The Bears travel to Detroit on Sunday, renewing a rivalry that began in 1930. This will be the 187th game in the series. The Bears lead this rivalry 104-77. There have been five ties. The Bears and Lions have also had a history playing on Thanksgiving. While this year, the game is scheduled the week prior, there have been some memorable games when the teams have played on Thanksgiving day.
One of the most memorable games in this series occurred on Thanksgiving, 1980. After their 2nd playoff appearance in three years, Chicago was not having a good year. They limped into their game against Detroit with a 4-8 record. Detroit was in the playoff hunt with a record of 7-5.
The Lions dominated the game for the first 3 quarters. A drive late in the third quarter, aided by a 4th down conversion on a fake punt, gave Detroit a 17-3 lead with three and a half minutes left in the third. When Chicago started their ensuing drive, it had been total dominance at that point. Detroit had run 55 offensive plays, including the 17-play, 90-yard drive that concluded with the TD making the score a seemingly insurmountable 17-3 lead. The Bears had only managed 28 plays.
As the 3rd quarter came to an end, Walter Payton had just 51 yards on 13 attempts. Bears quarterback Vince Evans was only 6-12 for 81 yards.
As the 4th quarter began, Walter Payton broke off one of his most iconic runs, bouncing off defenders and head-butting another. The 19-yard run gave the Bears a first down on the Lions' 29-yard line. That run made Payton the 7th player in league history to rush for more than 8,000 yards.
Three plays later, Vince Evans found TE Rober Fisher for a 20-yard touchdown. After being stymied for 3 quarters, the Bears mounted a 9-play, 89-yard drive to cut Detroit's lead to 17-10. The completion to Fisher was the only pass during the drive.
The score remained 17-10 until late in the game. Detroit had the ball on the Bears' 45-yard line, facing 2nd and 2, but the defense prevented the Lions from gaining a first down, forcing them to punt. The Bears were backed up at their own 5-yard line.
Walter Payton carried the team on their only touchdown of the game, but with only 3:37 left and 95 yards from a game-tying score, the onus was squarely on the shoulders of Vince Evans, and he delivered. Chicago tried to get out of the shadows of their goal line with a surprise option pass from Payton, but the pass fell incomplete. After a 15-yard pass to James Scott, a three-yard run from Payton, and an 18-yard pass to Scott, the Bears had a first down at their own 40 at the two-minute warning.
After James Scott hauled in his 4th catch on the drive, Chicago had the ball on the Detroit 15-yard line with only 27 seconds left. Evans was flushed out of the pocket and ran for an 11-yard gain. First and goal from the 4-yard line, but there were only 16 seconds left, and the Bears had no timeouts remaining.
After two incompletions, the Bears had 3rd and goal from the 4-yard line. With only six seconds left, Evans couldn't find an open receiver, so he tucked the ball and ran right. He scored with no time remaining. The extra point tied the game 17-17.
The Bears called tails on the coin flip and won the toss. After changing sides to start overtime, the Lions kicked off. Dave Williams gathered in the ball at the 5-yard line. Starting from the numbers on the right, Williams broke to his left as he hit the 25. He ran down the left sideline untouched for the game-winning TD!
Walter Payton finished the game with 123 yards on just 18 carries. Detroit had held Payton to just 13 yards in the first half.
The loss proved costly to the Lions. They finished the season tied with the Vikings for first place with a 9-7 record, but the Vikings owned the tiebreaker in the NFC Central division.