It Was a Thriller the Last Time the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions Met on Thanksgiving

Most of the players have changed, but it was a thriller of a football game the last time the Houston Texans traveled to face the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford was still around during the 2012 contest. He chucked the ball 61 times for 441 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Lions put up 31 points. It still wasn’t enough.

The Houston Texans entered the game with a 9-1 mark

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There was no Deshaun Watson yet. Arian Foster was the Houston Texans’ big running back. Andre Johnson was their top receiver. The Houston Texans entered Detroit with a 9-1 record and were playing in their first-ever Thanksgiving Day game on Nov. 22, 2012.

Matt Schaub was doing the quarterbacking for the Texans. They were red-hot entering the game. The team hadn’t tasted defeat on the road yet that season. They opened the season with five straight victories and suffered their first loss Week 6 at home to the Green Bay Packers, falling 42-24.

After the loss to the Packers put them at 5-1, Houston won the next four to go to 9-1 before facing the Detroit Lions. The Lions had a 4-6 mark but were always tough on Thanksgiving Day.

Matthew Stafford was still with the Detroit Lions in 2012

DETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 22: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions drops back to pass as Barrett Rudd #54 of the Houston Texas rushes during the game at Ford Field on November 22, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. The Texans defeated the Lions 34-31. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

In 2012, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in his fourth season in the NFL. Stafford was the top pick in the 2009 NFL draft and had started 10 games in his rookie season. By the time the Lions and Houston Texans met on Thanksgiving in 2012, Stafford was a seasoned veteran.

In 2012, Stafford led the NFL in both completions (435) and passing attempts (727). In 2011, he also led the league in passing attempts and helped guide the Lions to a rare winning season when they finished 10-6. When they met the Texans on the holiday, the Lions were 4-6.

Stafford’s biggest weapon then was Calvin Johnson. Johnson was widely regarded as one of the top wide receivers in the game. Detroit’s running game, however, was suspect. Joique Bell and Mike Leshoure did the bulk of the work for Detroit’s ground game.

The Texans and Lions battled into overtime

The Houston Texans and the Detroit Lions were engaged in a shootout on Thanksgiving Day in 2012. Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes for the Lions and completed 31 of 61 passes for 441 yards. Matt Schaub threw for 315 yards on 29-for-48 passing and a touchdown. Arian Foster carried the ball 20 times for 102 yards and a pair of touchdown for the Texans.

Although the game was close throughout, the Texans never held a lead until kicker Shayne Graham booted the game-winning field goal with 2:25 left in overtime to give the Texans a 34-31 win. Detroit kicker Jason Hanson missed a 47-yard field goal in overtime that would have won it for the Lions.

The game is remembered for a challenge that may have cost the Lions the win. Texans running back Justin Forsett ran 81 yards for a touchdown after it appeared he was down by contact. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz threw the red flag. NFL replays showed Forsett was down by contact, but the rules state that a challenge flag can’t be thrown on a scoring play. Throwing the flag negates the review and results in an unsportsmanlike penalty. “I knew the rule — you can’t challenge on a turnover or a scoring play — but I was so mad that I overreacted,” said Schwartz, according to ESPN.