The Detroit Lions are set to play their 81st Thanksgiving Day game, and most folks already know about the big moments through history, but there’s been plenty of other fun moments through the years that fans may have forgotten about that were no less exciting.
While the Lions haven’t done much winning on their big holiday through the years, there still have been some great individual performances during the years that fans might have forgotten which powered the Lions to big things on the field.
This season, the Lions might need a big day from one player in order to prove victorious. These performances from the past are proof positive that it can happen.
Mike McMahon Leads Near Upset of Green Bay (2001)
The game will never be remembered as one of the best by Lions fans, but in the final Thanksgiving game that would be played in the Silverdome, Detroit at least made things very exciting. Facing an ugly 29-13 deficit late in the final quarter, the Lions roared back behind backup quarterback Mike McMahon, who led the Lions down the field for a quick score and two point conversion. After a wild onside kick, McMahon got the ball back and fired an incredible pass to Scotty Anderson for another score. Detroit was within another two point conversion of tying the game, but McMahon ran out of space and lost 29-27. It was Detroit’s last Thanksgiving Day game for the legendary duo of Pat Summerall and John Madden as well. The Lions thought they had their quarterback of the future, but it ended up being McMahon’s best moment with the team.
Matt Prater Kicks Lions Into First Place (2016)
Rarely have the Lions played for first place on Thanksgiving but in 2016, they were on the move as the Vikings came to town. Offense was at a premium, but as he so often has through the years, Matt Prater saved the team with his powerful right leg. Prater went 3-3 on field goals with a long of 48 yards to lead in the win including the last second kick which propelled Detroit to victory. It hasn’t been a shock to see Prater winning games for the Lions in his career by himself, and this was merely another case of that playing out on the biggest day of Detroit’s schedule annually.
Herman Moore Dominates the Bills (1994)
Typically through the years, Barry Sanders gets all the love for his amazing performances on the holiday and with good reason. Detroit’s running back constantly put on a show under the bright lights of Thanksgiving Day, but his teammates often played a major supporting role. In 1994 against the Bills, Moore put on a show with 169 yards and a touchdown in the game. He made big play after big play and it was arguably his best Thanksgiving game in his career. Moore looked like Calvin Johnson on the day making big play after big play and doing so in very smooth fashion. This happened against a Bills team that had been the team of the early 1990s too, considering all their Super Bowl and AFC runs.
Dre Bly Beats the Packers by Himself (2003)
The Lions needed a win in the worst way on Thanksgiving to end a losing streak that had persisted since 2001, and fortunately, they had a motivated Dre Bly on this day. Bly was the hero of Detroit’s defensive effort, picking off two Brett Favre passes and securing a fumble recovery to turn the Packers away from the end zone multiple times. Detroit hung on and won 22-14 in an upset. It was an important win too, because the Lions wouldn’t see one for another 10 years on the holiday at home. It can be hard to remember Bly on the Lions, but he deserves a shout out for willing the team to victory on defense this season by himself.
Calvin Johnson Overpowers Eagles (2015)
It’s easy to forget about the Lions winning Thanksgiving games in seasons where they have a pitiful record, so in that vein, most probably forgot the team put down a whooping on the Eagles in 2015 by a final score of 45-14. The biggest reason they were able to do this? Calvin Johnson accounted for 93 yards and three touchdowns on the day by himself. Several of his catches were of highlight reel variety. It was Johnson’s best Thanksgiving game in what would prove to be his final season. Without those plays, it’s a close game. Johnson could always take over a game and it was nice to see him do it in his Thanksgiving Day curtain call.