O'HARA: Lions forcefully take back control of the longstanding Thanksgiving Day tradition in Detroit

Posted Nov 28, 2013

After a rocky start to Thursday's game, Detroit took over and didn't look back, scoring the game's final 37 points

Somebody besides the Lions finally headed home on Thanksgiving Day with a sick feeling in the stomach and wondering who beat the stuffing out of them.

There was no holiday cheer this year for visitors who had made Ford Field their personal playground and a nightmare for the Lions as they suffered through a nine-year losing streak on Thanksgiving Day.

All of that was turned upside down Thursday.

The Lions were rude hosts in how they treated the Green Bay Packers in a 40-10 victory that kept them in step to win the NFC North and a few steps removed from the oblivion they would have sunk closer to with a loss.

Whatever storylines were boiling during the week, it was an enormous game for both teams because of the impact on the North race. A third straight loss, and dropping to 6-6, realistically could have been a knockout blow for the Lions.

By winning, the Lions stayed in first place with a 7-5 record. The Packers slid further back at 5-6-1. The Bears are 6-5 going into Sunday's game against Minnesota.

With four games left, the Lions are back in the driver's seat – for now.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford and his teammates knew full well what was at stake. There was no reason – and no inclination – to pretend otherwise.

"It was a huge game," Stafford said. "We lost two games going into this one that could have separated us. It didn't happen. The past is the past."

Stafford stepped up before the game as the team's leader with the most influential voice with his statement in the locker room before the team went out for the opening kickoff.

"I said, 'This is my favorite time of the week when the game comes because talk is cheap,'" Stafford said, recounting his message. "'And now it's time to go out and do something about it.'"

The Lions' actions spoke louder than any words could have.

"We were just getting after it, and playing good, old-fashioned football," Stafford said.

Really, it was an old-fashioned playground mugging after school administered by the Lions' defense.

The Packers' offense felt the wrath of a defense that looked inspired by comments made earlier in the week by Packers guard Josh Sitton.  They were directed mostly at the defensive linemen, calling them "dirt bags" and "scumbags," and he took shots at head coach Jim Schwartz and his staff. Sitton would not elaborate after the game, but he didn't back down, either.

It was symbolic that the defensive linemen ran out as a unit in the pregame introductions. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh claimed Sitton's words had no impact.

"For me, personally, no," Suh said. "It's just words."

Words didn't hurt the Lions' front four – and neither did the Packers' blocking schemes.

There was nothing symbolic about the defense's performance. It met all game in the Packers' backfield – either on top of quarterback Matt Flynn, or knocking down whichever running back was unlucky enough to get the handoff.

Flynn was sacked seven times, with Suh tackling him in the end zone late in the third quarter for a safety. The Packers' backs looked like they were running up an ice slide wearing snowshoes. The Lions held them to 24 carries on 15 yards.

Rookie Eddie Lacy, the Packers' workhorse the last two months, gained 16 yards on 10 carries.

The Packers obviously are not the same team without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. They haven't won a game since he went out with a broken left collarbone five weeks ago. Green Bay has a tie and four losses without Rodgers.

But Rodgers' absence does not account entirely for how thoroughly the Lions dominated the stats. They had a 30-7 edge in first downs, 561-126 in total yards gained, 320-102 in passing yards and 241-24 in rushing yards.

Stafford threw for 330 yards and three TDs. Reggie Bush rushed for 117 yards, and Joique Bell added 94. Both scored a TD.

And the margin of victory could have been bigger had it not been for the Lions' three turnovers.

Joique BellRB Joique Bell (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

The theme of the first half was the Lions beating the Lions.

Bush fumbled inside the Packers' 10-yard line on the first possession. Early in the second quarter, Stafford had the ball knocked loose on a rush from his blind side by Packers linebacker Nick Perry. Morgan Burnett ran the recovery in for a touchdown and a 10-3 Packers lead.

The next Lions' possession ended on an interception.

The Lions were churning up yards and getting nothing out of them. The Packers had only three first downs but had a 10-3 lead, and there was an uncomfortable feeling that the Packers might steal a victory.

That did not happen. Nobody stole anything from the Lions. They played like they wanted to regain control of the Thanksgiving Day football tradition they began in Detroit in 1934.

The Lions scored the last 37 points. They were so comfortably ahead that on their next-to-last possession of the game they ran the ball on the first 10 plays. On play No. 11, Stafford threw a TD pass to Kevin Ogletree to close out the scoring.

Schwartz answered all the questions about matchups, key plays and what the game meant. He also spoke of the Thanksgiving tradition, and the activity in downtown Detroit with the annual parade, the Turkey Trot race – and Lions football.

Schwartz talked about the holiday lights and the wintry scene with snow falling downtown.

"It was big for us and big for this city," Schwartz said. "It was just sort of a magical-type scene.”