Pressure is on for Thanksgiving in Detroit
The last time the Detroit Lions won a Thanksgiving game was on November 27, 2003. Coincidentally, the game was against the Packers.
As six point favorites against the visiting Packers, the Lions are in decent position to end both losing streaks. They’re also in desperate need of a win after back-to-back losses against sub-.500 teams this season. The Packers haven’t won a game since Rodgers went down with a collarbone injury and their playoff chances are looking more and more slim. At 5-5-1, they’re only a half-game behind the first place 6-5 Lions, but a loss on Thanksgiving would put them in a tight spot where they’d need both the Lions and the 6-5 Bears to suffer a few losses down the road in order to make up ground.
All in all, it’s a big, big game and with Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines, the Lions are at a huge advantage, having never defeated Rodgers in 9 tries. Yet the replacement Packers quarterback has a bit of history against the Lions as well.
In week 17 of the 2011 season, the Lions needed a win to secure the 5th seed in the playoffs, and avoid playing the terrifying offense of Drew Brees and the 3rd seeded Saints. The Packers, meanwhile, had secured the top seed in the NFC and week 17’s game was absolutely meaningless, so Rodgers was given the day off in favor of Matt Flynn.
Little did we know that Flynn would go on to have a historic day against a pathetic Lions defense, throwing for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns (both Green Bay records). The final touchdown pass came with just over a minute left, a 4-yarder to Jermichael Finley that gave the Packers a 45-41 win, dropping the Lions to 10-6, and the 6th seed in the NFC. In a game the Lions needed to win, their defense allowed a backup quarterback to set franchise records against them, and 41 points from the offense wasn’t enough.
This year, the Lions defense has fought similar problems. In the last two weeks, Pittsburgh put up a whopping 37 points against them and Mike Glennon completed two-thirds of his passes for 247 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Glennon’s 85-yard touchdown pass to Tiquan Underwood in the 4th quarter put the Buccaneers up for good, 24-21, sending the Lions to 6-5 on the season, a far cry from 7-4 - which would have given them a full-game lead on the Bears, while owning the tiebreaker against them as well.
The Lions have been fighting the ‘soft defense’ label for almost two decades now, and despite an increase in talent overall - especially in the front seven with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, DeAndre Levy, and Steven Tulloch - the big plays keep burning them and the scoreboards continue to display big figures.
The last time the Lions played the Packers on Thanksgiving was 2011. The Packers came away with a 27-15 victory in a game in which Suh was ejected for stomping on offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Rodgers put up 307 yards and 2 touchdowns while Stafford threw for 276 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions.
This Thursday’s game is a chance for the Lions to find both redemption in a matchup that has haunted them the past decade and also to create separation in the playoff race. The Lions still control their own playoff destiny despite their back-to-back losses, but a third loss in a row may create too big an obstacle with the returns of both Rodgers and Jay Cutler on the horizon, and tough matchups against the Eagles, Ravens, and Giants still to come.