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Thanksgiving Day History: Green Bay Packers Edition

The Packers played in the NFL’s highest scoring Thanksgiving Day game ever! Technically!

NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

hile the Packers don’t play on Thanksgiving this year, they do play on the holiday quiet frequently due to Detroit’s annual presence in the game, and in the division, as well as the general high-profile nature of the Packers. As you may expect, the Packers have had a hand in a fair share of Thanksgiving records, especially when it comes to scoring.

Green Bay did not play in the highest scoring Thanksgiving game ever. That honor goes to a Thanksgiving tussle on Thanksgiving Day of 1962 between the Denver Broncos and the New York Titans. Yes, this is technically an AFL game, but since the NFL owns the history of both merged leagues, it technically counts, and why not! This game was bananas!

Titans’ quarterback Johnny Green threw 5 TDs, but he also threw 3 picks including a pick 6 to Denver’s Jim McMillin. Denver added another defensive score on a 69-yard fumble return, and because this was the AFL, they would also record a two point conversion, though the Titans countered with a safety. There is no play-by-play data but it sure looks like the Titans pulled off the 46-45 victory on or near the last play of the game on a touchdown pass from Green to Art Powell.

But you’re hear for the Packers, and if we exclude our AFL brethren, Green Bay not only has the highest scoring Thanksgiving game every, but the two highest.

The first, a disappointing loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving Day of 1952, saw Detroit quarterback Bobby Lane throw for four touchdowns, while running back Bob Hoernschmeyer put on a virtuoso running back performance, gaining 99 yards and a score on just 7 carries while also pitching in 51 yards on 5 receptions as a receiver. Barry Sanders, eat your heart out.

For the Packers, Tobin Rote completed just 8/23 passes, but for 201 yards and 3 TDs, because old timey football. Unfortunately, Rote and Green Bay’s Bobby Thomason combined to throw 3 picks, which stymied a few drives. But the Packers still were right in this thing as Rote, in addition to his bombs-away passing, also chipped in 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Late in the 3rd, his final touchdown pass of the day, a 42-yarder to Ray Pelfrey, would draw the Packers to within 10. Unfortunately, a familiar bogeyman doomed the Packers: Special Teams.

Green Bay would stop Detroit and get the ball back with a chance to cut into that ten point lead further, but they were unfortunately forced to punt on their next two drives. Detroit punt returner Jeff Christiansen would return both of those punts for touchdowns, one for 71 yards, and the other for 89, putting the final nail in the Packers’ coffin. Detroit would win in a blowout, 52-35, the largest combined score ever for a pair of NFL teams on Thanksgiving (again, excluding the AFL).

The 2nd highest scoring NFL Thanksgiving game also involved the Packers, though they managed to bring home a victory this time. The unlikely shootout, again between the Packers and Lions, took place on Thanksgiving Day of 1986, and as you might expect from the 86 Packers and Lions, it was kind of a mess. Detroit quarterback Joe Ferguson was 19/37 for 256 yards with 3 TDs and 2 picks, matched by the Packers' Randy Wright, who went 18/26 for 286 yards with 3 TDs and just a single pick. Kickers Eddie Murray and Al Del Greco had quite the battle with Murray coming out on top with a 4/4 day, while Del Greco missed what could have been a crucial kick, going 3/4. Fortunately for the Packers, they managed to score on a recovered special teams fumble and on a Walter Stanley 83-yard punt return to take the lead for good in the final minutes. Stanley was dominant, with 4 catches for 124 yards and 2 scores in addition to his return touchdown, giving the Packers the 44-40 victory.

The Packers also managed to play in one of the eight 0-0 Thanksgiving ties in NFL history, all of which took place before 1929. The Packers tied the Frankford Yellow Jackets in front of 8500 extremely bored fans.

The modern record for futility is likely a 1968 game between the Lions and Eagles where Philly kicker Sam Baker accounted for all 12 points as the Eagles shut out the Lions 12-0. I thought it worth mentioning given the Packers’ opponent for the week. If nothing else, you have some fun trivia to share during the games tomorrow.