1951 NFL Championship Game: Los Angeles Rams vs Chicago Cardinals
The 1951 National Football League Championship Game was the 19th NFL championship game, played December 23 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.
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 second NFL championship 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.
As of 2018, this remains the Rams' only NFL championship as a California team. The Rams won their first NFL championship during their final season in Cleveland, and also won a Super Bowl during their time in St. Louis.
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.
The next NFL title for the franchise came 48 years later, when the St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000.
Sunday, December 23, 1951
Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. PST
LA – TD, Dick Hoerner 1 run (Bob Waterfield kick), 7–0 LA
CLE – FG, Lou Groza 52, 7–3 LA
CLE – TD, Dub Jones 17 pass from Otto Graham (Groza kick), 10–7 CLE
LA – TD, Dan Towler 1 run (Waterfield kick), 14–10 LA
LA – FG, Waterfield 17, 17–10 LA
CLE – TD, Ken Carpenter 5 run (Groza kick), 17–17 tie
LA – TD, Tom Fears 73 pass from Norm Van Brocklin (Waterfield kick), 24–17 LA
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