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Most Memorable Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day Games: 1997 and 1998
The Detroit Lions have been a staple on Thanksgiving Day ever since G.A. Richards purchased the franchise and moved it to the Motor City in 1934. The Lions, who are the only team in NFL history to go 0-16, have provided some great Thanksgiving Day memories.
There are two Lions games that are really memorable for me. These two games were played in consecutive years and were against the Chicago Bears in 1997 and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1998. The reason these two games come to mind is because they are historically significant.
The 1997 game was the 14th meeting between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day. The Bears have been the Lions second most common Thanksgiving Day opponent as they have met a total of15 times on the holiday. Due to their history, a Lions-Bears clash is always intriguing. However, what made this particular game memorable was the ultra sleek and always entertaining Barry Sanders.
Sanders, who moved into second place on the NFL's all-time rushing list during the game, ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Lions to a 55-20 come from behind victory. Sanders carved up the Bears defense on touchdown runs of 40, 25 and 15 yards.
After falling behind 14-3 in the first quarter, Detroit outscored Chicago 52-6 the rest of the way to improve to 7-6 on the season. The Lions finished the season at 9-7 and reached the playoffs for the eighth time since 1970. The 55 points are a Lions regular season record.
The Lions game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 26, 1998, is historically significant because it changed the procedure of the coin toss. In a game that involved a controversial overtime coin toss, the Lions won their second straight Thanksgiving Day game. The Lions got a 42-yard field goal from Jason Hansen on their first offensive possession in overtime to give the Lions a 19-16 win. The game was sent into overtime when the Steelers Norm Johnson booted a 25-yard field goal with :01 second left in regulation.
The game was also the second ever Thanksgiving Day contest that went into overtime. In addition, Sanders became just the second back in NFL history to run for over 15,000 yards in his career despite being held to only 33 yards on the ground by the Steelers. The game against the Steelers would be Sanders last Thanksgiving Day game as he opted to retire prior to the 1999 season.
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