The tradition of the Detroit Lions playing on Thanksgiving started back in 1934. G.A. Richards purchased the team in June of '34 and moved them from Portsmouth, OH to Detroit. In their first season in the Motor City they were doing well and had only lost one game prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. However, attendance was poor so Richards scheduled a Thanksgiving Day game against the Chicago Bears, the defending World Champions. Attendance jumped for the game at Detroit Stadium from 15,000 to 26,000. It was a sellout and fans were turned away at the gate. The Lions lost, but a tradition was born.
Since that time the Lions have played in 69 Thanksgiving Day games, with an overall record of 33 - 34 - 2. The only time that the Lions have not played on turkey day was from 1939 - 1944 when the Thursday games were interrupted for World War II. Here are a few more Thanksgiving football facts.
- The Lions and Bears have played on Thanksgiving 15 times, with the Bears leading the series 8 - 7.
- The Lions and Packers have played 18 times, with the Lions leading 11 - 6 - 1.
- Most touchdowns on Thanksgiving - 6 by Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals in a game against the Bears in 1929.
- Most rushing yards on Thanksgiving - 273 by O.J. Simpson in a Bills vs. Lions game in 1976.
- Most passing yards on Thanksgiving - 455 by Troy Aikman in a Cowboys vs. Vikings game in 1998.
- Most receptions on Thanksgiving - 12 by Brett Perriman in a Lions vs. Vikings game in 1995 & by Marvin Harrison in a Colts vs. Lions game in 2004
- Most receiving yards gained on Thanksgiving - 303 by Jim Benton of the Cleveland Rams in a game against the Lions in 1945.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Mitchell & Ness.