"On This Day..."
by Rob Holecko
We hope everyone had a good Christmas, a least a better one that the ex-boyfriend of this girl at Lambeau Field last night. (see picture to the right)
Yesterday while discussing the 1971 Christmas Day 'longest game ever' between the Chiefs and the Dolphins, we mentioned that twice previous, the NFL had scheduled NFL Championships for Monday the 26th, rather than play on Christmas Sunday.
Today we will feature those two games, the 1955 and 1960 Championships, for our "On This Day..." feature.
In 1955, the Los Angeles Rams, in coach Sid Gillman's first season, were the Western Division champions at 8-3-1. They had won the 1945 NFL championship while still in Cleveland, and the next year moved out west to Los Angeles. Out west they had gone to three straight championship games from 1949 to '51, winning a second championship in '51. Now under Gillman, with players such as Bob Waterfield and Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, they were back in the title game, looking for their third title.
Meanwhile the team that replaced them in, or some would say drove them out of, Cleveland, Paul Brown's Browns, the defending champions, were in their sixth consecutive NFL Championship in six years in the league. After winning all four AAFC titles from 1946 through 1949, the Browns were 1950 and 1954 NFL Champions, and arguably one of the best dynasties of all time, going for their seventh title in nine years. Led by Otto Graham, Lou Groza and Dante Lavelli, the Browns were 9-2-1 and Eastern Division Champions.
Here is the Wikipedia write-up of the game:
The 1955 National Football League Championship Game was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum between the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Browns and the Western Conference champion Los Angeles Rams. The 23rd NFL title game was played on Monday, December 26, 1955 before 87,695, the largest crowd to see an NFL title game to that time. This was the first NFL championship game televised by NBC and the first NFL championship game played on a Monday.
Browns veteran Lou Groza kicked off; Rams rookie halfback Ron Waller returned the kick, and Groza himself made the tackle. A subsequent Rams drive was stopped at the Cleveland 12 when Kenny Konz intercepted a Norm Van Brocklin pass. Browns quarterback Otto Graham, who had announced his retirement at the end of the season, drove Cleveland to the L.A. 26 where Groza's FG gave the Browns a 3-0 first quarter lead. The Browns scored again when DB Don Paul intercepted Van Brocklin's pass on the Browns 30 and raced 70 yards to a touchdown, making the score 10-0. The Rams answered back when Van Brocklin connected with halfback Volney Skeets Quinlan for a 67-yard rouchdown, pulling the Rams to within 3 points, 10-7, and giving the large crowd hopes of an upset. But late in the second period, Van Brocklin threw his third interception of the half; defensive back Tom James, who had been beaten on the Rams' Tom Fears' title-winning touchdown on the same field four years earlier, grabbed the errant pass and took the ball back to midfield with time running out. The next play turned a close game into a rout; Otto Graham found Dante Lavelli with a 50-yard TD pass along the sideline and the Rams, who moments earlier were driving to take the lead, went to the locker room down 17-7.
Graham earned his place as the star of the game. After moving the Browns from the L.A. 46, Graham kept the ball and ran around right end from the 19 and scored to put the Browns ahead 24-7. On Los Angeles's next possession, Sam Palumbo intercepted Van Brocklin at the Ram 36. Graham drove the Browns to the 4, then scored himself on a sneak. Groza's conversion increased Cleveland's lead to 31-7 with two minutes left in the third quarter. In the final period, Graham tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ray Renfro and Groza's kick gave the Browns a 38-7 lead. Late in the game, Waller ran four yards for a touchdown and Les Richter's conversion finished the scoring. In the final minutes coach Brown sent in reserve quarterback George Ratterman and allowed Graham to leave the field to an ovation from the Los Angeles crowd. Cleveland, winning three titles in the first half of the decade and representing the Eastern Conference in the championship game every year since its admission to the NFL, celebrated Graham's farewell, while the Rams' Van Brocklin, who threw six interceptions, would often be quoted that the game was the worst of his Hall of Fame career.
This may have been the pinnacle of the Browns' dynasty, while they would go on to have five more conference titles from 1957 through 1969, including a 1964 NFL Title, their fourth NFL title and 8th overall, after the 1970 merger, the Browns would never see the greatness of the 1940s and 1950s. After a couple heart-breaking AFC Championship losses to Denver in the 1980s, the Browns' would move to Baltimore after the 1995 season. Although they would re-born as a 1999 expansion team, the current incarnation of the Browns has only been to the playoffs once, in 2002, and continues to rebuild, ever in search of recapturing they glory days of yesterday, and along with the Detroit Lions, are the only non-expansion teams to have never reached the Super Bowl.
The Rams, like the Browns, have not seen success in recent years like in the olden days. While they were a perennial playoff team, reaching the postseason 14 out of 17 years from 1973 through 1989, they continuously ran into strong Cowboys and Vikings teams in the 1970s and Bears and 49ers teams in the 1980s and only made it to one Super Bowl, losing XIV to the Steelers after the 1979 season. Under Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, they reached two Super Bowls, winning XXXIV after the 1999 season and returning two years later. They too, have reached bottom again, won only 3, 2 and 1 games from 2007 through 2009, and are currently completing another 2-win season.
The other championship game we are looking back to today is the 1960 championship between the Packers and the Eagles. The Packers (8-4, Western Conference Champs) were just beginning their 1960s Vince Lombardi years of greatness, while the Eagles (10-2, Eastern Conference Champs) led by Chuck Bednarik were the dominate team in the league that year. While they would go to two Super Bowls, winning NFC titles in 1980 and 2004, the 1960 squad would be the last Eagle squad to be NFL Champions. They went to four straight NFC Championships from 2001 to 2004, and again in 2008, but are still looking for that elusive title, having celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Championship by wearing throwbacks to that year Week 1 2010.
The Packers, of course, were the team of the 1960s, rebounding from this loss to the Eagles to win the 1961 and 1962 titles, and three more from 1965 through 1967, as well as the first two Super Bowls. After a couple decades of mediocrity, they would win Super Bowl XXXI under Brett Favre, and another one last year under Aaron Rodgers, and are working on a second this year.
We are proud to add these games to Gridiron Uniform Database's collection of randomly added single-game matchups.
You can view other randomly added past games here.