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Five greatest Lions games on Thanksgiving: The coin flip, Barry Sanders’ big day and more

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The Detroit Lions are nearly as synonymous with Thanksgiving as turkey and pumpkin pie. Thursday’s game against the Houston Texans will mark the 82nd time the Lions have played on Thanksgiving. And while their record on Thanksgiving is a mediocre 37-42-2, Detroit has been able to pull off some improbable wins in front of nationally televised audiences. 

Before D’Andre Swift and his teammates face the Chicago Bears Thursday, here are the top five Lions Thanksgiving Day games ever. The list includes several memorable individual performances as well as some notable wins that Lions fans who watched the games won’t soon forget. 

5. Lions silence talkative Packers

Before the 2013 Thanksgiving game between the Lions and Packers, former Packers guard Josh Sitton had some choice things to say about the Lions’ defense during an appearance on a Green Bay radio station. The Lions, who used Sitton’s words as motivation, had no issues beating their longtime division foe, 40-10. Matt Stafford threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns that included a third-quarter touchdown pass to receiver Calvin Johnson, who caught six passes for 101 yards. Running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell combined to amass 310 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. 

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The Lions’ defense, led by Ndamukong Suh, feasted on a Packers offense that did not have Aaron Rodgers, who missed the game with an injury. With Rodgers out, the Lions sacked Matt Flynn seven times while allowing just 126 total yards. The win not only ended a five-game losing streak against the Packers, it marked the Lions’ biggest margin of victory over Green Bay since 1973. 

4. Barry scorches the Bears 

Led by Barry Sanders’ 167 rushing yards and three touchdowns, the Lions rolled up nearly 500 total yards in a 55-20 Thanksgiving win over the Bears in 1997. After their lead was cut to seven points in the third quarter, touchdown runs of 25 and 15 yards by Sanders helped Detroit win the game while keeping their playoff hopes alive. The game was one of many memorable performances that season for Sanders, who shared the league’s MVP award with Brett Favre after rushing for 2,053 yards and leading the Lions to the postseason. 

3. ’95 Lions win track meet vs. Vikings 

Led by quarterback Scott Mitchell’s 410 yards and four touchdowns, the Lions took an early 21-7 lead en route to a 44-38 win. Three Lions receivers — Brett Perriman, Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton — each went over 100 yards receiving. The trio combined to catch 27 catches for 382 yards and four touchdowns. Barry Sanders rushed for 138 yards that included his 50-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run. 

Detroit withstood gallant performances by Vikings quarterback Warren Moon (384 yards, three touchdowns) and receivers Jake Reed, Cris Carter and running back Amp Lee, who combined to catch 20 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns. The win would help the Lions clinch a playoff berth after a 2-5 start to the season. 

2. Lions benefit from coin-flip blunder 

Detroit native Jerome Bettis is part of the most infamous coin flip in NFL history. After forcing overtime with a last-second field goal, the Steelers appeared to win the coin toss to start the extra period after Bettis called tails. But the head official that day, Phil Luckett, deemed that Bettis called heads and awarded the ball to the Lions. While Bettis and the Steelers protested, a 28-yard completion from Charlie Batch to Herman Moore helped set up Jason Hanson’s game-winning field goal, as the Lions prevailed, 19-16. Pittsburgh, after a 7-4 start, would not win again during the 1998 season. The win also served as the final Thanksgiving Day game for Sanders, who shocked everyone by announcing his retirement that offseason. 

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1. ‘Thanksgiving Day Massacre’   

Fresh off of winning their first championship under Vince Lombardi, the ’62 Packers won their first 10 games that included a 9-7 nail-biter against the Lions that was the focus of Lombardi’s 1962 book, “Run to Daylight“. The Packers weren’t as fortunate in the rematch, however, as quarterback Milt Plum’s two touchdown passes to Gail Cogdill gave the Lions an early 14-0 lead. 

Detroit’s Hall of Fame defensive backfield duo of “Night Train” Lane and Dick LeBeau each recorded interceptions of Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr that helped the Lions prevail, 26-14. NFL historians believe the Lions recorded 11 sacks of Starr that included six by Roger Brown, who also sacked Starr in the end zone for a safety. The game is fondly remembered in Detroit as the “Thanksgiving Day Massacre.” It would be the only loss for the ’62 Packers, who went onto win their second of five championships during the decade. 





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How to watch Appalachian State vs. James Madison: NCAA Football live stream info, TV channel, time, game odds

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Who’s Playing

James Madison @ Appalachian State

Current Records: James Madison 2-0; Appalachian State 2-1

What to Know

The James Madison Dukes watched the action from their couches last weekend, but are set to take to the field. James Madison and the Appalachian State Mountaineers will face off in a Sun Belt battle at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The odds don’t look promising for the Dukes, but the bigger the opponent is, the harder they fall.

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A well-balanced attack led James Madison over the Norfolk State Spartans every single quarter on their way to victory two weeks ago. James Madison claimed a resounding 63-7 win over Norfolk State at home. The game was pretty much decided by the half, when the score had already reached 35 to nothing.

Meanwhile, Appalachian State didn’t have too much breathing room in their contest with the Troy Trojans last week, but they still walked away with a 32-28 victory. Appalachian State QB Chase Brice was slinging it as he passed for two TDs and 279 yards on 34 attempts. Near the top of the highlight reel was Brice’s 53-yard TD bomb to WR Christan Horn in the fourth quarter.

Their wins bumped the Dukes to 2-0 and the Mountaineers to 2-1. Watch the matchup and check back on CBS Sports to find out who keeps up the positive energy and who hits a stumbling block.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium — Boone, North Carolina
  • TV: ESPN Plus
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $40.99

Odds

The Mountaineers are a solid 6.5-point favorite against the Dukes, according to the latest college football odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Mountaineers as a 7.5-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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UTSA vs. Texas Southern: How to watch NCAA Football online, TV channel, live stream info, game time

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Who’s Playing

Texas Southern @ UTSA

Current Records: Texas Southern 1-2; UTSA 1-2

What to Know

The Texas Southern Tigers will take on the UTSA Roadrunners at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Alamodome. Texas Southern isn’t favored, but they just beat the odds in their last game, so don’t count them out.

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The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Southern University Jaguars last week and took the matchup 24 to nothing. The squad ran away with 21 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, it was all tied up 17-17 at halftime, but UTSA was not quite the Texas Longhorns’ equal in the second half when they met last week. The Roadrunners suffered a grim 41-20 defeat to the Longhorns. This contest was a close 17-17 at the break, but unfortunately for UTSA it sure didn’t stay that way. A silver lining for them was the play of RB Brenden Brady, who threw one touchdown in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown.

Texas Southern’s win lifted them to 1-2 while UTSA’s loss dropped them down to 1-2. We’ll find out if the Tigers can add another positive mark to their record or if UTSA can shake off the defeat and take the spring out of Texas Southern’s step.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: STADIUM
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $69.00

Odds

The Roadrunners are a big 42-point favorite against the Tigers, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Roadrunners slightly, as the game opened with the Roadrunners as a 44-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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North Carolina vs. Notre Dame live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online

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Who’s Playing

Notre Dame @ North Carolina

Current Records: Notre Dame 1-2; North Carolina 3-0

What to Know

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be returning home after a two-game road trip. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium after a week off. UNC is expected to win — but not by much — so they will need to come into the game prepared for a fight.

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The Tar Heels beat the Georgia State Panthers 35-28 two weeks ago. Among those leading the charge for UNC was RB Omarion Hampton, who rushed for two TDs and 110 yards on 16 carries. Hampton put himself on the highlight reel with a 58-yard TD scramble in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame netted a 24-17 victory over the California Golden Bears last week. RB Audric Estime and RB Chris Tyree were among the main playmakers for Notre Dame as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter snatched one receiving TD.

Notre Dame’s defense was a presence as well, as it embarrassed California’s offensive line to sack QB Jack Plummer six times for a total loss of 47 yards. It was a group effort with four guys contributing.

The wins brought the Tar Heels up to 3-0 and the Fighting Irish to 1-2. A pair of stats to keep an eye on: UNC enters the matchup with 310 passing yards per game on average, good for 21st best in the nation. But Notre Dame comes into the contest boasting the 34th fewest passing yards allowed per game in the nation at 184. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • TV: ABC
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $110.00

Odds

The Tar Heels are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish, according to the latest college football odds.

The line on this game has moved quite a bit since it opened, as it started out with the Fighting Irish as a 1.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Notre Dame have won all of the games they’ve played against North Carolina in the last eight years.

  • Oct 30, 2021 – Notre Dame 44 vs. North Carolina 34
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Notre Dame 31 vs. North Carolina 17
  • Oct 07, 2017 – Notre Dame 33 vs. North Carolina 10



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