of tricks, Graham faked a handoff to Motley heading up the middle, faked a pitchout to the man-in motion, Mayne, then spun back and handed the leather to Jones as a big hole opened at right tackle. Graham waved his fist aloft, danced a joyful jig, and shook hands with himself. Afterwards, Brown said it was the first time his team had tried the play, which they borrowed from San Francisco's slick QB Frankie Albert.
The 14-3 lead seemed insurmountable, and it was, although the Yanks didn't go down without a fight. In the final period, Sanders hit E Jack Russell running across the field. Jack ran untouched until he slipped down at the 23. Then an offside penalty against the Browns put the ball on the 18. But on the next snap, disaster struck. Young dropped a long lateral pass, fell on the ball but lost control of it, and DB Lou Saban ended up with it on the 30.
Final score: Cleveland 14 New York 3
Thousands of rooters from Harlem swarmed on the field after the game, surrounding Mot­ley, E Horace Gillom, and G Bill Willis, the Browns' three African-American players and delaying their exit from the field. Some hoisted Motley on their shoulders - quite a feat - and carried him halfway to the locker room.