On This Date in Sports December 29, 1957

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Detroit Lions certify themselves as the team of the decade, beating the Cleveland Browns 59-14 in the NFL Championship Game at Briggs Stadium. It was the fourth time in six years the two teams met in the NFL Championship Game, with Detroit winning three-of-four meetings. Backup quarterback Tobin Rote playing in place of the injured Bobby Layne, led the Lions charge, passing for 280 yards, with four touchdowns adding a rushing Touchdown.

There was no doubt that the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns were the premier teams of the 1950’s in the NFL. The Browns who dominated the AAFC, winning all four years of the league’s existence continued to dominate in the NFL. In their first six NFL seasons, the Browns played in the NFL Championship Game, winning in 1950 and 1954. After a one-year hiatus, the Browns returned to the NFL Championship Game powered by rookie Jim Brown, who led the NFL in rushing with 942 yards. The Lions meanwhile were the Browns foil, winning the 1952 and 1953 championship games, before the Browns finally got revenge in 1954.

It really was the Cleveland Browns in 1957, as Paul Brown after one losing season got his team back to the Eastern Conference with a record of 9-2-1. The Browns quick turnaround was thanks to Jim Brown, whom Cleveland picked with the sixth overall pick in the NFL Draft out of Syracuse.

On the way to the NFL Championship Game, the Detroit Lions had a tumultuous season in the preseason coach Buddy Parker who had led them to two championships suddenly resigned after a contract dispute. Replacing Parker, was George Wilson. After a 3-3 start, the Lions made a run for the Western Conference Championship, winning five of their last six games to finish with an 8-4 record tied with the San Francisco 49ers for first place. In the Western Conference Playoffs, the Lions staged a classic comeback, beating the 49ers 31-27 after trailing 27-7 in the early stages of the third quarter.

Despite playing at home the Detroit Lions were a three-point underdog. The Lions were playing with backup quarterback Tobin Rote, due to a broken ankle suffered by Bobby Layne in the penultimate game of the season against the Browns. A game the Lions won 20-7. The Lions jumped out to a big lead early, scoring 17 points in the first quarter on touchdown runs by Tobin Rote and Gene Gedman. The Browns got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter on a 29-yard touchdown run by Jim Brown. However, the Browns continued to play fast and loose with the ball as they committed six turnovers in the game. This included 19-yard touchdown run by Terry Barr, while Steve Junker caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Rote to give Detroit a 31-7 halftime lead. Injuries also led to Cleveland’s woes as both quarterbacks Tommy O’Connell and Milt Plum each suffered injuries while throwing two interceptions. The Browns did open the scoring in the second half, with Lew Carpenter’s five-yard run. However, the Lions answered with two more touchdowns to bury the Browns, as Tobin Rote had a 78-yard touchdown pass to Jim Doran and a 23-yard touchdown pass to Steve Junker. In the fourth quarter, the Lions continued their dominance as Rote had his fourth touchdown pass a 32-yard pass to Dave Middleton. The Lions final score comes with Jerry Reichow now in at quarterback, completing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Howard Cassidy for the final 59-14 score.

After the championship game, the Lions were left with a quarterback controversy in 1958. While Bobby Layne was one of the premier quarterbacks of the decade, he was often troubled due to a well-known drinking problem. Detroit decided to trade Layne to the Pittsburgh Steelers who were now coached by Buddy Parker, the former Lions coach who quit prior to the 1957 season. Following the trade an angry Bobby Layne was said to say, the Lions won win again for 50 years. Since that trade, the Lions who were the team of 50’s have won just one playoff game and have not been close to winning another championship. Leading some to call it the curse of Bobby Layne.