The last time the Detroit Lions won a game in Green Bay, Matthew Stafford was throwing and scrambling. Except the current Lions’ quarterback was throwing tantrums and scrambling around the playroom because he was three years old.
It was December 15, 1991. Remember? You’re excused if you don’t — it’s been more than 23 years.
The last time the Lions went into Lambeau Field and beat the Packers, Bill Clinton was a relatively unknown governor in Arkansas, a Bush was in the White House (George H.W. Bush), and Tiger Stadium was still standing in downtown Detroit. A lot has happened since, huh?
The Lions have dropped 23 straight games in The Frozen Tundra, an amazing string of futility that ranks as the longest losing streak to one team in one city in NFL history. The second longest streak? The Lions lost 18 straight to the Redskins in Washington from 1939 to 2007. Ugh.
This current Lions’ team is talented and exciting, winning many games through bone-crushing defense and late-game heroics. But their fans, like a scorned lover, are slow to embrace them. The winner-take-all game on Sunday at Lambeau brings more anxiety than excitement to Lions’ fans. It feels like the sort of game the Lions always lose. But what if that doesn’t happen this time? What if these are the Lions to shift the balance back and finally beat the men in green and gold in Wisconsin? We’ll find out Sunday, but until then let’s look back at each of the 23 losses in this streak. Some of the defeats were embarrassing, some were forgettable, and some were heartbreaking. Let’s consider this an exorcism shall we?
1992, Packers 38, Lions 10
The Packers led 28-0 before halftime as they scored in almost every way imaginable – two TD passes by Brett Favre, a rushing TD, and an INT return for a score off the arm of Andre Ware. Remember Andre Ware? He won a Heisman.
1993: Packers 26, Lions 17
This game was played at County Stadium in Milwaukee (the Packers would play a few home games there per year in those days), but the result was the same. The Lions played tough, even leading 17-16 as the fourth quarter opened. But the offense was shaky all day behind QB Rodney Peete (remember him? He won a Heisman). Barry Sanders had 75 yards but could not find the end zone, and Brett Favre overcame two interceptions to lead the Packers to the final three scores of the game. In some measure of revenge, on the final week of the season the Lions beat Green bay at the Silverdome to win the NFC Central.
1994: Packers 38, Lions 30
Favre threw three second-quarter TDs to stake the Pack to a 31-7 halftime lead. Even though Dave Krieg tossed three TDs in the second half (two to Herman Moore), the Lions ran out of gas in their comeback and fell short. Green Bay stymied Sanders, holding him to 47 yards rushing on a warm October day. Both teams ended up in the playoffs, which led to…
1994: Packers 15, Lions 12 (Playoff game)
When you have Barry Sanders and he’s held to -1 yards rushing you figure you’re going to get blown out, but the Lions had a chance to win this game. With less than two minutes left and trailing 15-10, Detroit was in the red zone when Dave Krieg fired a ball to Herman Moore in the back of the end zone, which he caught. Unfortunately, Moore was out of bounds when he caught it.
1995: Packers 30, Lions 21
Just as in the previous season’s game, the Lions found themselves in an insurmountable hole at halftime, this time down 20-0. Scott Mitchell threw three TD strikes in the second half, a pair to Moore, but the Packers’ defense staved off the Detroit rally. Sanders had a field day, scampering for 124 yards in the loss, but Favre was the star, firing for 342 yards and two TDs.
1996: Packers 28, Lions 18
Things looked promising when Sanders (152 yards on the day) bolted for an 18-yard score in the second quarter to give the Lions a 10-7 lead, but the Packers pulled away behind Favre’s four touchdown passes. This was the last game in this series that featured Wayne Fontes on the sidelines. The Detroit head coach was fired after his team limped to a 5-11 record. The Packers went on to win the Super Bowl.
1997: Packers 20, Lions 10
Scott Mitchell threw four interceptions in this game, which is really all you need to know. Well, Barry had 105 yards in this game during his finest season ever (2,000-yard year), so there’s that too.
1998: Packers 38, Lions 19
In the opening game of the season, the Lions never led but were only trailing 24-19 when the final quarter began. That’s when Roell Preston returned a kickoff for 100 yards to put the game away. Green Bay held Sanders to 70 yards.
1999: Packers 26, Lions 17
The Lions led at halftime 17-10 behind makeshift QB Gus Frerotte, but they couldn’t score in the second half and Brett Favre threw a TD pass to bring the Packers back for the victory. This was the first year after Barry retired. Both teams made the playoffs but the Lions were beaten by Washington.
2000: Packers 26, Lions 13
In a cold game (25 degrees at start time), neither team could score a TD until the fourth quarter. The Lions were only behind 12-10 with five minutes left in the game, but two late touchdowns (both involving Ahman Green) sealed the deal for Green Bay. Charlie Batch was at QB for the Lions and he threw not one, not two, but three interceptions.
2001: Packers 28, Lions 6
In the first game of the year, the Lions were down 21-0 before the first quarter expired. In a season in which they would win just two games, the Lions only managed two Jason Hanson field goals in this contest. Poor Jason Hanson. This was the beginning of the Dark Era of Lions Football.
2002: Packers 40, Lions 14
When Joey Harrington found Az-Zahir Hakim for a 64-yard strike in the first quarter the Lions briefly led 7-3. But that was the only excitement of the day for Detroit. Brett Favre threw for 351 yards and a pair of scored and Donald Driver caught 130 yards worth of passes. This was the first of eight losses to end a 3-13 season for the Lions.
2003: Packers 31, Lions 6
Detroit came into this week #2 game at 1-0 and the Packers were 0-1, but their fortunes would soon switch. Favre led the Packers to a 14-0 first quarter lead and then pulled them away to a laugher. Jason Hanson provided the only scoring for the Lions. Poor Jason Hanson.
2004: Packers 16, Lions 13
On a field that was described as a “swampy mess” the Lions manhandled the Packers for most of the game. They led 13-0 at halftime (two field goals by Jason Hanson, poor Jason Hanson) as Brett Favre was held in check. Then the Lions’ offense went silent as Joey Harrington had one of his many pathetic games (47 yards passing all day). The Packers tied it early in the 4th quarter and then with two seconds left Ryan Longwell kicked a field goal to give the fans at Lambeau a thrilling win to celebrate.
2005: Packers 16, Lions 13 (OT)
The Packers’ Ryan Longwell made a 28-yard field goal six minutes into overtime to give Green Bay the win. The Lions had blown it in regulation in the fourth quarter when they had a 1st and Goal at the one-yard line and failed to get into the end zone when the game was tied 13-13. On fourth down the Lions chose not to kick a field goal (poor Jason Hanson) instead electing to send Jeff Garcia on a quarterback sneak, but he was stuffed. This was another abysmal year for the Lions – they fired head coach Steve Mariucci at midseason and replaced him with Dick Jauron. The Packers were even worse, losing 12 games to the Lions 11.
2006: Packers 17, Lions 9
In the middle of a terrible 3-13 season the Lions battled valiantly against the favored Packers on a warm December day at Lambeau Field. Jason Hanson kicked two 42-yard field goals and a 23-yard field goal to pull Detroit to 10-9 with 9:36 left in the game. Poor Jason Hanson. Someone named Vernand Morency ran for a 21-yard score with just over two minutes left to cement another win for the Packers over the Lions. Five picks were thrown in the game — a pair by Jon Kitna (really) and three by Favre.
2007: Packers 34, Lions 13
In the final game of the season, the Lions had a chance to finish 8-8 with a victory. But Favre and the Packers built a 21-10 halftime lead and were never really threatened.
2008: Packers 31, Lions 21
Other games in this series have been more heartbreaking, but none were more embarrassing. The Lions entered the game 0-15 and trying to avoid a perfect season of futility. The Packers, at 5-10, were not a great team themselves but they quickly let Detroit know that they weren’t interested in being the victim of an upset. The Packers scored twice in the firt quarter to build a 14-0 lead behind new QB Aaron Rodgers. Someone named Don Orlovsky was playing quarterback for the Lions and he threw a pair of TD passes to Calvin Johnson to tie the score with 10:28 left in the third quarter. After Kevin Smith ran for a TD and Jason Hanson kicked the PAT (poor Jason Hanson), the Lions were within 24-21 halfway through the fourth. But Orlovsky threw an interception and Donald Driver rocketed for a 71-yard scoring strike to finish the Lions’ 0-16 season.
2009: Packers 26, Lions 0
The only shutout of this series, the Lions couldn’t even get a field goal from Jason Hanson. Poor Jason Hanson. Both Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton tried their hand at QB but this Lions’ offense was no good, not good at all.
2010: Packers 28, Lions 26
This Green Bay team would go on to win the Super Bowl but on this October day the 0-4 Lions nearly beat them. Matthew Stafford was injured so Detroit had Shaun Hill under center. Hill nearly outplayed Aaron Rodgers, throwing for 331 yards and a pair of TDs. The Lions trailed just 21-14 at halftime but a Charles Woodson INT return for a score put the Pack ahead 28-14. In four possessions where they threatened to score TDs, the Lions had to settle for field goals, falling short in a game where they were penalized 13 times. Later that season the Lions beat the Packers at Ford Field.
2012: Packers 45, Lions 41 (Game played on January 1 as part of 2011 season)
Stafford threw for 520 yards and five touchdowns in the most prolific passing performance by a Lions’ QB in history. But Green Bay’s second-string QB (Matt Flynn) outplayed him, tossing six touchdowns in an amazing back-and-forth game. The Lions scored with less than minutes to go to take a 41-38 lead, but Flynn marched the Pack 80 yards to get the winning score. The Packers (14-1 entering the game) rested Aaron Rodgers and most of their starters as they prepped for the playoffs. The Lions (10-6 after the loss) were also a playoff team.
2012: Packers 27, Lions 20
Matthew Stafford brought the Lions out with a vengeance in the first half, scoring himself on a run and then on a short pass to Tony Scheffler to make it 14-0 with 12: 47 left in the second quarter. But the Lions never made it into the end zone again, settling for two Jason Hanson field goals (poor Jason Hanson). This was the 21st and final game for Hanson against the Packers on the road and he was 0-21.
2013: Packers 22, Lions 9
In a game that Jason Hanson would have loved (poor Jason Hanson), the two teams exchanged four field goals as the game was 9-3 late into the third quarter. But Aaron Rodgers hit James Jones for an 83-yard score to push the Pack well ahead and on to a 22-9 victory. The Lions entered the game at 3-1 and in first place but they’d squander the division lead and miss the playoffs.