The Detroit Lions had finished the 1952 season tied with the Los Angeles Rams for the National Conference title with a record of 9–3. The Lions defeated the Rams 31–21 in a playoff game in Detroit on December 21. The Lions were led by quarterback Bobby Layne and running back Doak Walker, coached by Buddy Parker. This was the Lions' first appearance in the title game since 1935.
The Cleveland Browns had finished the regular season with a record of 8–4 and won the American Conference. The Browns were led by their head coach Paul Brown and quarterback Otto Graham. This was the Browns' third NFL championship game appearance since joining the NFL in 1950.
Detroit had taken the opening kickoff, failed to gain and punted, with Renfro getting back 11 yards to the Browns' 41. A couple of offside penalties were costly, but the Browns still managed to reach the 18, as Graham was then tossed for an 11-yard loss and the threat ended with Lou Groza missing a field goal from the 25. Detroit then moved upfield, getting to the Cleveland 30, but also failed to score when Pat Harder was short and wide with a field goal bid from 37 yards out.
Punter Horace Gillom punted a short kick, which rolled out at midfield, with the Lions going 50 yards in seven plays. Layne started it with a pass to Cloyce Box for 10 yards to the 40 and then ran for 13 and another first down on the 27. Layne added nine more before Walker made a first down on the 16, from where Layne passed to Bill Swiacki for 14 yards to the three. After an offsides penalty, Layne would run the ball in for a touchdown.
The second half started with the Browns moving steadily, until checked by David's interception. Detroit was halted on this chance with the ball, but clicked the next time when Walker broke away for the touchdown that boosted the lead to 14 points. A Cleveland third quarter touchdown narrowed the lead to 7, but a defensive stand from the Lions from their own 5 along with a late Pat Harder field goal sealed the victory and the Lions' first championship since 1935. This, ohwever, would not the be the last time the Lions would face the Browns...
1 – From 1966 to 1969, the first four Super Bowls were "World Championship" games played between two independent professional football leagues, AFL and NFL, and when the league merged in 1970 the Super Bowl became the NFL Championship Game.
2 – Dates in the list denote the season, not the calendar year in which the championship game was played. For instance, Super Bowl XLI was played in 2007, but was the championship for the 2006 season.