Thanksgiving, Lions unkind to Packers
The Packers, off to their best start since the 1962 squad opened 10-0, bring a 9-1 record into today's NFC North showdown with the Detroit Lions.
Common sense says the Packers should walk away victorious today. Like a bad case of post-turkey indegestion, history has not been kind to Green Bay on Thanksgiving.
The team played its first Thanksgiving Day game on Nov. 25, 1920; a 19-0 victory over the Hammond Pros. Since then, the Packers have played on the holiday 30 more times, including 18 times against the Lions.
In those games, the Packers have been nearly abysmal. Despite leading the all-time series, 82-64-7, the Lions have dominated the Thanksgiving series. The Packers have won just five games, losing 12 and tying once.
From 1951-'63, the two teams were a regular fixture on Thanksgiving. The Packers fielded some of their greatest teams near the end of that 13-year stretch but still managed just a 3-9-1 record.
The series got off to a horrible start as the Lions handed Green Bay a 52-35 drubbing in 1951 and proceeded to win the next four contests. Only twice were the Packers within a touchdown of winning.
Things got so bad that Vince Lombardi demanded that the league begin rotating Thanksgiving opponents after his 1962 team -- the one that started 10-0 -- went to Detroit on Thanksgiving and came back home a 26-14 loser. The loss was the only blemish on the Packers' record that year.
In the game, the Lions' "fearsome foursome" of defensive end Darris McCord, defensive tackle Alex Karras, defensive tackle Roger Brown and defensive end Sam Williams sacked Packers QB Bart Starr 11 times for 110 yards. Starr was also sacked in the end zone for a Detroit safety. The game was considered a grudge match by players and fans after the Packers handed Detroit a last-second 9-7 loss earlier in the season at Lambeau Field.
Lombardi got his wish and Green Bay made its last appearance under his watch in 1963, a 13-13 tie and the Packers didn't return to the Thanksgiving rotation until a 16-3 loss at Dallas in 1970.
The Packers finally returned to Detroit in 1984 and 1986, losing 31-38 and 44-40, respectively.
Things haven't been much better during the Brett Favre era. Aside from a 29-27 victory at Detroit in 2001, the Packers fell to Dallas under third-string quarterback Jason Garret in 1994 (42-31) and dropped a 22-14 in their last Thanksgiving appearance, against the Lions in 2003.
Despite the Packers lack of good fortune on Thanksgiving and the short preparation time leading up to the Thursday game, head coach Mike McCarthy is looking forward to his first taste of this longtime NFL tradition.
"It's part of history in the National Football League," McCarthy said in a press conference earlier this week. "I can remember as far back as being a young child watching Thanksgiving football and eating the turkey between the games. Your peers, everybody is going to be watching you play. I think it's going to be a great game. It's going to be a great environment."
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