Packers Have Enjoyed Some Memorable Moments on Thanksgiving

The Green Bay Packers have a longstanding tradition of playing on Thanksgiving Day. Tomorrow will be the 37th time the Pack has been involved in Turkey Day festivities on the field.

From 1951 until 1963, the Packers and Lions met every year on Thanksgiving, making it the NFL’s annual holiday game. However, Vince Lombardi never liked playing on a short week on the road, so the Packers asked the league to rotate the Lions opponents.

Here is a look back at three memorable Thanksgiving games for the Packers in three different eras of Packers football:

November 26, 1959: Packers 24, Lions 17

The Packers entered this game with a 4-5 record after having snapped a five-game losing streak the previous Sunday. The Packers were just 1-10-1 in 1958 but rookie head coach Vince Lombardi made the Pack competitive in his first season leading the team. They were set to face a Lions team that was just 2-6-1.

The Packers defense was the big story in this game, creating five turnovers including second half interceptions by Bill Forester and John Symank that helped preserve the lead.

Paul Hornung ran for two touchdowns and kicked a field goal in the first quarter to help but the Pack up 17-3. He finished the game with 18 of the Packers 24 points.

In the second quarter, Jim Taylor scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge and the Pack led 24-3.

Bart Starr was an efficient 10-of-15 for 169 yards with Boyd Dowler catching four passes for 107 yards. The strong game helped Starr establish himself as the Packers starting quarterback over Lamar McHan who saw most of the action early in the season.

The Lions scored twice in the second quarter to pull to within 24-17 but couldn’t get the equalizer.

The Packers swept the season series from the Lions for the first time since 1947. Lombardi’s team wouldn’t lose another game that season and finished 7-5.

November 27, 1986: Packers 44, Lions 40

Former University of Wisconsin quarterback Randy Wright enjoyed one of the best games of his career as the Packers pulled out a last-minute win over the Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome. Wright threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns in a wild, back-and-forth contest between two struggling teams.

Wright shined but the real hero of the game was Packers wide receiver Walter Stanley. Stanley caught four passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the game.

His biggest moment came in the final minute when he returned a punt 83-yards for the winning score. Ironically, head coach Forrest Gregg had instructed Stanley to make a fair catch on the punt.

“I wasn't supposed to run,” Stanley admitted after the game. “It was set up for a [punt] block and I was supposed to fair catch. But I decided not to because I wanted to get something going.”

“All I know is the guy is a good athlete and has a lot of heart,” Gregg said about Stanley. “A lot of things can happen, and it did on that. Walter had an outstanding game. I think they probably underestimated his ability a little bit. Nobody will be guilty of that again.”

The Packers trailed 40-30 late in the fourth quarter but Wright pulled them closer with a three-play, 79-yard drive that culminated with an 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Paul Ott Carruth with 3:31 left in the game.

The win improved the Packers record to just 3-10 and they finished the season 4-12.  

November 23, 2007: Packers 37, Lions 26

Brett Favre threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Packers past the Lions 37-26. This was Favre’s final season with the Packers, and he enjoyed one of his better games at Ford Field.

The Packers trailed 6-0 after one quarter before Favre took over. He threw his first of two touchdown passes to Greg Jennings and then led another drive that culminated by a five-yard run by Ryan Grant.

Grant finished the game 101 yards rushing and added six catches for 31 more yards. Donald Driver caught 10 passes for 147 yards to lead the Green Bay offense.

Aaron Kampman had two of the Packers four sacks while Aaron Rouse intercepted a Jon Kitna pass that set up the Packers first touchdown.

Jennings knew how well Favre was playing. “As long as he's playing the way he is, the sky's the limit for this team,” Jennings said.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli was extremely impressed by Favre. “He's playing as good as I've ever seen him play,” Marinelli told reporters. “I've played against him since 1996. That was my concern going into this game -- the release, the speed. We played man and we played zone, and we struggled on all. It's very tough to sack this guy.”

The Packers finished 13-3 that season and reached the NFC Championship Game. The following year, Favre was traded to the New York Jets and Aaron Rodgers took over as the Packers starting quarterback.




You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers


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4 points

Comments (8)

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ricky's picture

November 22, 2023 at 09:50 am

Probably the most (painfully) memorable Thanksgiving game between these two teams was in 1962. It was a complete domination of the Lions against the Packers. Roger Brown and Alex Karras harassed Bart Starr all game, and Starr was sacked eleven times and threw two interceptions. Jerry Kramer later said that he'd invented the "Lookout Block" in that game. The ball would be snapped, Brown or Karras would push him aside, and he'd turn and yell, "Look out Bart!"

1 points
Since'61's picture

November 22, 2023 at 09:27 pm

I've hated Thursday football games since that 1962 game. I have always believed that the Packers would have been unseated NFL champions in 1962 if they had had a full week to prepare for that game.

As for the lookout block Jerry Kramer was playing with bruised ribs. He could take one hit from Karras or Brown and then he let him go and yelled "Lookout Bart."

I'm not looking forward to the game tomorrow but I'll be hoping for the best. Thanks, Since '61


1 points
stockholder's picture

November 22, 2023 at 10:17 am

The Negative=
Detroit's Hall of Fame defensive backfield duo of "Night Train" Lane and Dick LeBeau each recorded interceptions of Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr that helped the Lions prevail, 26-14. NFL historians believe the Lions recorded 11 sacks of Starr that included six by Roger Brown, who also sacked Starr in the end zone for a safety. The game is fondly remembered in Detroit as the "Thanksgiving Day Massacre." It would be the only loss for the '62 Packers, who went onto win their second of five championships during the decade.

3 points
Qoojo's picture

November 22, 2023 at 10:18 am

I was just checking to make sure that the punt return in 80s was listed. Packers absolutely sucked. Half their wins were against TB that season.

2 points
T7Steve's picture

November 22, 2023 at 10:26 am

Thanks Gil! Have a happy Thanksgiving watching another domination.

Too bad I'm so old I remember all but the first game you highlighted. My mom was probably watching it while nursing me though, so I was still there.

2 points
GilMartin's picture

November 22, 2023 at 06:46 pm

Yeah, I remember the last two games as well. 1986 wasn't an easy time to be a Packers fan. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for commenting.

0 points
Since'75's picture

November 22, 2023 at 12:49 pm

I remember the 1986 game mostly, because of Walter Stanley's dominant performance.
The Packers were 2-10 going into that game.

Kick return.....4:50 in.

3 points
THESZOTMAN1's picture

November 22, 2023 at 06:21 pm

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Gil
The Szotman

1 points