1957 Playoff: Lions Stage Second Half Comeback

49ers celebrated too soon
The 49ers were so confident of victory, tickets were printed for the next week's championship game. The Lions had other plans!

The San Francisco 49ers were ready and waiting as only thirty minutes of football stood between them and the 1957 Championship Game. Not only were the players ready to go but the team’s printer was also prepared. Tickets for a showdown against the Eastern conference champion Cleveland Browns had already been printed!

The Niners held a convincing 24-7 halftime-lead over the Detroit Lions in the 1957 Western Conference playoff game at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium. Led by the precision passing of Y.A. Tittle, who completed 12 of 19 first-half passes for three touchdowns, the confident 49ers headed to the locker room in a jubilant mood.

However, the 49ers celebrated too early as the Lions roared back in the second half. The half began with a 71-yard run by San Francisco’s Hugh McElhenney. The Lions’ defense held tough as they limited the 49ers offense to only six yards in the next three plays and the 49ers had to settle for a field goal to make the score, 27-7.
Then, it was time for the Lions’ offense to take over. Tom "The Bomb" Tracy, who hadn’t carried the ball in the previous four games, filled in for a banged-up duo of Howard "Hopalong" Cassady and John Henry Johnson. Tracy led the charge with two third-quarter touchdown runs. The first came on a one-yard plunge and the second via a 58-yard scamper to bring the Lions to within six points, 27-21.

As the 49ers’ defense focused on Tracy, Detroit quarterback Tobin Rote used the burly running back as a decoy. He faked to Tracy, dropped back and tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Steve Junker to tie the game. Jim Martin’s point-after-touchdown gave the Lions a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Lions’ defense rose to the occasion by recording four turnovers in the final period to protect the lead. A field goal by Martin sealed the amazing comeback as the Lions advanced to the title game with a 31-27 victory. One week later, the Lions routed the Browns, 59-14, to claim the franchise’s third NFL championship in six seasons.

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