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A brief look at Vikings/Lions Thanksgiving history

It’s not a whole lot different from last year

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Strange. . .it seems like I just did a post like this last year. Wait a minute. . .I did do a post like this last year! That’s because, for the second year in a row, the Minnesota Vikings will be playing on Thanksgiving Day, as they will once again take the flight a couple of hours to the east to take on the Detroit Lions.

The Vikings are 5-2 all-time on Thanksgiving, but are just 2-2 against the Lions (they have a 3-0 mark on Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys). So, just to change things up a bit, we’ll just focus on the matchups between the two teams that will be meeting on Thursday, when that tie will break like the proverbial wishbone.

The first Thanksgiving contest between these two teams happened so long ago, it took place in a baseball stadium that no longer exists. The year was 1969, and the two teams got together at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. It was not necessarily a pretty game. . .each team picked up nine first downs for the entire game, and the Vikings managed to outgain the Lions in terms of total yardage by a tally of 173 to 156. The teams also combined for five turnovers, but while the Lions’ defense managed to give up a significant number of points, the Purple People Eaters pitched a shutout. Bud Grant’s team pushed their record to 10-1 on the season with a 27-0 victory.

Minnesota’s next Thanksgiving trip to Detroit wouldn’t happen for nearly 20 years, as they went back on Thanksgiving Day in 1988. Though the times changed, the story remained quite similar, thanks to a dominating performance by the Minnesota defense. The Vikings put up 20 points in the second quarter of play, keyed by two 1-yard touchdown runs by Alfred Anderson, to take a 20-0 halftime lead. The Vikings only put up three points in the second half, but that was all they needed, as the Lions again failed to dent the scoreboard in a 23-0 Vikings’ win. The Lions managed just three first downs and 60 yards of total offense on the afternoon.

The next time the Vikings took on the Lions, the game took place at the Silverdome in Pontiac, and unlike the first two Thanksgiving meetings, actually featured offense by both teams. . .and lots of it. The Lions got out to a quick 21-7 lead, thanks to three touchdown passes by Scott Mitchell. Minnesota came fighting back, however, as a David Palmer punt return, a fumble return for a touchdown by Orlando Thomas, and a touchdown pass from Warren Moon to Cris Carter gave the Vikings a 28-24 lead going into the locker room at halftime. Mitchell got a fourth touchdown pass in the third quarter to bring the game to a 31-31 tie, and a 50-yard touchdown run by Barry Sanders gave the Lions a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Vikings got another touchdown pass from Moon to Carter, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Lions from a 44-38 victory and their first win over the Vikings on Thanksgiving.

Of course, we all remember what happened in last year’s game. The Vikings and Lions played a relatively ugly contest at Ford Field, with both teams putting up first quarter touchdowns to give us a 7-7 tie after fifteen minutes. After that, however, it was nothing but field goals. Matt Prater and Kai Forbath each connected on two three-pointers, and the game was tied 13-13 late in the fourth quarter. At the end, however, Sam Bradford was intercepted by Darius Slay, and he put Prater in position to hit a third field goal as time ran out, giving the Lions a 16-13 victory.

The fifth Thanksgiving contest between these two teams kicks off in less than 24 hours, folks. Hopefully, the Vikings can break this tie between these two teams in their favor, and can take a significant step towards putting the NFC North on ice for 2017.