The 1954 NFL Championship Game — Browns and Lions


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing columnist

On December 26, 1954 in Cleveland Municipal Stadium the Cleveland Browns (9-3) coached by Paul Brown with assistant Howard Brinker met the Detroit Lions coached by Buddy Parker with Buster Ramsey as an assistant in the 1954 NFL Championship Game for the third consecutive year.

The Browns were led on offense by quarterback Otto Graham who threw for 2,092 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran for 114 yards and 8 touchdowns, fullback Maurice Bassett (588 yards, 6 TD’s) and receivers Dante Lavelli (802 yards, 7 TD’s), Pete Brewster (676 yards, 4 TD’s) and Dub Jones (347 yards receiving, 2 TD’s, 231 yards rushing).

Ken Konz with 7 interceptions, Warren Lahr with 5, Tommy James with 4 and Don Paul with 3 led the defense. Their field goal kicker was Lou Groza, who converted on 16 of 24 field goal attempts.

The Lions were led on offense by quarterback Bobby Layne who passed for 1,818 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns, fullback Bill Bowman (397 yards rushing, 2 TD’s), running backs Lew Carpenter (476 yards, 3 TD’s), Bob Hoernschemeyer (242 yards, 2 TD’s) and receivers Doak Walker (564 receiving yards, 3 TD’s, 240 rushing yards, 1 TD), Jug Girard (421 yards, 7 TD’s), Dorne Dibble (768 yards, 6 TD’s) and Leon Hart (377 yards).

They were led on defense by Jack Christianson with 8 interceptions, Jim David with 7 and Bill Stits with 6.Their place kicker was Doak Walker who made 11 of 17 field goals attempted.

The Browns, who had lost the last two championship games, were focused on winning this one as after the Lions’ Doak Walker kicked a 36-yard field goal scored two first quarter touchdowns on passes from Otto Graham, one to Ray Renfro for 35 yards and the other to Pete Brewster for eight yards. Lou Groza converted both extra points and Cleveland led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The Browns continued their momentum in the second quarter as they scored three more touchdowns while the Lions added one. Graham rushed for two of the scores on runs of one-yard and five yards and threw a touchdown pass to Ray Renfro for 31 yards and after Groza kicked all of the extra points the score was 35-10 in favor of the Browns.

The Lions’ touchdown was scored by Bill Bowman on a five-yard run and Doak Walker converted the extra point. That, however, was their last score of the game as the Browns scored two touchdowns in the third quarter on a one-yard run by Otto Graham and a 12-yard run by Fred Morrison and Chet Hanulak added a 10-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter and with Groza making the extra points the Browns won 56-10 for their second NFL title in in the last five title games.

The Browns were back in the NFL Championship Game the following year while the Lions returned in 1957.

Paul Brown’s assistants the previous four years, Blanton Collier and Weeb Ewbank, had moved on to head coaching positions for other teams.

Collier was at the University of Kentucky where he coached until he coached the Browns in 1962.

Weeb Ewbank, a native of Richmond, Indiana, went on to be the head coach of the Baltimore Colts where he led them to NFL titles in 1958 and 1959, and to the New York Jets who he led to a Super Bowl title in 1969.

Both men were former high school coaches who met up with Paul Brown during World War II at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and who Brown hired when he became coach of the Browns.

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