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.
1953: Layne Pulls Out Another Title
1953 NFL Championship Game: Cleveland Browns @ Detroit Lions
The Lions and Browns met in the title game for the second year in a row.
QB Bobby Layne continued to direct the Lions offense and partying. The roster included nine rookies, seven second-year players, two returnees from the Korean War, and 13 play­ers who came from other teams. Bobby made sure they all blended together as a team. DB Jim David praised Layne's unconventional leadership this way: "Nobody was a stranger for long. That was Bobby's way. Once you were on the team, you were part of the gang."
The temperature at kickoff was 34°. The Briggs Stadium turf was soft and mushy in spots and hard in others. Very little grass was left. One reporter called it "more of a skidiron than a gridiron."
Defense was the name of the game in the first half, which ended with the Lions ahead 10-3. With Detroit deploying a seven-man front to stop their running game, the Browns gained only 71y.

L-R: Ken Gorgal, Chick Jagade, Doak Walker, Cloyce Box
A different Cleveland team started the second half. On the third play from scrimmage, Ken Gorgal intercepted Layne's pass and returned to midfield. The Browns drove from there to tie the game on FB Chick Jagade's 9y run.
Continuing to stifle the Lions' offense, the Browns took the lead early in the fourth quarter on Lou Groza's 15y field goal. The Lions finally mounted a drive on their next possession, but Doak Walker missed a 33y field goal.
Jagade sparked Cleveland to another Groza three-pointer, his third of the day to tie an NFL championship game record. Browns 16 Lions 10 with 4:10 remaining.
Starting from the 20 and needing a touchdown, Layne huddled his troops and told them, "Just give me some time and block for me, boys, and I'll win you a title." He hit E Jim Doran on a down and out for 17y. The next snap nearly produced disaster as Layne's pass down the middle was almost intercepted. One Brown defender seemed to get in the way of a teammate making the grab. Then, a long aerial to Walker racing down the left sideline was knocked away at the last second. Facing 3rd and 10 from the Lions 37, Doran slid into a gap between two Brown defenders and grabbed a Layne pass for a first down at the Cleveland 45. Afterwards, Layne said, "If he don't get that one, we ain't going nowhere no how."
Next, the Lions quarterback threw to his other end, Cloyce Box, who snared the pigskin on the 36. A pitchout to Bob Hoernschemeyer gained nothing as the clock kept ticking. Layne then ran for 3y over left guard for a first down at the 33. Detroit called a timeout to set the stage for the biggest play of the game.

L: Jim Doran snares a pass in front of Warren Lahr.
R: Bobby Layne runs away from Bill Willis.
Doran had been dueling the entire game with the defensive back opposite him, Warren Lahr, who was infuriated when Jim threw an elbow at him. From the beginning, the cocky Doran told Layne he could beat his man on a go pattern. The Lion receiver recalled: "Lahr and I had been feuding a bit, you know, like you do in a tough game. He said he was gonna hit me in the mouth." During the timeout, assistant coach Aldo Forte in the press box suggested a screen pass to blunt the rush of DE Len Ford. Head coach Buddy Parker relayed the play to Layne. "Know what I think?" Bobby told his coach. "I think a cigarette sure would taste good about now." Bobby had noticed Lahr pointing an angry, threatening finger at Doran earlier. An excellent poker player, the quarterback from Texas knew that angry men make bad decisions. When Layne returned to the huddle, Doran insisted again, "Really, Bobby, I can beat him deep." Like Johnny Unitas a few years later, Layne had an uncanny ability to salt away a play in his memory and pull it out at just the right time. This was the moment to do so.
Bobby called the out and up that Jim had begged for. Doran lined up wide to the right with Lahr lurking a few yards in front him. He worried that Warren would keep his promise and try to knock his head off. But at the snap, Jim circled to the right and shot down the sideline past his tormentor. With his O-line doing a great job walling off the Browns' five rushers, Layne had time to loft a soft pass into the end zone. It was just a question of whether the speeding Doran would catch up with it. He cradled the ball into his arms two strides past the goal line with Lahr 3y back. The Lions ran downfield to greet Doran as he returned from the end zone. Walker booted the go-ahead PAT with 2:08 showing on the clock. Lions 17 Browns 16
Doran told reporters the winning touchdown pass was set up when the Lions' bench noticed that Cleveland's secondary was playing close up to slow the ends as they went out for passes. "I went out and faked a block, then cut around the defender. I raced towards the end zone, and when I looked up, there was the ball. I was out in the open, and I just pray­ed I could hold on to it. ... You know, this is my third year with the Lions, and I scored one touchdown in each of the first two years. And that was my touchdown for this year. It look­ed like I wouldn't get it for a while, didn't it?"
But the Browns needed only a field goal. Could Otto Graham pull the game out of the fire? No, he couldn't. He ended a miserable day on which he completed only two of 15 attempts by fluttering a pass on the run that ended up in the hands of Carl Karilivacz, a rookie defensive back drafted in the 23rd-round. The Lions ran out the clock to secure their second straight championship.
Graham's right hand was so chafed and blistered that he found it difficult to grip the ball securely. The condition had existed for several weeks. He was simply unable to correct it. He explained that his hands were chapped, and he had no feel on his passes. "I tried spit­ting on them, everything I could think of to moisten them. I had no idea what the matter was, but I just could not pass on that day."