Browns halfback Ken Carpenter was not a factor in the team’s epic battle with the Los Angeles Rams for the 1950 NFL title.
But he certainly was one when the clubs met early the next season, just 9½ months later.
Carpenter scored the Browns’ first three touchdowns – all in a row – as they rallied from an early 10-point deficit and went on to roll past the host Rams, 38-23, on Oct. 7, 1951 before 67,186 at Memorial Coliseum.
It left both teams with a 1-1 mark. The Browns had lost, 24-10, in the opener to their old rivals from the All-America Football Conference, the San Francisco 49ers, just up the West Coast. The Rams had blasted the New York Yanks, 54-14.
The Browns had all kinds of offense – 414 total yards, to be exact – but Carpenter contributed none of it as they came back to edge the Rams, 30-28, in the 1950 NFL Championship Game.
Maybe because the Rams were so intent on stopping the players who had hurt them in the title contest – including wide receiver Dante Lavelli, wingback Dub Jones and running back Rex Bumgardner, who combined for 19 receptions for 254 yards and four TDs – that they forgot about Carpenter. Whatever the case, the Browns’ first-round selection out of Oregon state in their first NFL Draft in 1950, made his presence felt.
The Rams, who also got off to a good start in the title game by taking a 14-7 first-quarter lead, did so again, leading, 10-0, in the opening quarter on Norm Van Brocklin’s 34-yard pass to Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and a 47-yard field goal by Bob Waterfield.
While playing quarterback, Waterfield had passed for two TDs and kicked an extra points in the Rams’ 15-14 win over the Washington Redskins in the NFL Championship Game in 1945, their last year in Cleveland before heading west. The Browns began play the following year.
Quarterback Otto Graham, the leader on the Browns on and off the field right from the start in that 1946 season, got his team going by throwing a 45-yard TD pass to Carpenter to cut the deficit to 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.
It stayed that way into the third quarter, when Carpenter scored on runs of two and seven yards.
Then cornerback Warren Lahr, who had two interceptions in the 1950 title game, including one in the final seconds to secure the victory for good, picked off another pass and returned it 23 yards for a score.
That string of four unanswered TDs – and 28 points – gave Cleveland a 28-10 lead.
A one-yard TD run by Glenn Davis at the end of the third quarter got the Rams to within 11 points.
The Browns, who scored the game’s last 10 points – all in the fourth quarter -- to capture the championship, then scored 10 more again in the fourth quarter this time on Lou Groza’s 44-yard field goal and Jones’ one-yard run.
In between was a 14-yard TD pass from Waterfield to Davis.
The Browns rolled to 450 total yards on the day, including a whopping 293 rushing in 49 attempts, averaging six yards a carry. Dub Jones had 110 yards in 15 tries (7.3), while Marion Motley gained 106 yards in 13 rushes (8.2).
The Rams were also no doubt concentrating on Graham coming into the game, since he threw for four TDs and rushed for 99 yards in 12 carries the year before. This time, he was 10-of-19 passing for 219 yards and the one TD with two interceptions.
The Browns were now 2-0 against Los Angeles, but more important – at least as far as the 1951 season was concerned – was the fact that after the loss to the 49ers, they were back on track. It was the first of 11 straight victories, eight of which were one-sided, to end the regular season with an 11-1 record.
And just like against the Rams, Ken Carpenter had a key role in that, finishing the year second on the team by rushing for 402 yards and four TDs while also catching two scoring passes.This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.