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Remmel: Packers vs. Lions


As might be expected in a venerable rivalry which has spanned 75 years and 150 games, the Packers and the Detroit Lions have conspired to spawn some of the most memorable moments in the history of professional football.

Take, for example, their initial Thanksgiving Day meeting in 1951, a contest which saw the Lions prevail 52-35 in what remains the highest scoring Thanksgiving Day contest (87 points) in the annals of the holiday series dating back to 1934.

Or their 1945 meeting at State Fair Park in Milwaukee, when the Packers scored 41 consecutive unanswered points in the second quarter-29 of them by the fabled Don Hutson-to set what still is an NFL record for the most points ever scored by one team in one quarter of an NFL game-a record that has been tied (once) but never broken.

Or, of painful memory for the Green and Gold, their 1962 Thanksgiving Day encounter in Detroit's Briggs Stadium, one which saw the Lions deal the 10-0 Packers their only defeat in what became a 13-1 season for a team subsequently acclaimed as the greatest in the organization's history.

But for the neighborhood rivals-who Sunday night clash for the 151st time-the series may have been most dramatically punctuated by back-to-back Wild Card playoff confrontations following the 1993 and 1994 seasons.

In the first of these, played at the Pontiac, Mich., Silverdome (the Lions' former home) on Jan. 8, 1994, the Green and Gold came from behind to shade Detroit, 28-24, by way of a Brett Favre touchdown pass to wide receiver Sterling Sharpe with only 55 seconds remaining.

Although Favre has unleashed and completed hundreds of additional passes in the 11-year interim, his throw under those critical circumstances has to rank among the most remarkable of his Hall of Fame career.

A scrambling, cross-the-body strike from extreme left to extreme right, Favre's 40-yard missile found Sharpe wide open in the end zone, capping a see-saw struggle with the NFC Central Division champion Lions.

Earlier, in the third quarter, rookie safety George Teague had weighed in with a record-breaking heroic, returning an Erik Kramer interception 101 yards for a touchdown, the longest such runback in NFL postseason annals, thus providing Green Bay with a 21-17 lead.

Sharpe likewise invaded the record book that afternoon, equaling an NFL record with three touchdown receptions among five catches for 101 yards.

En route, Detroit's Barry Sanders-returning to action from a knee injury-enlivened the Silverdome crowd of 68,479 with 169 yards rushing in 27 attempts, a 6.3-yard average.

It was an entirely different playoff just a year later (Dec. 31, 1994)-this one in Lambeau Field.

On that occasion,the Packers carried the day with one of the premier defensive performances in the postseason history of professional football.

Playing their first home playoff game since 1982, they smothered Detroit from start to finish and mustered sufficient offense en route to forge a 16-12 victory.

Coordinator Fritz Shurmur presided over a stifling defense that limited the NFL's leading rusher, Barry Sanders, to a career-low minus 1-yard in 13 attempts and restricted the Lions collectively to minus-4 yards, an NFL playoff record.

Meanwhile, quarterback Brett Favre directed several long drives, among them a 76-yard march on the game's opening series, climaxed by a 3-yard touchdown run by Dorsey Levens.

Controlling the ball for 37-plus minutes overall, the Packers complemented the classic defensive performance by playing turnover-free football throughout before 58,125 fans, at the time a Lambeau Field playoff record attendance.

Placekicker Chris Jacke contributed three field goals to the cause, including a 51-yarder which also set a Packers postseason record.

The Packers faithful endured some anxious moments when the Lions closed to within 13-10 in the fourth quarter on Dave Krieg's 3-yard touchdown pass to Brett Perriman and subsequently reached Green Bay's 11-yard-line on their final drive in the game's closing moments.

But the Packers' defense tightened, regaining possession on downs, before punter Craig Hentrich took an intentional safety in the end zone to run out the game's final seven seconds.

Shurmur, in tribute to his platoon, said, "I've been around a lot of great defensive performances in my career but none any better than this one, considering it was against probably the greatest player-at his position-to ever play the game."

Linebacker Bryce Paup emerged from the record effort as the statistical leader of the Packers' defense with seven tackles, five of them unassisted, cornerback Doug Evans and free safety LeRoy Butler each weighing in with six stops.

The redoubtable Sanders subsequently retired following the 1998 season as the second-ranking rusher in pro football history (15,269 yards).

Technically, Sunday night's contest will mark the 145th meeting between the Packers and the Detroit franchise. The league dates the series origin to 1930, when the team was founded as the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans. The Spartans, Packers opponents in six games from 1930 through 1933, were sold to G. A. "Dick" Richards prior to the 1934 season and moved to Detroit.

Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for as part of his new assignment.

In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *

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