The Detroit Lions (9–2–1) of the Western Conference met the Cleveland Browns (9–3) of the Eastern Conference in the NFL title game for the third consecutive year. The Lions won the previous two: 17–7 at Cleveland in 1952 and 17–16 at home in Briggs Stadium in 1953. They were attempting to become the first team to win three consecutive league titles in the championship game era (since 1933). The Green Bay Packers won three consecutive (1929, 1930, 1931) when the title was determined by the regular season final standings.
The Lions were led by quarterback Bobby Layne, running back Doak Walker, and head coach Buddy Parker. The Browns were led by head coach Paul Brown and quarterback Otto Graham. The Lions had won the regular season meeting 14–10 the week before on December 19, also at Cleveland, with a late touchdown. Detroit was a slight favorite (2½ to 3 points) to three-peat as champions.
The underdog Browns won the title at home in a rout, 56–10; placekicker Lou Groza made eight extra points, a new title game record, among many.
The Lions struck first with a 36-yard field goal by Walker. Six plays after the next kickoff, the Browns took the lead on Graham's 36-yard scoring pass to Ray Renfro, and never relinquished the lead as the Lions' run game was stopped effectively by the Browns' defense. The lead at halftime was 35–10, and the Lions did not score again.
Detroit quarterback Layne (18 for 42, passing for 177 yards) was intercepted six times, with Len Ford and Kenny Konz pulling in two each. The Browns also recovered three Detroit fumbles, twice leading to scores. Tom Dublinski replaced Layne as the Lion quarterback after the score reached 49–10 late in the third quarter.
The gross receipts for the game, including over $101,000 for radio and television rights, were just over $289,000. Each player on the winning Browns team received $2,478, while Lions players made $1,585 each.
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.