1951 NFL Championship Game
|Date||December 23, 1951|
|Stadium||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Harry Wismer & Earl Gillespie|
It was a rematch of the previous year's game in Cleveland, with the Los Angeles Rams (8–4) of the National Conference meeting the defending league champion Cleveland Browns (11–1) of the American Conference. In the league championship game for the third straight year, the Rams were seeking their first NFL title since moving to California in early 1946 (the Cleveland Rams won the 1945 title, then left a month later). The Browns were favored to win this title game on the road by six points.
This was the first NFL championship game to be televised coast-to-coast, and was blacked out by the league in the southern California area. The DuMont Network purchased the championship game TV rights from the NFL in May for five years (1951–55) for $475,000.
The home underdog Rams upset the Browns 24–17 for their first (and only) NFL championship as a California team, before a then-record crowd for the title game of 59,475. The "World Championship" banner awarded to the Rams was given as a gift to Tom Bergin after the game in gratitude for hosting the post-game dinner. As of 2016 it still hangs in the Tom Bergin's Irish pub in Los Angeles, the only one in private ownership. This was also the first time that the Browns under Paul Brown did not finish the season with a championship after 4 wins in the AAFC and a championship in their first NFL season in 1950.
The Rams were the first to score, with a 1-yard run by fullback Dick Hoerner in the second quarter. The Browns answered back with an NFL Championship record 52-yard field goal by Lou Groza. They later took the lead with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Otto Graham to Dub Jones, and the Browns led at halftime, 10–7.
In the third quarter, Ram Larry Brink landed a hard tackle on Graham, causing him to fumble the ball, which Andy Robustelli picked up on the Cleveland 24 and returned it to the two-yard-line. On third down from the one, "Deacon" Dan Towler ran the ball in for a touchdown to give the Rams a 14–10 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Rams increased their lead with a 17-yard field goal by Bob Waterfield. The Browns answered back with an 8-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown run by Ken Carpenter to tie the game at 17–17. Twenty-five seconds later late in the fourth quarter, Tom Fears beat defenders Cliff Lewis and Tommy James and received a Norm Van Brocklin pass at midfield and raced to the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown. It secured a Rams 24–17 win and the 1951 NFL title, their sole league championship in 49 years in southern California.
Sunday, December 23, 1951
Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. PST
- First quarter
- no scoring
- Second quarter
- Third quarter
- LA – TD, Dan Towler 1 run (Waterfield kick), 14–10 LA
- Fourth quarter
The gross receipts for the game, including $75,000 for radio and television rights, was just under $326,000, the highest to date, passing the previous record of $283,000 five years earlier in 1946. Each player on the winning Rams team received $2,108, while Browns players made $1,483 each.
- Smith, Wilfrid (December 23, 1951). "Browns defend pro crown against Rams today". Chicago Sunday Tribune. p. 1, part 2.
- Smith, Wilfrid (December 24, 1951). "Rams beat Browns, 24-17, for pro title". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 1, part 2.
- "Browns are favored to turn back Rams for pro title today". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. December 23, 1951. p. 1, sports.
- MacCambridge, 2005, p. 73.
- Hall, Dan (May 22, 1951). "Hallucinations". St. Petersburg Times. p. 17. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
Bell said the money received each year under terms of the agreement will be placed in the players' pool.
- "Du Mont buys rights to pro title contest". Milwaukee Journal. May 22, 1951. p. 6, part 2.
- "Pro Football and DuMont Sign a $475,000 TV Pact". New York Times. 43. May 22, 1951. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
Bell said the $95,000 received each year under terms of the agreement will be placed in the players' pool.
- "Fans Rush for Tickets to NFL Playoff Game". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. December 18, 1951. p. 18. Retrieved October 30, 2011.The Pittsburgh Press and Patton p. 35 incorrectly state it was for $75,000.
- Rader, 1984, p. 35.
- "Rams upset Browns, 24-17; win NFL title". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. December 24, 1951. p. 12.
- Kuechle, Oliver E. (December 24, 1951). "Los Angeles wins pro title by beating Cleveland, 24-17". Milwaukee Journal. p. 4, part 2.
- "Rams collect $2,108 each". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. December 24, 1951. p. 4, part 2.
- NFL Chronology: 1951. NFL.com. Retrieved September 17, 2006.
- Brown, Paul; with Clary, Jack (1979). PB, the Paul Brown Story. New York: Atheneum.
- Hession, Joseph (1987). The Rams: Five Decades of Football. San Francisco: Foghorn Press.
- MacCambridge, Michael (2005). America's Game. New York: Anchor Books ISBN 978-0-307-48143-6
- Powers, Ron (1984). Supertube: The Rise of Television Sports. New York: Coward-McCann. ISBN 0-698-11253-9
- Rader, Benjamin G. (1984). In its Own Image: How Television Has Transformed Sports. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-02-925700-X pp. 83–99.
- Riffenburgh, Beau, (1997). "Championships & Playoffs." Eds Silverman, Matthew, et al. Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. New York: HarperCollins. 178–262. ISBN 0-06-270174-6
- Sauerbrie, Harold (December 23, 1951). "Browns Lose Title to Rams, 24–17". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland Live, LLC. p. 18. Retrieved December 12, 2007.