By Ron Griffitts
On December 23, 1951 at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California the Los Angeles Rams (8-4) coached by Joe Stydahar met the defending champion Cleveland Browns (11-1) coached by Paul Brown with assistants Blanton Collier and Weeb Ewbank.
The Rams were led on offense by quarterbacks Norm Van Brocklin who passed for 1725 yards and 13 touchdowns and Bob Waterfield who passed for 1566 yards and 13 touchdowns, fullbacks Dan Towler (854 yards, 6 TD’s), Dick Hoerner (569 yards, 6 TD’s) and receivers Elroy Hirsch (1495 yards, 17 TD’s) and Tom Fears (528 yards, 3 TD’s).
They were led on defense by Herb Rich and Woodley Lewis both with three interceptions each. Their field goal kicker was Bob Waterfield who converted on 13 of 23 field goal attempts.
The Browns were led on offense by quarterback Otto Graham who passed for 2205 yards and 17 touchdowns, running backs Dub Lewis (492 yards rushing, 7 TD’s, 570 yards receiving, 3 TD’s) and Ken Carpenter (402 yards, 4 TD’s), fullback Marion Motley (273 yards, 1 TD) and receivers Dante Lavelli (586 yards, 6 TD’s) and Mac Speedie (589 yards, 3 TD’s).
They were led on defense by Cliff Lewis and Warren Lahr with 5 interceptions and twenty-one year old Don Shula who had 4 interceptions and later went on to be a Hall of Fame coach in the NFL. Their kicker was Lou Groza who made 10 of 23 field goals attempted.
There was no scoring in the first quarter of the game as the Rams got on the board first in the second quarter with a Dick Hoerner one-yard touchdown run. Bob Waterfield kicked the extra point and Los Angeles led 7-0
Still in in the second quarter, Lou Groza kicked a 52-yard field goal and Otto Graham found Dub Jones in the end zone for a 17-yard passing touchdown. With Groza making the extra point, the score at halftime was 10-7 in favor of the Browns.
The only score in the third quarter was Dan Towler’s one-yard touchdown run and as Waterfield converted the extra point, the Rams took a 14-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Waterfield started off the fourth quarter scoring with a 17-yard field goal to bring the Rams’ lead to 17-10 but the Browns tied the score on a Ken Carpenter two-yard rushing touchdown. The extra point was good and the score was tied 17-17.
Then in a dramatic ending to the game, Norm Van Brocklin found Tom Fears for a 73-yard touchdown play and with the Waterfield extra point the Rams held on and won the game 24-17.
The Browns were back the next year in the championship game while the Rams returned in 1955.
Don Shula went on to coach in the NFL for 33 years, winning two Super Bowls and coaching the Miami Dolphins to the only undefeated record in the Super Bowl era in 1972.
Statistics for this article were from pro-football-reference.com and Youtube.com.