Found January 07, 2013 on
On this day in 1961, the Detroit Lions defeated the Cleveland Browns 17-16 in the first ever NFL Playoff Bowl (runner-up bowl).
The Browns were led by FB Jim Brown and QB Milt Plum. Brown was the NFLâs leading rusher, and Plum was the highest-rated passer. The Lions were known for their defense as they finished the regular season third in the NFL in points allowed (17.7/game). They were led by LB Joe Schmidt, CB Dick Lane, DT Alex Karras and DT Roger Brown ( Karras and Brown were later part of Detroitâs fearsome foursome).
Bobby Mitchell caught a 89-yard TD pass from Milt Plum to bring the Browns withing one point.Â A bad snap on the extra point attempt led to âNight Trainâ Lane blocking Sam Bakerâs kick, giving Detroit the win.
What in the world is a playoff bowl?!
To answer that question, we need to travel back in time to 1959. The National Football League was nowhere near the billion dollar industry it is today and the [potentially] up-and-coming American Football League (AFL) was starting to look like real competition. The NFL team owners came up with the playoff bowl idea to better show-off the talent their league had.
For that to make better sense, you need to know this: at the time, there was only one playoff game. It was known as he NFL Championship Game (equivalent to the modern day Super Bowl). Â The top two teams from the Eastern and Western conferences played in the game.
The issue was that there were plenty of âchampionship-caliberâ teams coming just short of first place in their conference and having their season practically go to waste. The Playoff Bowl idea would let the NFL flaunt four teams instead of two, allowing them to also take up more television time (donât forget they were worried about the AFL).
The official name of the Playoff Bowl was the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl.Â Bert Bell founded the Philadelphia Eagles and was the NFL commissionerÂ from 1946-1959. This gameâs winnerÂ would be considered the NFLâs third best team.
The Super Bowl was established in 1966 and the first two were actually known as the NFL-AFL Championship. The NFL Playoff Bowl continued to be held for three years even after the Super Bowl was put in place.
The 1970 (â69 season) Playoff Bowl was the last one; the LA Rams beat the Dallas Cowboys 31-0.
All 10 Playoff Bowl games were played at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
Iâll keep it one hunnit for you to finish this history lesson. If you think about it, The game had very little meaning (football-wise). Even though it was talked about as a game to determine the NFLâs third best team, itâs not as if winning team in this game could advance to anything.
On top of that, this third place game was played a week after the actual championship game. The game, however, did give fans another chance to see a good football game on television before the dreaded offseason.
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