Top 5 Detroit Lions games are dinner table discussion
5.November 22, 1962 Detroit 26 Green Bay 14
Detroit’s domination of the game came to be referred to as “The Thanksgiving Day Massacre.”
The 10-0 Green Bay Packers came to Tiger Stadium on Thanksgiving Day. The Detroit defense was ranked number one overall in the NFL and proceeded to stop the winning streak at 10. The Lions would sack Green Bay QB Bart Starr 11 times and hold rushing leader, FB Jim Taylor to -3 yards in the first half. A safety at the end of the second quarter made the score, 23-0.
Detroit held the Packers to only 49 yards passing. They forced three fumbles and two interceptions in limiting Green Bay to 122 yards in total offense. The Lions blocked one punt, forced a 15 yard shank by Boyd Dowler and were called for two roughing the kicker penalties.
In Week 4 against Green Bay, the Lions held the Packers to three Paul Hornung field goals in a 9-7 loss. They forced four turnovers, but the Detroit offense was inept in throwing for only 107 yards from QB Milt Plum.
Green Bay was able to regroup after the Thanksgiving Day shellacking. The Packers finished 13-1 and beat the New York Giants, 16-7 for the NFL title. The Detroit Lions would finish 11-3 with five defensive starters going to the Pro Bowl.
In 1939 and 1940, President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving one week earlier. Various states celebrated on the date declared by the President, while other states recognized the traditional fourth Thursday of the month.
In 1941, Thanksgiving was sanctioned by Congress to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November which it has been ever since.
4. November 22, 2009 Detroit 38 Cleveland 37
The 2008 Detroit Lions lost every game to become the first NFL team to go 0-16. The 2009 team wasn't much better, finishing at 2-14. The records did affect the fan support as two 1-8 teams met in a Week 11 matchup at Ford Field. There were only 43, 170 in attendance , and the game was blacked out locally.
The Browns opened up a 24-10 first quarter lead on three Brady Quinn TD passes. The Lions fought back in the second quarter on two TD passes from rookie, Matthew Stafford. One was a 75 yard toss to WR Calvin Johnson which cut the lead to 27-24 at the half.
Cleveland controlled the ball for 35 minutes with 40 rushing attempts from FB Jamal Lewis and RB Chris Jennings for 151 yards. QB Brady Quinn had a solid game with 22 for 34 passing for 308 yards and no interceptions with a QB rating of 133.1. The Browns took the lead, 37-31 with 5 minutes 44 seconds to play on a two yard pass from Quinn to TE Michael Gaines.
The Lions were unable to move the ball and punted. The defense stopped the Browns and forced a punt. The drive started at the Detroit 12 yard line. With one minute 46 seconds remaining and no timeouts, QB Matthew Stafford led the Lions into Cleveland territory. With two seconds remaining and the ball at the Cleveland 32, Wikipedia:
Stafford raced out of the pocket and threw a pass into the end zone which was intercepted by Brodney Pool, but the pick was nullified on a Hank Poteat pass interference penalty, giving the Lions one more play with no time left on the clock. Stafford was brutally hit by two Browns defenders on the play, and suffered what turned out to be a major shoulder separation of his left (non-throwing) arm; he had to come out for the final play and backup Daunte Culpepper went in, but the Browns called time-out; under NFL rules injured players must come out for one play, and the Browns timeout thus made Stafford eligible to return to the field; He then threw a touchdown to Brandon Pettigrew, and Jason Hanson tacked on the extra point for the win. Stafford became the youngest QB to throw five touchdown passes in a game since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. He also set a record for passing yards in a game by a rookie with 422.
The game was made into an NFL Film, with Matt Stafford mic'ed up. It was shown on NFL Network's NFL Replay and Wired for Sound and became a segment in the "Quarterback Duels" episode of NFL Top 10, as well as Showtime's Inside the NFL. The company's founder Steve Sabol said the Lions' game winning drive was the most dramatic film he has seen in over 30 years.
Head coach Jim Schwartz joked that "Stafford's best play of the day might have been eluding four team doctors to get back on the field."
3. November 24, 1991 Detroit 34 Minnesota 14
Although he would later learn he was largely paralyzed from the chest down, Mike Utley flashed the crowd a "thumbs up" as he was being taken off the field. The thumbs up sign has become the symbol for the Mike Utley Foundation, a foundation created in 1991 by Utley and his agent Bruce Allen to help seek a cure for paralysis.
In the first game following the Mike Utley neck injury, the 7-4 Detroit Lions were on the road at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis to play the Vikings. Utley's injury gave inspiration to a team that at that point in the season was struggling.
The Lions put the ball in the hands of their best player, RB Barry Sanders. Barry would rush for 220 yards on only 23 carries. The Vikings stacked the line of scrimmage with eight players daring the Lions to throw. Sanders took the fourth quarter off after scoring four TD's. Detroit Lions QB Erik Kramer completed 13 of 26 passes for 124 yards. Four of those completions were to the future Pro Football Hall of Famer, Barry Sanders.
The game ball was given to Number 60, Mike Utley.
Detroit Lions CB Ray Crockett would appear in the film Super Size Me. Crockett spent 30 days using a wheelchair to get around. He chose to be on the show after witnessing a paralyzing injury of former Detroit Lions teammate Mike Utley in 1991.
2. January 5, 1992 Detroit 38 Dallas 6
The teams had met on October 27, 1991 at the Pontiac Silverdome with the Lions winning easily, 34-10. The Cowboys turned the ball over six times, including four fumbles. Dallas had a wide margin in total yards with 415 to 208. Dallas QB Troy Aikman passed for 357, but was intercepted twice. The Lions had a 96 yard interception TD return by CB Ray Crockett as well as a 55 blocked field goal TD return by S William White.
In the playoff game, there were four turnovers for the Cowboys with none for the Lions. It was a big day for Detroit QB Erik Kramer who threw for three TD's on 29 for 38 passing and a QB rating of 129.3
The Dallas defense held Lions RB Barry Sanders to 69 yards on 12 carries, but he did break a long TD run of 47 yards in the fourth quarter. There were numerous "Thumbs up" signs in the stands in support of injured OG Mike Utley. The Lions had his number 60 on their helmets, and the crowd witnessed a not too familiar sight. That is a Detroit Lions playoff win.
1: Playoff wins in the Super Bowl era for the Detroit Lions. It came on Jan. 5, 1992, when the Lions beat Dallas, 38-6. The next week, the Lions lost to Washington in the NFC title game, 41-10.
1. December 29, 1957 Detroit 59 Cleveland 14
The Detroit Lions were forced to play a tiebreaker game the week prior against the San Francisco 49ers. a 31-27 win set the stage for the 25th NFL title game at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. 11 players and coaches from the Browns and Lions would make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Detroit was without starting QB Bobby Layne who was injured in the San Francisco game. Backup QB Tobin Rote was brilliant for the Lions throwing for four TD passes and running for a score. Tobin completed 12 of 19 passing for 280 yards, and rushed seven times for 27 yards. RB Howard 'Hopalong' Cassady ran a score and caught a TD pass as well.
The Detroit defense knocked out Cleveland QB's, Tommy O' Connell and Milt Plum with injuries. Detroit held the great RB Jim Brown to only 69 yards on 20 carries. The Lions punishing defense was led by MLB Joe Schmidt, and defensive backs Jack Christiansen and Yale Lary. Yale was also the best punter in the league. Detroit opponents averaged less than one yard per return on his punts.
The Lions have not appeared in or won an NFL championship game (including the Super Bowl) since. Lions QB Tobin Rote would be the starter for the San Diego Chargers in the 1963 AFL title game in a 51-10 win over the Boston Patriots.
1935 was also the year Detroit was named the City of Champions, which was a great lift in the middle of the Great Depression. The Detroit Tigers won the World Series, Detroit Red Wings took the Stanley Cup, Joe Louis was the reigning heavyweight boxing champion and Gar Wood, an early pioneer in unlimited hydroplane racing, became the first man ever to go 100 miles per hour on water.
Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.