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One for the road: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

Take a look back at the history between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving.

Gregory Shamus

Seven weeks ago, I reviewed the history between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, as well as one of the best road games for the Lions in the rivalry. This time around, I'll skip the back story and jump right into looking at how Detroit has played against Green Bay at home. In 83 home games, the Lions hold a slight edge over the Packers with a record of 41-39-3 since a 6-6 tie in 1930. Given the pitiful road situation for Detroit (24-57-4 at Green Bay), a record at home that is almost .500 looks spectacular in comparison.

The home portion of the Green Bay series has been streaky for the Lions, with eight stretches of three games or more being winning or losing streaks. For instance, the Packers won nine in a row from 1936-44, and the Lions responded with eight straight home wins from 1948-55. Detroit hit another hot stretch from 1970 to '84, going 12-3 at home, including two five-game winning streaks. Unfortunately, recent home history hasn't been pretty for the Lions, as they've limped to a 3-9 record against Green Bay at home since 2001.

As a bonus, Thursday's meeting is the annual Thanksgiving game in Detroit, a game the Lions haven't won since 2003 (against the Packers). Beginning in 1934, Detroit has posted a 33-36-2 record in the Turkey Day game, with the current nine-game losing streak dampening the holiday spirit surrounding the yearly tradition. Specifically against the Packers, the Lions hold a slight lead with an 11-8-1 record but enter Thursday's game with a three-game losing streak on Thanksgiving to Green Bay.

Since it seems fitting for the holiday season, I'm going to summarize all 11 Thanksgiving victories for the Lions over the Packers, starting with the first time the two teams met in the annual game in 1951:

  • 1951 - Lions 52, Packers 35: Bobby Layne helped the Lions come back from a 21-10 second quarter deficit to destroy the Packers behind 20 for 36 passing with 296 yards and 4 touchdowns. In the win, Layne and the Lions set Detroit's single-game points record, topping the mark of 49 from the previous season.

  • 1952 - Lions 48, Packers 24: Layne repeated his 4-touchdown performance from a year earlier as Detroit capitalized on 5 first-half fumbles by the Packers to win for the second straight year. With a 1-touchdown lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Lions roared ahead for 17 unanswered points to close out the game.

  • 1953 - Lions 34, Packers 15: The Packers raced out to a 15-7 lead in the first quarter and took that advantage into the locker rooms at halftime. On the opening drive of the second half, the Lions recovered a Green Bay fumble on the 5-yard line, and two plays later, Layne bombed a 97-yard touchdown pass to Cloyce Box. From that point forward, Detroit controlled the game behind 2 rushing touchdowns and 2 field goals.

  • 1954 - Lions 28, Packers 24: Detroit topped Green Bay for the second time in five days as Layne led the way yet again with the 100th and 101st touchdown passes of his career. The scores made Bobby the third player in NFL history to reach the century mark for touchdown passes.

  • 1955 - Lions 24, Packers 10: In a game that saw each team lose 5 fumbles, halfback Lew Carpenter carried Detroit to victory with 146 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns. The Lions surrendered 10 points in the first quarter before scoring 24 unanswered to end the game.

  • 1957 - Lions 18, Packers 6: Following their first loss to Green Bay on Thanksgiving, Detroit once again rallied in the second half to top the visiting Packers. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, fullback John Henry Johnson broke off a 62-yard touchdown run to put momentum in Detroit's favor and give the Lions their first lead of the day. The Lions added 3 more field goals following the touchdown to close out the win.

  • 1958 - Lions 24, Packers 14: The Lions turned a pair of failed fourth down scrambles by Green Bay punter Max McGee into 10 points to earn the victory. Detroit quarterback (and former Packers QB from 1950-56) Tobin Rote orchestrated the most impressive possession of the game, an 87-yard scoring drive that he capped with a touchdown run.

  • 1960 - Lions 23, Packers 10: After another loss against the Packers in '59, the Lions started the '60s with an impressive Thanksgiving Day victory over Green Bay. By halftime the Lions had built a solid 16-0 lead thanks to stout passing by quarterback Jim Ninowski (14 for 22 for 180 yards in the first half). Over the course of the game, Detroit earned a safety off of a blocked punt and turned 2 Green Bay fumbles into 2 touchdowns to steal the game and crush the Packers' title hopes.

  • 1962 - Lions 26, Packers 14: The '62 Packers won the NFL Championship, but the Lions handed them their only loss on the season in this one. The tide turned completely in favor of Detroit early in the second quarter when the Lions scored 2 touchdowns in 21 seconds. Detroit's defense held Green Bay's top-ranked rushing attack to a meager 78 yards, and the Lions built up a 26-0 lead before the Pack added 2 late scores in the upset.

  • 1984 - Lions 31, Packers 28: After over two decades of not playing each other on Thanksgiving, the Lions spotted the Packers a 14-0 lead in the first quarter before storming back for the victory. Behind 44:47 of time of possession, Gary Danielson led the Lions' offensive attack with 305 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. Detroit cut Green Bay's lead to 21-17 going into halftime on an Eddie Murray field goal as time expired. Following the break, the Lions scored 14 unanswered points before the Packers added a meaningless touchdown late.

  • 2003 - Lions 22, Packers 14: In the most recent Thanksgiving win for the Lions (both on the day and against the Packers), Brett Favre turned the ball over 4 times in the second half as Detroit took the victory behind strong play by Joey Harrington, Jason Hanson and Dre Bly. Harrington did most of his work in the first half by going 12 for 14 for 124 yards (he went 9 for 18 for 59 yards with 1 interception after the half, which is horrible), and he did enough to help set up Detroit's only touchdown on the day, a 6-yard run by Shawn Bryson in the first quarter. Bly added 2 picks in the second half, and Jason Hanson went 5 for 5 on field goal attempts along with 1 extra point to score 16 points in the surprising victory.

There's not much glory (especially recent glory) when discussion revolves around the Lions, the Packers and Thanksgiving Day, but now would be as good of a time as ever for Detroit to win a big one in the holiday classic against their division rival. It'd sure make the turkey taste a little bit better for the first time in a decade.

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