Lions will try for repeat of '62 Thanksgiving win
The Lions face unbeaten Green Bay on Thursday, nearly 49 years to the day after Detroit beat the Packers on Thanksgiving to hand them their only loss of the 1962 season. That Green Bay team was defending an NFL championship. This year's Packers squad is coming off a Super Bowl victory.
In 1962, the Packers were 10-0 before losing to the Lions. They're 10-0 now as well.
Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford said Monday they weren't aware of the similarities between this game and that one, but Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said his team takes the tradition of the Thanksgiving game seriously.
"Guys that have been here obviously know a lot about the history and the tradition, but we have new players, we have rookies, we have other players that have never experienced what goes on in Detroit on Thanksgiving," Schwartz said. "So yeah, we talk about the history of the game."
If anything, the Thanksgiving game may have meant more to players a half-century ago, when the league's exposure wasn't nearly as great.
"People just had started developing a love for professional football," said Hall of Fame linebacker Joe Schmidt, who played on the 1962 Lions. "It was an opportunity to show people throughout the United States what type of football team you were."
The Lions were unusually motivated when they hosted Green Bay at Tiger Stadium on Nov. 22, 1962. They had lost to the Packers 9-7 earlier that season.
"We had a vendetta. We had a game to make up for," defensive tackle Roger Brown said. "We gave them a gift up in Green Bay, and we wanted to set the record straight."
Bart Starr and the Packers were never really in the game, losing 26-14. Detroit had nearly a dozen sacks, returned a fumble for a touchdown and scored on a safety, too.
The Lions provided a play-by-play transcript from that game. At one point, it reads: "About half of the Lion team dropped Starr for a 10 yard loss."
The game was part of a seven-game winning streak for Detroit, which finished 11-3.
Gail Cogdill caught two touchdown passes from Milt Plum, and it was 26-0 before Green Bay scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the final score respectable.
This season, it's Calvin Johnson making big plays at wide receiver. Cogdill called Johnson "an absolute stud."
"The guy is just awesome," Cogdill said. "I think he's one of the great weapons the Lions have."
Suh is another weapon for Detroit on the defensive line, and Brown scoffs at all the controversy over whether Suh plays too rough.
"I'm proud of him. ... I could never get anybody to call me dirty when I played, even if I threw dirt in somebody's face," Brown said. "You're not playing tiddlywinks. This is football."