x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Lions look to history books against Packers

Back in 1962 an undefeated Green Bay team were man-handled by the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. The present-day Lions are hoping history repeats itself.

Back in 1962,  Darris McCord (78), Roger Brown (76) and the rest of the Lions' defence made things rough for Bart Starr, right, and the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving Day. The present-day Lions hope history repeats itself.
Back in 1962, Darris McCord (78), Roger Brown (76) and the rest of the Lions' defence made things rough for Bart Starr, right, and the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving Day. The present-day Lions hope history repeats itself.

Whether they realize it or not, the Detroit Lions are hoping history repeats itself this week.

The Lions face unbeaten Green Bay on Thursday, nearly 49 years to the day after Detroit beat the Packers on Thanksgiving Day to hand Green Bay their only defeat of the 1962 season.

That Packers 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 are 10-0 now as well.

Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford said Monday that they were not aware of the similarities between this game and that one, but Jim Schwartz, the Detroit coach, said his team always takes the traditional 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 Day game may have meant more to players a half-century ago, when the league's exposure was not nearly as great.

"People just had started developing a love for professional football," said Joe Schmidt, the Hall-of-Fame linebacker 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 November 22, 1962. They had lost 9-7 to the Packers earlier that season.

"We had a vendetta. We had a game to make up for," said Roger Brown, the defensive tackle.

"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.

The Lions provided a play-by-play transcript from that game to reporters.

At one point, the transcript read: "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, who finished 11-3 that season, their best record since going 10-2 in 1953.

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 is 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 a Detroit weapon on the defensive line. He has been accused of playing too rough, but Brown scoffs at the controversy.

"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."