Welcome to a holiday edition of Throwback Thursday. It’s Thanksgiving and the Chicago Bears have a huge game with the Green Bay Packers tonight, so I thought it might be fun to take a look back at a few of the Bears’ Thanksgiving victories over the years to get the confidence going today, especially since they’ve lost their last four on Turkey Day. I also thought you might need a quick break from the relatives.
I’ll go ahead and let you know ahead of time that four out of the five games on this list are against the Lions, but don’t blame me for that. Up until 2006, when the NFL added a prime time game, the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions were essentially the only teams to host on Thanksgiving Day in the modern era, and the Bears have always lost to the Cowboys so I didn’t see a reason to include those in here.
The Bears have a record of 16-15-2 in Thanksgiving Day games dating back to 1920 when they were the Decatur Staleys. Before Dallas and Detroit took over the holiday, the Bears actually had quite the rivalry with the Chicago (who became St. Louis who became Phoenix who became Arizona) Cardinals, and that’s where we’ll start our list.
5Nov. 30, 1933-Bears def. Cardinals 22-6
For a dozen straight years beginning in 1922, the two Chicago teams met on Thanksgiving, with the Bears winning seven of them. This series is also where the two ties in the overall record came from, both coming in 0-0 games in 1925 and 1926. This 1933 game was the last in the holiday rivalry, as the Bears would move on to play the Lions the next five years. The 22-6 victory at Wrigley Field was the eighth of ten wins for the regular season, and was another step on their way to winning the first official NFL championship game. Accurate statistics are a little hard to come by from those days, but from here on in, I’ll have some for you. I guess I just wanted to give you a game that didn’t involve Detroit.
4November 26, 1964-Bears def. Lions 27-24
After winning their last NFL title under George Halas in 1963, the Bears had high hopes coming into the 1964 season, but had lost 4 of their first 11 coming into Thanksgiving, including a 10-0 loss to the Lions in Week 6. However, a strong performance from quarterback Rudy Bukich, who went 22 for 29 with three touchdown passes, and a 100-yard receiving game from Johnny Morris, the Bears were able to pick up their final win of the season, 27-24. Some guy named Mike Ditka had four catches for 35 yards.
3November 24, 1977-Bears def. Lions 31-14
The 1977 Bears had the franchise’s first winning record in a decade (9-5) and also made their first playoff appearance since that title run in 1963. On the way, they gave Detroit a Thanksgiving beating behind a monster game from Walter Payton, who had career highs in rushing yards and touchdowns that season. In this particular game, Sweetness had 137 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and also caught four balls for another 107 yards and a score in a 31-14 win, the third of a six-game winning streak.
2November 27, 1980-Bears def. Lions 23-17
This is widely regarded as one of the best Thanksgiving games of all-time. Payton did his thing with 123 yards on 18 carries, but going into the fourth quarter the Bears were down fourteen points. A Bob Fisher touchdown cut the deficit to seven, and as time expired in regulation, quarterback Vince Evans scrambled for four yards to get into the end zone to send the game into overtime. The extra period wouldn’t last long. Here’s what happened on the opening kickoff.
1November 25, 1993-Bears def. Lions 10-6
Ditka was out, Wannstedt was in, and inconsistency plagued the 1993 Bears. Lose two, win three, lose three, win four, lose four. That’s how things went in the first season since 1981 without Da Coach on the sidelines. This wasn’t necessarily the prettiest game in the world, but this is the last Thanksgiving game the Bears won. The defense was excellent, allowing only two Detroit field goals, and scored the only touchdown of the game in the second quarter on a long pass from Jim Harbaugh to Terry Obee.
Hopefully, the Bears can get back on the winning track tonight. Kickoff is at 7:30 on NBC. Happy Thanksgiving.
*all stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com