Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that changes the momentum of a playoff game.
Layne to Walker Sparks Lions
1952 NFL Championship Game: Detroit Lions @ Cleveland Browns
Bobby Layne and Doak Walker, born 13 days apart in 1926-27, met on the football field at Highland Park High in Dallas, where they were teammates, played against each at Texas and SMU, and then became teammates on the Detroit Lions.
Both Layne and Walker made All-American in 1947, Bobby at quarterback and Doak at halfback. However, both ran and passed in their offenses. Both also punted and place-kicked. Author Harold Ratliff explained the contrast in styles of the two stars like this: "Bobby was the rough-tough guy. He'd run over you. Now, Doak, well, he was just a great athlete. Like a violin player, smooth as silk." Both set numerous records at their respective schools.
Both stars joined the Lions in 1950, Layne via a trade and Doak via the NFL draft. Finally starting on a good team, Bobby immediately led the NFL in passing yardage for two years in a row. Both seasons, Doak gained more yards receiving than rushing.

L-R: Bobby Layne, Doak Walker, Buddy Parker
In 1952, Buddy Parker's second season as Detroit's head coach resulted in a 9-3 record and the NFL National Division championship following a 31-21 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the playoff. The Lions' accomplishment was remarkable considering that Walker had played sparingly because of injuries. They faced the Cleveland Browns, who won the American Division for the third straight season.
Once again, the Cleveland weatherman was not kind to the Browns. Sunday, December 28, dawned sunny but cold. The thermometer just missed rising to the freezing mark,and a strong wind added to the misery. Nevertheless, 50,934 turned out, the best crowd by 10,000 for a title game in Municipal Stadium going back to the Cleveland Rams in 1945. The field was frozen hard at the beginning but thawed out as the game progressed. The footing was slippery between the hash marks but otherwise in acceptable shape.

L-R: Pat Harder, Cloyce Box, Otto Graham, Marion Motley
The Lions scored first after a short punt to midfield to take a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a sneak by Layne from the three.
That score held up into the third period until the two Lone Star friends teamed up for what would prove to be the deciding touchdown. With the ball on the Detroit 33, Layne faked to FB Pat Harder and handed to Walker. Meanwhile, LE Cloyce Box flared far to the left, taking two defenders with him. Doak sliced through the line, bounced off LB Bert Rechichar, eluded two tacklers, and angled to his left. Box, who had not been known for his blocking, bumped both Rechichar and DB Tommy James as the speedy Walker sailed down the sidelines and outran DB Warren Lahr to the end zone to complete the 67y play. It was Walker's first touchdown of the season and couldn't have come at a better time."After I got past the line of scrimmage," said Doak afterward, "I felt I had a chance to go all the way. They really opened up a big hole, didn't they?"
The 14-0 lead would prove to be insurmountable for the Browns, although it would take a crucial defensive play to help protect the lead.
Cleveland finally scored with 2:30 left in the third period to make it 14-7. When the Browns got the ball back on a punt in the fourth quarter, Otto Graham completed three straight passes, then ran a delay to put the ball on the Lion 46. From there, Graham spun completely around and tossed a deep pitch to Marian Motley around the left side. The 238lb fullback broke free into the secondary and headed down the left sideline with three Lions in pursuit for 41y before S Don Doll pushed him out of bounds at the five.

L-R: Don Doll, LaVern Torgeson, Lou Creekmur
The tackle would prove to be one of the most crucial of the afternoon. Motley tried the other side on the next snap but ran into a stone wall. He tried to bounce outside only to have LB LaVern Torgeson upend him for a loss of five. Graham backed up to pass but couldn't get it away as three Lions led by Lou Creekmur threw him down 12y behind the line. With no choice but to pass again on third down, Otto slipped while attempting to pass and just made his way back to the line of scrimmage. Coach Paul Brown decided to go for it on 4th down, but LB Dick Flanagan knocked down Graham's pass over the middle intended for Motley.
After running the ball three times, the Lions punted, but the ball went right through Ken Carpenter's arms. G Jim Martin took the ball on the hop and was downed immediately on the Cleveland 24. That set up Harder's clinching field goal to make the final score 17-7.