Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr, under pressure all afternoon, is sacked by Detroit linebacker Joe Schmidt during Thanksgiving Day game at Tiger Stadium in 1962.
This isn’t the first time the Green Bay Packers have taken an unbeaten record into a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Detroit Lions.
On November 22, 1962, exactly one year to the day before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the Packers came into Tiger Stadium sporting a 10-0 record.
The dream of an undefeated season ended that day for the Pack as the Lions, then 8-2, sacked Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr 10 times and roared off with a 26-14 win. The victory avenged a last minute, 9-7 loss in Green Bay earlier in the season.
“To this day, I don’t know if I have ever been in a locker room quite like that one,” Dick LeBeau told the Detroit News. “It was a group of men who came together with a singleness of purpose that they were going to win a game that day.”
A Lions defensive back and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who has coached in the NFL for 39 years, including in six Super Bowls.
On Turkey Day in 1962, Detroit’s Milt Plum connected with Gail Cogdill for a pair of touchdown passes, then defensive end Sam Williams rumbled six yards with a Starr fumble to give the Lions a huge lead in the second quarter. When Starr was tackled in the end zone by Roger Brown for a safety, the Lions led 23-0.
Plum added a 47-yard field goal in the third quarter before the Packers made the score respectable with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Thanksgiving Day Massacre
Detroit’s domination of the game that came to be referred to as “The Thanksgiving Day Massacre” was more complete than the score indicated. The Lions outgained the Packers, 304 yards to 122. The usually unstoppable Green Bay running attack was held to just 73 yards on 27 attempts, and the passing attack netted 49 yards.
The game, played in 37-degree temperatures in the Motor City, featured 10 turnovers, three fumbles and two interceptions by each team.
“It’s a known fact that the Detroit defense is good,” summed up Lombardi. “They completely overpowered us in the first half…My club wasn’t flat. We were ready. They just overwhelmed us.”
It was the only NFL game that day, and it drew 30 million viewers, at the time the largest television audience ever for CBS.
The Packers went on to win their final three games — beating the Rams twice and the 49ers — to finish 13-1. Green Bay then won its second straight NFL championship under Vince Lombardi with a 16-7 win over the New York Giants on a cold, blustery December day at Yankee Stadium.
Detroit, which also lost to the Giants and the Bear, finished 11-3, second in the NFL’s Western Conference.