The point in a good sports rivalry isn’t just to have someone that’s easy to hate for no real reason—although that’s a nice byproduct of it. No, the real pleasure of a rivalry comes when your team takes down that enemy. Nothing feels better than to watch the dejected fanbase of your rival either try to come up with some sort of excuse, or—even better—just admit that your team is the superior one.
The Detroit Lions haven’t had a ton of success against their rivals. Heck, you could argue that right now they don’t even have a true two-way rivalry. But it hasn’t always been that way. There have been some truly great rivalry moments in Detroit Lions history. So let’s take a look at a few.
What are the best Lions rivalry wins in team history?
My answer: For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to only talk about divisional wins. Sure, the Cowboys may be considered a rival, but only, really, to Detroit. So here are three of what I consider to be the best rivalry wins in Lions history (admittedly, with a bias towards recent games).
1962 - Lions hand Packers only loss of the season on Thanksgiving
The 1962 Green Bay Packers would win the Championship, while the Lions would miss the playoffs at... 11-3. But on Thanksgiving, Detroit did something no other team could that year—beat the Packers. Green Bay finish the year 14-1, and the Lions were not only the sole team to beat them, but their performance would later be dubbed the “Thanksgiving Day Massacre” due to the 11 sacks handed to Bart Starr, including seven from Roger Brown.
2013 - Lions blowout Aaron Rodgers’-less Packers on Thanksgiving
A a couple years prior to this game, Matt Flynn destroyed the Detroit Lions to the tune of 480 yards and six touchdowns in the 2011 season finale. So when Flynn was due to start for Green Bay again in 2013, the cynics were out. It didn’t matter that Aaron Rodgers was out, the Lions were going to get embarrassed again by the 5-5-1 Packers.
Safe to say, that did not happen. The Lions’ dominant defense held the Packers below 100 net yards until the final minutes of the game while Matthew Stafford threw for 330 yards and two touchdowns, and Reggie Bush added 117 yards on the ground, too.
This was a dominant performance that gave the Lions a two-game lead over the Packers in the NFC North and sole possession of first place. Who knows what happened after that? Not me.
2016 - Crazy 23-second drill leads to buttflip overtime win vs. Vikings
This win over the Vikings was one of the most improbable victories in recent history.
All seemed lost when the Vikings scored the go-ahead touchdown with just 23 seconds left, taking a 16-13 lead. But this was back when Matthew Stafford fourth-quarter comebacks were a weekly occurrence. Even then, 23 seconds seemed like an impossible mountain to climb—especially with zero timeouts.
Wrong. In two plays, the Lions picked up 35 yards, and their well-practiced bonsai drill—rushing the field goal unit on while the clock was ticking—worked to perfection. Matt Prater nailed a 58-yarder to send it to overtime, where Golden Tate made sure the Vikings wouldn’t even get a chance to take the ball.
The loss would send the Vikings in a spiral from 5-2 to 8-8, while the Lions needed this win to eventually clinch a wild card spot.