The are one of two teams who play on Thanksgiving every season. The other is the, but the tradition started with the Lions decades ago. This season, the Lions are taking on the
in an NFC North matchup with big implications between two teams vying for a division title. For some, it might not be the most attractive game with the biggest names, but it is the one that carries the most history. HereБs the history behind the game, maintained by the Lions. The first owner of the Lions, G. A. Richards moved the Lions from Portsmouth, Ohio to Detroit. In 1934, they played their first Thanksgiving game against the and legendary coach George Halas. , with 26,000 fans in attendance. While the Bears won the game, a new tradition was born. It was a success that has been carried on ever since Б one thatБs older than 24 of the 32 NFL franchises today. The Lions topped the Packers by a final score of 26-14. The Packers would go on to be champions that season, with the Thanksgiving loss their only of the year. While sacks werenБt an official stat until 1982,. Roger Brown had six of those, one of which resulted in a safety. The most infamous moment, however, came in 1998 The Lions were going into overtime in 1998 against the, where would call for heads or tails on the coin toss. Bettis alleges he called for tails, and it was tails. But referee Phil Luckett rewarded the Lions with the ball, claiming that Bettis had called Бheads-tailsБ instead.
Poor Luckett. Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton was asked during the week if he believed the Lions would hit hard during the game. Sitton didnБt hold back, calling the players dirtbags, and criticizing then-head coach Jim Schwartz \”Absolutely,\” Sitton told WSSP-AM in Milwaukee ( ). \”I don\’t think there\’s any question about that. They go after quarterbacks. Their entire defense takes cheap shots all the time, that\’s what they do, that\’s who they are. They\’re a bunch of dirtbags, or scumbags. I mean, that\’s how they play. \” \”It starts with their frickin\’ coach,\” Sitton said. \”Starts with the head coach. Schwartz, he\’s a (expletive), too, I wouldn\’t want to play for him. Starts with him, their D-coordinator and their D-line coach. They\’re all just scumbags, and so are the D-line. \” The Lions responded to the criticism with a big game. Green Bay ended up playing without Rodgers, as started the game. The result? a 40-10 Lions win. As of the completion of 2016Бs game against the Vikings, the Lions are 37-38-2 on Thanksgiving Day. TheyБve had their stretches of winning and losing streaks, but none greater than the nine-game losing skid they had from 2004 to 2012. Since that streak ended, they havenБt lost. They can make it five consecutive Turkey Day wins with one against the Vikings, but itБll prove to be one of the more difficult tasks theyБve had in recent memory.
The arenвt synonymous with many good things. The best might be Thanksgiving. Since 1934, the Lions have hosted an NFL game in the middle of Americaвs turkey-laden holiday. Through the good (any season when Barry Sanders was in town) and the bad (2008вs 0-16 season), Detroit has been the backdrop for the holiday entertainment shared by young, eager football fans and old, dozing uncles alike. The tradition began as a publicity stunt. The 1934 Lions were spending their first season in Motor City after moving from the booming metropolis of Portsmouth, Ohio. Detroit had pitiful home attendance numbers despite its 10-1 record. Fewer than 12,000 fans had attended each game in a city justifiably focused on baseball. The Tigers had won 101 games that year and consumed the hearts and minds of Michiganвs sports fans well into the fall. Owner George A. Richards wasnвt happy with his fledgling franchise, but he knew he could boost attendance simply by moving a showdown with the up a few days. Thanksgiving Day games were not a bold and new idea in 1934. In fact, theyвd been pretty successful. The largest crowd in NFL history at the time (36,000). The Bears would make history again. Chicago was undefeated and coming off an NFL championship season in 1933.
The hype surrounding the franchise would have boosted attendance at University of Detroit Stadium even without a shift to Thanksgiving. With the move to Thursday, the Bears and Lions sold out the stadium for the first time. More than 25,000 people were in attendance to watch Chicagoвs come-from-behind victory, more than doubling the count from the previous week. But playing on the holiday didnвt just increase the Lionsв exposure to local fans в it also wound up broadcasting the franchise to the entire country. Richards also owned a key NBC radio affiliate, WJR. NBC radio picked up the game, making 1934вs Lions-Bears matchup the. The game was the perfect storm to push professional football past the college game and into the hearts of American sports fans everywhere. The NFL has called Detroit home on Thanksgiving ever since в with the exception of a six-year interruption during World War II. The Lions have crested and fallen, but theyвre 5-4 and second in the NFC North this season. They can bolster their spot in the standings with a game against the first-place, probably the best game of the day and certainly the one with the most playoff implications on the line. While itвs not 10-1 Detroit vs. 11-0 Chicago in 1934, quarterback вthe NFLвs highest paid playerвwill do what he can to make sure his team lives up to the Lionsв standard.