The Detroit Lions (8–4), winners of the Western Conference, hosted the Cleveland Browns (9–2–1), champions of the Eastern Conference. Detroit had won the regular season game 20–7 three weeks earlier on December 8, also at Briggs Stadium, but lost quarterback Bobby Layne with a broken right ankle late in the first half. Reserve quarterback Tobin Rote, a starter the previous year with Green Bay, filled in for Layne and won that game with Cleveland, the next week at Chicago, and the tiebreaker playoff game at San Francisco.
It was the fourth pairing of the two teams in the championship game, they met previously in 1952, 1953, and 1954. The Browns were favored by three points, but the home underdog Lions scored two touchdowns in each quarter and won in a rout, 59–14.
Eleven individuals (including coaches and administration) who were involved in this game are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Another Lions Hall-of-Famer, QB Bobby Layne, was injured and did not play in the game.
The home underdog Lions were without starting quarterback Layne due to a broken ankle three weeks earlier against the Browns. Backup Tobin Rote filled in admirably since and won every game, including a 24-point rally in the tiebreaker playoff over the 49ers the previous week. In his eighth season, Tote threw four touchdown passes in the title game, completing 12 of 19 passes for 280 yards, and also ran for a touchdown. Browns quarterbacks Tommy O'Connell and Milt Plum, on the other hand hit on a combined total of 9 of 22 passes for 112 yards. Taking full advantage of a pass interception and a fumble, Detroit ran up a 17–0 lead in the first quarter. Rookie running back Jim Brown gave the Cleveland rooters some hope with a 30-yard touchdown swing at the start of the second period.
Things went from bad to worse for the Browns, hampered by injuries to quarterbacks O'Connell and Plum. The Lions romped for 14 points in each of the last three quarters, and won by 45 points, 59–14.
The gross receipts for the game, including radio and television rights, were just under $594,000, the highest to date. Each player on the winning Lions team received $4,295, while Browns players made $2,750 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.