Detroit’s Recent History In Thanksgiving Day Games


We recently had a question asked by Kristine, who appears to be a Detroit Lions fan, about the Lions recent success in their Thanksgiving Day games:

“My friend and I watched this year’s Detroit Turkey Day Game. After the game was over, we were trying to remember the last time the Lion’s won a game on Thanksgiving. And much to my surprise I couldn’t remember the Lion’s winning on Thanksgiving after The Great ‘ Barry Sanders’ retired. Do you know the last game won by Detoit in Detroit?”

We did some research, but expanded it to look at Detroit’s success in Thanksgiving Day games since the NFLAFL merger in 1970.

1970 vs. Raiders – Win
1971 vs. Chiefs – Win
1972 vs. Jets – Win
1973 vs. Redskins – Loss
1974 vs. Broncos – Loss
1975 vs. Rams – Loss
1976 vs. Bills – Win
1977 vs. Bears – Loss
1978 vs. Broncos – Win
1979 vs. Bears – Win
1980 vs. Bears – Loss
1981 vs. Chiefs – Win
1982 vs. Giants – Loss
1983 vs. Steelers – Win
1984 vs. Packers – Win
1985 vs. Jets – Win
1986 vs. Packers – Loss
1987 vs. Chiefs – Loss
1988 vs. Vikings – Loss
1989 vs. Browns – Win
1990 vs. Broncos – Win
1991 vs. Bears – Win
1992 vs. Oilers – Loss
1993 vs. Bears – Loss
1994 vs. Bills – Win
1995 vs. Vikings – Win
1996 vs. Chiefs – Loss
1997 vs. Bears – Win
1998 vs. Steelers – Win
1999 vs. Bears – Win
2000 vs. Patriots – Win
2001 vs. Packers – Loss
2002 vs. Patriots – Loss
2003 vs. Packers – Win
2004 vs. Colts – Loss
2005 vs. Falcons – Loss
2006 vs. Dolphins – Loss
2007 vs. Giants – Loss

So, to answer the original question regarding the Detroit Lions success in Thanksgiving Day games since Barry Sanders retired (1998):

The last time the Lions won on Thanksgiving was 2003 against the Packers, and they’ve won three times since Barry Sanders retired.

With Barry Sanders on the roster (1989-1998) the Detroit Lions were 7-3 in games played on Thanksgiving.

In games played on Thanksgiving since Barry Sanders retired (1999-2007) the Detroit Lions are 3-6.

Detroit’s Turkey Day Win-Loss Record By Decade:
1970’s 6-4
1980’s 5-5
1990’s 7-3
2000’s 2-6

In the 38 games that the Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day since 1970, their record is 20-18… just over .500 – If you throw out their record since 2000, they were a very respectable 19-12.

Thanks for the great question!

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