Beating the stuffing out of each other

The Lions have owned the Thanksgiving series against the Packers.'s Steve Lawrence looks back at the memorable games.

The Green Bay Packers own the all-time series against the Detroit Lions by a resounding 82-64-7. On Thanksgiving, though, the Packers more often than not have played like turkeys.

The Packers and Lions have played 17 times on Thanksgiving — including 13 consecutive years starting in 1951 — with Detroit holding a commanding 11-5-1 edge. The cliché "you can through the records out the window when these teams play" often applies.

"It was a very important part of our season," the late Jim Ringo told the Sporting News in 1995. "Right behind the Bears game, Turkey Day in Detroit was a very close No. 2."

The first Thanksgiving meeting came on Nov. 22, 1951, with the Lions romping to a 52-35 win. The 52 points, sparked by quarterback Bobby Layne's four touchdown passes and punt returns for scores of 89 and 72 yards by Jack Christiansen, is the most in the historic series.

The Lions won NFL championships in 1952 and 1953. They rocked the Packers both times, 48-24 in 1952 behind three TDs by Layne, and 34-15 in 1953 sparked by a 97-yard Layne-to-Cloyce Box touchdown pass. In fact, the Lions won the Thanksgiving matchup the first five times before Green Bay broke through in 1956. The Packers' 24-20 victory, keyed by Tobin Rote's late touchdown pass, marked the first time a Thanksgiving game was televised nationally.

The Lions won the championship — their last — in 1957, and beat the Packers 18-6. Detroit won the Thanksgiving clash again in 1958, but Vince Lombardi became the Packers' coach in 1959. The Packers and Lions squared off five more times, with the teams going 2-2-1.

The Packers won the 1959 game 24-17, thanks in part to five fumbles by the Lions. It was Bart Starr's third start under Lombardi. He lost his first, then won the next four to close the season, and the start of a dynasty was born.

The Lions won the 1960 game 23-10. Detroit's defense scored a safety and recovered two fumbles that set up touchdowns.

The Packers edged the Lions 17-9 in the 1961 game en route to the first of Lombardi's championships.

The Packers won the 1962 championship, as well. They entered this Thanksgiving game with a 10-0 record, only to lose 26-14. Starr — behind one of the great offensive lines in NFL history, mind you — was sacked 11 times for a loss of 110 yards. This would be the only loss of the season. The game was coined the "Grudge Match," because the Lions lost the first matchup 9-7 despite forcing four turnovers.

"It wasn't a good day," Ringo said of the Thanksgiving debacle. "Lombardi, well, what he said cannot be repeated. He let us know in no uncertain terms what we were and who we were. Many of us feared going into that locker room. I'm going to tell you, they had to repaint the visiting dressing room walls after that."

The 1963 game was the final one of the series, and ended in a 13-13 tie. Starr put the Packers ahead 13-6 with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Ron Kramer, but Earl Morrall led a 17-play drive that ate up almost all of the remaining 9:03. Nick Pietrosante scored the tying TD with a 1-yard run with 16 seconds left.

The Lions and Packers have met four times on Thanksgiving since, going 2-2.

In 1986, the Packers won 44-40 on Walter Stanley's 83-yard punt return with 41 seconds left. In 2001, the Packers won 29-27. Winless Detroit scored 14 points in the final 1:20, but Green Bay avoided overtime when it stopped quarterback Mike McMahon's keeper on the two-point conversion.

In the most recent meeting, 2003, the Packers turned it over four times in the fourth quarter of a 22-14 loss.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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