….1986: The Packers and Lions went back for second helpings of Thanksgiving points.
The Packers traveled to their Turkey Day showdown against the Lions with less-than-sterling credentials. Not only was the team 2-10 and in the middle of one of its ugliest seasons, it was going to Michigan without DE Charles Martin, who’d been suspended by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle for body-slamming Bears QB Jim McMahon the week before.
With nothing to play for but their frayed pride, the Packers bounced back from an early 10-0 deficit on the strength of an unlikely weapon: the right arm of QB Randy Wright. Wright, who would finish 1986 with a paltry 66.2 passer rating, lit up the airways with 286 yards passing and three touchdowns during the game, and his 23-yard strike to Walter Stanley gave the Packers a 23-20 halftime lead.
But the Lions, led by journeyman QB Joe Ferguson, caught fire in the third quarter and reeled off 17 unanswered points to take charge, 37-23. Another Wright-to-Stanley hookup closed the gap, but an Eddie Murray field goal gave the Lions a 40-30 lead with 5:06 to play.
Again the Packers responded, with Wright leading them on a three-play, 79-yard scoring drive that brought them to within a field goal with 3:31 to go. Ferguson and the Lions tried to milk the clock, but the Packer defense was able to force a punt with 43 seconds remaining.
Prior to Jim Arnold’s punt, Packer coach Forrest Gregg told returner Stanley to call for a fair catch no matter what — with Wright’s hot hand, he felt sure the Packers could get in position for a tying field goal. Stanley, however, ignored his coach, catching the ball at the Packer 17 and angling to his left before suddenly reversing field and seeing….nothing.
The Lions coverage team had overpursued to its right, leaving the far sideline open for Stanley. A block from Eddie Lee Ivery dispatched one Lion tackler, and when Mossy Cade shoved Arnold aside at the Detroit 30, Stanley was gone.
A jubilant Gregg forgave his disobedient return man after the game, saying, “All I know is, the guy is a good athlete and has a lot of heart.”
Nov. 27, 1986
Silverdome, Pontiac, Mich.
1 2 3 4 F Packers 13 10 7 14 44 Lions 10 10 17 3 40
DT: Eddie Murray 44 FG
DT: James Jones 1 run (Murray)
GB: Al Del Greco 34 FG
GB: John Simmons recovered fumble in end zone (Del Greco)
GB: Del Greco 48 FG
GB: Del Greco 24 FG
DT: Murray 30 FG
GB: Walter Stanley 21 pass from Randy Wright (Del Greco)
DT: Jeff Chadwick 23 pass from Joe Ferguson (Murray)
DT: Murray 32 FG
DT: Jimmie Giles 20 pass from Ferguson (Murray)
DT: Carl Bland 10 pass from Ferguson (Murray)
GB: Stanley 36 pass from Wright (Del Greco)
DT: Murray 19 FG
GB: Paul Ott Carruth 11 pass from Wright (Del Greco)
GB: Stanley 83 punt return (Del Greco)
Trivia: The 1986 world champion New York Giants included two players who had been cut by the Packers earlier in the season. Who were they? The answer will appear in the Comments section tomorrow.
Posted under Commentary
This post was written by Citizen Dan on November 26, 2008