Packers Rivalry With Lions Reaches New And Rare Plateau
The Packers' venerable rivalry with the Detroit Lions, the recipient of an asterisk in the National Football League Record & Fact Book, reaches a new and major plateau Sunday...officially.
From the NFL's perspective, they will be squaring off for the 150th time in a series which the league dates to 1930, the tenth year of its existence and a time when Herbert Clark Hoover occupied the White House.
At the top of the listing of the all-time, game-by-game results in the series, the R & FB notes, "RS (regular season): Packers lead series, 79-63-7."
At the bottom of said listing, the asterisk appears, with the notation: "Franchise in Portsmouth prior to 1934 and known as the Spartans."
The NFL's official tome does not mention the Spartans' departure from Portsmouth (Ohio) in that tabulation but does explain, in the "Chronology of Professional Football" elsewhere in the book, that in 1934, "G. A. (Dick) Richards purchased the Portsmouth Spartans, moved them to Detroit and renamed them the Lions."
In officially colliding for the 150th time, the Packers and Lions thus add their "relationship" to a highly exclusive fraternity. Only twice previously in NFL history have two clubs met 150 or more times, and both the Bears and Lions have been involved.
The Packers and Bears have clashed on 168 occasions, dating back to 1921 - more often than any other two teams in NFL annals, and the Bears and Lions joined the "150 Club" in their second encounter of the 2004 season.
As might be expected to attend such longevity, the Packers' series with the Lions has had a little of everything in the 75-year interim (dating to the franchise's 1930 origin in Portsmouth).
There have been record-breaking pointfests, back-to-back shutouts and tightfisted struggles, one of them a playoff contest punctuated by a classic defensive performance from the Green and Gold that remains an NFL postseason record.
History reveals that the Packers and Lions wasted little time in setting about the creation of series highlights. In fact, an NFL record punctuated their very first encounter following the Spartans' move to Detroit in 1934.
The Lions, paying their first ever visit to Green Bay, departed with a 3-0 victory, courtesy of a league-record, 54-yard field goal by Glenn Presnell, then a rookie halfback from the University of Nebraska.
Presnell's field goal stood as an NFL record for 19 years until Baltimore's Albert Rechichar surpassed it with a 56-yard effort in 1953. That record since has been eclipsed - by the New Orleans Saints' Tom Dempsey in 1970 with a 63-yarder, since matched by the Denver Broncos' Jason Elam in 1998.
Seven weeks after Presnell's decisive boot, the '34 Packers returned the favor in a late November rematch at Detroit. With a miserly defense spearheaded by future Pro Hall of Famer Mike Michalske, the Packers proceeded to shut out the high-scoring Lions, poetically, 3-0.
Clarke Hinkle, another future Pro Hall of Famer, completed the successful project on that occasion, kicking a 47-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
A decade later, the incomparable Don Hutson triggered what remains one of the most singular offensive displays in NFL annals in an Oct. 7, 1945, matchup with the Lions at Milwaukee's State Fair Park.
The Packers were trailing 7-0 early in the second quarter of the game-and giving no indication of what was to come. At that precise juncture, they proceeded to score 41 consecutive unanswered points - 29 of them by the fabled Hutson, who snared four touchdown passes and kicked five extra points during that massive eruption.
Hutson, whose 29 points still stand as the most ever scored in one quarter of a game by any player in pro football history, and his colleagues went on from there to dispatch the Lions, 57-21.
The 41-point eruption has been equaled - once - but never eclipsed in the intervening 59 years, and the 57 points the Packers registered remain the most they ever have scored in a regular season game.
For the record, it has been a half-century since that second quarter effusion was matched - on Oct. 29, 1950, by the then Los Angeles Rams against the same Detroit Lions who had been the victim of the Packers' record performance at Milwaukee in 1945.
The Lions again took a hand in the production of Packers history four years later, on the same State Fair Park turf. That afternoon (Oct. 30, 1949), the Green and Gold presented team founder/coach Curly Lambeau with the 212th and final victory of his Packers coaching career, departing the premises with a 16-14 win over the Lions.
Only 6,177 witnesses, the smallest "home" crowd of the season, sat in on what proved to be a historic occasion. The Packers lost their remaining six games and Lambeau resigned at the end of the season to become vice president, head coach and general manager of the Chicago Cardinals.
Two years later, the 1951 Packers (under new Head Coach Gene Ronzani) involuntarily "coopereated" in another record record effort, falling to the Lions in their first ever Thanksgiving Day meeting in Detroit, 52-35.
To this day, it continues to be the highest scoring game in the history of the rivalry, both on Thanksgiving Day and in the series as a whole, launched in 1934. It also is the highest scoring contest in the entire history of the Lions' Thanksgiving Day series, which also dates to '34.
The 87 points scored on that occasion also are the second-most that the Packers and any opponent have jointly scored in a single game in team history.
The Packers have provided the Lions' Turkey Day opposition more often than any other NFL rival, having faced Detroit in the holiday contest on 17 occasions, including 13 years in a row (1951-63).
If the postseason is included, the Packers and Lions already have "officially" had at it 150 times...151, to be exact...because they also have met twice in the NFL playoffs, the Packers prevailing in both cases.
They pulled out a last-minute, 28-24 victory in their first-ever, postseason meeting with Detroit, a Wild Card playoff matchup at the Pontiac Silverdome following the 1993 season (Jan. 8, 1994).
A 40-yard scoring pass from quarterback Brett Favre to wide receiver Sterling Sharpe with only 55 seconds remaining provided the winning margin.
In another Wild Card showdown, in Lambeau Field on Dec. 31, 1994, just a year later, coordinator Fritz Shurmur's relentless defense forged a remarkable performance, limiting the astonishing Barry Sanders to minus 1-yard rushing in 13 attempts and the Lions to minus-4 rushing as a team, the latter still an NFL playoff record, in a 16-12 victory.
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 Packers.com 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. *