Lions' feast on Packers still a fresh memory 53 years later

The greatest Thanksgiving Day game? You voted in our weekly poll, and it wasn't close. And winner was ... the 1962 Thanksgiving Day Massacre, the Detroit Lions' 26-14 defeat of previously unbeaten Green Bay.


(1962 game and Roger Brown photos courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

Talk of Fame Network

The game was played 53 years ago, but listeners and readers of The Talk of Fame Network obviously have long memories.

In this week’s poll, our followers voted the 1962 game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions the greatest Thanksgiving game of all-time. That game received 40.7 percent of the vote to easily outdistance three games involving the Dallas Cowboys and one other involving the Lions.

The three Dallas entries were next in the voting -- the Clint Longley “Mad Bomber” game in 1974 at 25.9 percent and both the Randy Moss explosion in 1998 and the Leon Lett fumble in the snow in the 1993 game at 14.8 percent. The Detroit game against Buffalo in 1976 when O.J. Simpson set an NFL record with 273 yards received 3.7 percent.

The result didn’t surprise the hosts of The Talk of Fame Network.

“For once, it wasn’t just the turkeys that got massacred on Thanksgiving,” Ron Borges said. “It was also the Packers.”

And was it ever a massacre. Vince Lombardi brought his greatest team to Detroit – an 11-0 squad with 10 future Hall of Famers. Five of those Hall of Famers played offense: quarterback Bart Starr, halfback Paul Horning, fullback Jim Taylor, tackle Forrest Gregg and center Jim Ringo.

But the Lions were clearly the better team on this day as the Detroit defense dominated that great Green Bay offense. The Lions sacked Starr 11 times and ran off to a 26-0 lead through three quarters before the Packers scored two garbage touchdowns in the final period for that final 26-14 score. Defensive tackle Roger Brown sacked Starr six times, including once for a safety, forced a fumble that was returned by defensive end Sam Williams for a touchdown, and also blocked a field goal.

“That game was easy to remember,” Clark Judge said. “It was the only loss for Green Bay that year. Starr was treated like a pinata. Roger Brown had six sacks. And it was the only NFL game on TV that day. Yeah, I'd call that memorable.”

Talent-wise, that Detroit defense was every bit the match of the Green Bay offense with four Hall of Famers of its own: middle linebacker Joe Schmidt, cornerbacks Dick LeBeau and Dick “Night Train” Lane and safety Yale Lary. The Lions also had some Hall-of-Fame coaching to help out. The defensive coordinator who devised the game plan that defeated Vince Lombardi’s greatest team was Don Shula.

That game became his springboard to a head-coaching opportunity with the Baltimore Colts in 1963. Shula went on to win more games (328) than any coach in NFL history.

The Packers, by the way, would go on to finish that season 13-1 and win the second of five NFL titles under Lombardi.

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