Thanksgiving Story: Green Bay Packers Edition

Although the Packers won’t be playing Thanksgiving this year, due to Detroit’s annual presence in the game and division, and the Packers’ notoriety, they play quite frequently on the holidays. As you might expect, the Packers have contributed to many Thanksgiving records, particularly in terms of scoring.

Green Bay did not play in the all-time Thanksgiving game. That honor goes to a Thanksgiving bout between the Denver Broncos and the New York Titans on Thanksgiving Day 1962. Yes, this is technically an AFL game, but since the NFL owns the history of both merged leagues, it technically counts, and why Not! This game was bananas!

Titans quarterback Johnny Green threw 5 TDs, but he also threw 3 picks, including a pick 6, against Denver’s Jim McMillin. Denver added another defensive score on a 69-yard fumble return, and since this was the AFL, they’d also record a two-point conversion, although the Titans countered with a safe. There’s no play-by-play data, but it sure looks like the Titans clinched the 46-45 win on or near the last play with a touchdown pass from Green to Art Powell.

But you hear for the Packers, and if we exclude our AFL brothers, Green Bay not only has the highest-scoring Thanksgiving game, they have the highest-scoring two.

In the first, a disappointing loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving Day 1952, Detroit quarterback Bobby Lane threw four touchdowns while running back Bob Hoernschmeyer put on a virtuoso running back performance, gaining 99 yards and scoring with just 7 carries and pitching in 51 yards with 5 receptions as recipient. Barry Sanders, eat your heart out.

Tobin Rote only completed 8/23 passes for the Packers, but 201 yards and 3 TDs because of old-fashioned football. Unfortunately, Red and Green Bay’s Bobby Thomason threw 3 picks together, which hampered some drives. But the Packers were still right on this one, as Rote also threw up 131 yards and a touchdown on the floor in addition to his bomb-throwing pass. late in the 3rdapproxhis last touchdown pass of the day, a 42-yarder to Ray Pelfrey, would draw the Packers to 10. Unfortunately, the Packers were doomed by a well-known bogeyman: Special Teams.

Green Bay would stop Detroit and get the ball back to further narrow the ten-point lead, but unfortunately they were forced to punt on their next two drives. Detroit punt returner Jeff Christiansen would return both punts for touchdowns, one for 71 yards and the other for 89, driving the final nail in the Packers’ coffin. Detroit would win in a blowout, 52-35, the highest combined scores ever for two NFL teams on Thanksgiving (again not including the AFL).

The 2nd The NFL Thanksgiving highest-scoring game also involved the Packers, although this time they managed to bring home a win. The unlikely shootout, again between the Packers and Lions, took place on Thanksgiving Day 1986, and as you’d expect from the 86 Packers and Lions, it was quite a mess. Detroit quarterback Joe Ferguson was 19/37 for 256 yards with 3 TDs and 2 picks, followed by the Packers’ Randy Wright, who went 18/26 for 286 yards with 3 TDs and only one pick. Kickers Eddie Murray and Al Del Greco had quite a fight as Murray took the lead with a 4/4 tag while Del Greco missed a crucial kick with 3/4. Luckily for the Packers, they managed to score on a recovered Special Team fumble and an 83-yard punt return from Walter Stanley to finally take the lead in the closing minutes. Stanley dominated with 4 catches for 124 yards and 2 points on top of his return touchdown, giving the Packers the 44-40 win.

The Packers also managed to play in one of eight 0-0 Thanksgiving games in NFL history, all of which occurred before 1929. The Packers drew level with the Frankford Yellow Jackets in front of 8,500 extremely bored fans.

The modern record for futility is likely a 1968 game between the Lions and the Eagles in which Philly kicker Sam Baker scored all 12 points as the Eagles beat the Lions 12-0. I thought it was worth mentioning given the Packers’ opponent of the week. If nothing else, have some fun trivia to share during the games tomorrow.


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