50 Years Ago: the Lions Made One of the NFL’s Greatest Comebacks

For years, with the exception of Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions fans have certainly not had much to cheer about. So maybe we will have to resort to remembering some of their great games from seasons past.

Here’s one from a half century ago that may make you want to stand up and cheer.

Fifty years ago today in Baltimore, the Detroit Lions staged one of the most thrilling comeback victories in NFL history.

On December 4, 1960, the Lions were leading the Colts 13-8 with just 15 seconds remaining when the Colts Lenny Moore made a spectacular belly flopping, fingertips catch from Johnny Unitas to give Baltimore an apparent 15-13 victory.

While most Lion fans angrily turned off their black and white TV sets in disgust, thousands of Colt fans stormed the field while the stadium announcer beseeched the delirious crowd to return to the stands.

When order was restored, the Lions took the ensuing kickoff to the 35 yard line with 10 seconds left and little more than a prayer.

With eight Colts hanging back for a desperate Hail Mary Pass that they assumed would be going to rookie end Gail Cogdill (who later that year was named rookie of the year) Lions quarterback Earl Morrall somehow found tight end Jim Gibbons.

In an interview I conducted with Gibbons nine years ago he described what happened.

“When Morrall threw the ball I was cutting across the middle,” he said. “When I caught it my defender just missed the tackle and I just ran for daylight, straight up the sideline.”

Gibbons raced into the end zone to complete an improbable 65-yard game winning touchdown. The incredible 20-15 victory sent the two-time defending NFL champion Colts into a tailspin that cost them another Western Division title.

“It was simply unbelievable,” said Gibbons. “Just seconds before the crowd noise was deafening. But when I crossed the goal line there was this dead silence. The Baltimore fans just stood there, shocked.”

God, wouldn’t be nice if today’s Detroit Lions could pull something like that off?