A football feast in ‘62

The undefeated and defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers travel to Detroit this Thursday to play the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Almost 50 years ago during the 1962 National Football League season a similar scenario took place when an unbeaten and defending NFL champion Packers team made a trek to the Motor City for a "Turkey Day" game. Looking back, fans of the Packers should hope that history does not repeat itself.

The '62 Packers, just like this season's edition, headed into the holiday game with a 10-0 record while the second place Lions held a very respectable 8-2 mark. The favored Packers also had the NFL's best rushing attack and were hungry for a win to clinch a share of the Western Conference title. The Lions, who had that season's number one ranked defense, did not blink in the face of the defending champions. The two teams had faced each other seven weeks prior with the Packers winning a 9-7 struggle on a late field goal by Paul Hornung. Since that loss the Lions had vowed repeatedly that come Thanksgiving it would be a different story.

"This team (the Lions) is better than some of our championship squads," commented Detroit head coach George Wilson during the week leading into the game. "But you'd never know it by the league standing."

Detroit Hall of Fame linebacker Joe Schmidt confidently shared his coach's sentiments. "Sure we believe we can beat them. Every year that we've won the championship since I've been here (1953, '54, and '57) we had our back to the wall toward the end of the season. This time is no different. We can do it."

More than 57,000 fans packed into Tiger Stadium on Nov. 22 to see the big game. Millions more viewed the action on television during their holiday celebrations at home. What they saw was a Lions team that pounced early and often on the Packers. Lions quarterback Milt Plum (above) connected on two straight scoring strikes of 34 and 27 yards to end Gail Codgill to lift the Lions to a 14-0 advantage.

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Green Bay's mighty offense, which was already handicapped by an injury to Hornung, then sputtered against Detroit's defense when defensive end Sam Williams recovered a Bart Starr fumble and returned it six yards for a touchdown. Defensive tackle Sam Brown added to the defensive barrage when the 300-pounder dropped Starr in the end zone for a safety. A woozy Packers team limped into the locker at halftime down 23-0.

Not much changed in second half. One of the few Packers players who did play well in the match-up was Willie Davis. The defensive end put the first points on the board for the Packers in the fourth quarter when he recovered a fumble in the end zone. Shortly thereafter Davis recovered another fumble that led to a 4-yard TD run by Jim Taylor. Final score: Detroit 26, Green Bay 14.

Like true champions do, the Packers quickly dusted themselves off, put the game in perspective and prepared to learn from the defeat.

"This loss will make a better team out of us. Look out for us now," declared Packers coach Vince Lombardi. "My club wasn't flat, we were ready. Detroit just overwhelmed us."

The Thanksgiving Day loss turned out to be the only setback of the season for the Packers. The team would go on to repeat as NFL champions when they defeated the New York Giants in the 1962 NFL Championship Game.

Perhaps Packers fans do want history to repeat itself this Thanksgiving.

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