Edson: Lions Feasted on Packers in Classic 1962 Thanksgiving Day Game

Moments after the Detroit Lions held on for a 27-24 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, I thought ahead to Thursday’s crucial Thanksgiving Day game against the first-place Minnesota Vikings.

A friend asked me if this was the biggest Thanksgiving Day game I could remember.

I smiled and shook my head.

“No, not by a long shot,” I said.

That game was played 55 years to the day of this year’s game – Nov. 23, 1962.

The Green Bay Packers were hoping to become the first undefeated team in NFL history. They were 10-0, having escaped with a 9-7 victory over the Lions earlier in the year.

The Packers walked into old Tiger Stadium with 10 future Hall of Famers on their team – quarterback Bart Starr, fullback Jim Taylor, halfback Paul Hornung, right tackle Forrest Gregg, center Jim Ringo, linebacker Ray Nitschke, defensive end Willie Davis, defensive tackle Henry Jordan, cornerback Herb Adderley of Michigan State and safety Willie Wood.

Coach Vince Lombardi later called that 1962 Packers team the best he had ever coached.

But that day, the 8-2 Lions were simply ferocious. They sacked Starr 11 times. They held Taylor to two yards rushing on eight attempts in the first half.

By the time the teams went to the locker room at halftime, the Lions were ahead 23-0.

I was a month short of my ninth birthday and I was beside myself. My cousins were visiting from Royal Oak and we were all roaring with every big defensive play.

My mom wanted us all to eat at the kitchen table, but a few minutes into the game, she realized that wasn’t going to happen. We couldn’t take our eyes off the game.

Lions quarterback Milt Plum hit end Gail Cogdill with a couple of first-half scoring passes to give the Lions a comfortable lead.

But what drew the biggest shouts was the play of Detroit’s Fearsome Foursome, led by defensive tackles Roger Brown and Alex Karras. They simply manhandled the Packers offensive line.

It was a game no Lions fan who witnessed it will ever forget.

In fact, since the Lions haven’t won an NFL championship since 1957, I think this was the biggest Lions win I ever saw in my lifetime for two reasons.

  1. NFL fans considered the 1962 Packers invincible… and they almost were.
  2. With 10 future Hall of Famers on the team, Green Bay simply mopped the floor with most of their opponents that year.

But 55 years ago, our turkey dinner never tasted better, all because of a 26-14 win over the Packers.

People who saw the score – and not the game – years later wondered why fans referred to it as a “mauling.”

You had to see it to believe it.

It’s a Thanksgiving Day memory I’ll never forget.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.