How Many Times Have the Lions and Bears Played on Thanksgiving?

It’s one of the great traditions in sports, and for fans of the Detroit Lions, it’s sometimes one of the only things to look forward to every year. Thanksgiving football is as Detroit as it comes. It’s right up there with building cars or coney dogs.

This year, as it has been many times in the past, the Chicago Bears come to town to try to ruin yet another turkey day.

The Lions are 37-42-2 all-time on Thanksgiving. Many of those games, both wins, and losses, have come against Chicago.

The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears played the first Thanksgiving football game

The Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving every season since 1934. The only thing that has come in the way of turkey day football in Detroit was a pause in the action from 1939-1944 due to World War II.

Detroit has played host to a plethora of teams, including the Green Bay Packers, 21 times. The Bears are also a favorite Thanksgiving day opponent for Detroit, and there’s a long history between the two franchises.

In fact, they played the first-ever Thanksgiving game back in 1934. The Lions were in their first year in Detroit after being bought by G.A. Richards and moved from Portsmouth, Ohio to the Motor City. Known as the Spartans at the time, Richards renamed the team the Lions and scheduled a Thanksgiving game against the Bears.

At the time, Chicago was coming off two-straight championship wins. Playing at the University of Detroit Stadium, the Bears beat the newly-minted Lions, 19-16.

The Lions and Bears have matched up almost 20 times on Thanksgiving

Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears
Tarik Cohen #29 of the Chicago Bears runs with the football against the Detroit Lions during an NFL, Thanksgiving Day | Dave Reginek/Getty Images

The Lions and Bears have matched up 18 times on Thanksgiving, with this year’s rendition being the 19th. All told, the Lions are 8-10 against the Bears on turkey day, with their last win against Chicago coming all the way back in 2014.

That game saw Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson catch 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-17 Detroit win. Matthew Stafford, now with the Los Angeles Rams, completed 34-of-45 passes for 390 yards and those two touchdowns to Megatron. Jay Cutler, who did throw two touchdowns for Chicago, also threw two interceptions.

The last matchup between the Bears and Lions on Thanksgiving was in 2019. The Bears beat the Lions, 24-20, off the strength of 338 yards and three touchdowns from Mitch Trubisky.

This year’s matchup features two desperate teams

Lions head coach Dan Campbell
Head coach Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions while playing the Cleveland Browns | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

When Is the Last Time the Detroit Lions Didn’t Play on Thanksgiving?

Though the Thanksgiving game is always a must-watch, it’s not as if this matchup is going to feature two marquee squads. The Lions are 0-9-1 and desperately trying but failing to avoid a winless season. The Bears have been playing terribly, and things have gotten so bad in Chicago that there are even reports that head coach Matt Nagy will be fired after the contest.

Those reports have been disputed by Nagy, but that’s just a small glimpse into the dysfunction the Bears are facing right now. At 3-7, they’re on a five-game losing streak and will be without Justin Fields, their starting quarterback, and star pass rusher Khalil Mack, who’s out for the season due to injury.

If anything, this game is worth tuning in to just to see which team is most desperate to get a win, because both certainly need it.