The 1953 NFL Championship Game — Browns and Lions


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing columnist

On December 27, 1953 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, the Cleveland Browns (11-1) coached by Paul Brown with assistants Blanton Collier and Weeb Ewbank met the Detroit Lions (10-2) coached by Buddy Parker with assistant Buster Ramsey.

The Browns were led on offense by quarterback Otto Graham who passed for 2,722 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 143 yards and 6 touchdowns, running backs Chick Jagade (344 yards, 4 TD’s), Billy Reynolds (313 yards, 3 touchdowns), Ray Renfro (352 yards rushing, 4 TD’s, 722 yards receiving, 4 TD’s) and receivers Dante Lavelli (783 yards, 6 TD’s) and Pete Brewster (632 yards, 4 TD’s).

They were led on defense by Tommy James, Ken Konz and Warren Lahr with 5 interceptions each and Ken Gorgal with 4. Their place kicker was Lou Groza who converted on 23 of 26 field goal attempts.

The Lions were led on offense by quarterback Bobby Layne who passed for 2,088 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 343 yards, running back Bob Hoernschemeyer (482 yards, 7 TD’s, 282 receiving yards, 2 TD’s), Gene German (255 yards, 3 TD’s) and receivers Doak Walker (502 yards, 3 TD’s, 337 yards rushing, 2 TD’s), Leon Hart (472 yards, 7 TD’s), Cloyce Box (403 yards, 2 TD’s) and Dorne Dibble (274 yards, 3 TD’s).

Detroit’s place kicker was Doak Walker who made 12 of 19 field goal attempts.

Early in the first quarter after an Otto Graham fumble, the ball was recovered by the Lions inside the Browns 12-yard line and a few plays later Doak Walker ran it in for a touchdown and after he kicked the extra point the Lions had a 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter, the Browns also recovered a fumble but could only get a 13-yard field goal by Lou Groza and the score was 7-3 in favor of the Lions.

Doak Walker kicked a 23-yard field goal and at the half the score was 10-3 in favor of Detroit.

Cleveland rallied and went down the field and scored on a nine-yard Chick Jagade touchdown run and after Groza kicked the extra point the score was tied 10-10 after three quarters of play.

In the fourth quarter, the Browns got close to the end zone but had to settle for two field goals by Lou Groza, one from 15-yards out and one from 43-yards, and the score was 16-10 in favor of the Browns.

But with 4:10 left in the game, Detroit quarterback Bobby Layne engineered his team downfield and scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jim Doran. Doak Walker kicked the extra point and the Lions led 17-16 with two minutes left to play in the game.

The Browns did not score and the Lions won their second title in a row 17-16.

The game winning touchdown pass was Doran’s only touchdown reception of the season. The Browns and Lions returned the following year to the championship game.

Of the notable players for the Browns was 21-year old offensive guard Chuck Noll. He attended the University of Dayton and after his NFL playing career went on to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers for 23 years compiling a 342-193 record which included four Super Bowl titles.

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