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Julian Peterson
Julian Peterson

Why Do Lions Play



Watching football on Thanksgiving has become a tradition for millions of families across the country. If your family is one of those, you may have noticed that two teams seem to always play on Thanksgiving: the Lions and the Cowboys.




Why do lions play


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While there's no official contract that these two teams must play every Thanksgiving, it's been a constant tradition for decades. The Lions began playing on Thanksgiving back in 1934, while the Cowboys began their Thanksgiving games in 1966. So, it's definitely not a new tradition by any means.


This year marks the 83rd time the Lions have played on Thanksgiving, which is the most any team has played on the holiday. Their matchup with the Bills will mark just the third time that they have played Buffalo on Thanksgiving Day; Detroit won the previous two meetings 27-14 in 1976 and 35-21 in 1994.


In 1966, the Cowboys joined the Lions' Thanksgiving tradition by hosting their own Thanksgiving game. The Cowboys general manager at the time, Tex Schramm, wanted the team to have more national attention, so he decided to have the Cowboys host a holiday game. They played the Browns and won 26-14 in front of around 80,000 fans.


In 2006, the NFL decided to add a third game slot on Thanksgiving. The teams who play in the third and final slot of the day rotate every year, giving almost all the NFL teams a chance of playing on Thanksgiving.


This year, the Lions will begin Thanksgiving by playing the Bills, who are playing on the holiday for a third consecutive season. Then, the Cowboys will host the Giants in a key NFC East clash. The day will finish with the Patriots traveling to Minnesota to take on the Vikings.


The Lions' annual tradition of playing on the American holiday, which began in 1934, is nearly as old as the franchise itself. In fact, they're the biggest reason why football and Thanksgiving are synonymous, even if the Lions haven't enjoyed as much success on the holiday as other franchises.


Other teams had played on Thanksgiving before 1934, but the Lions were different because Richards owned a radio station that was a major affiliate of the NBC Blue Network. Richards negotiated an agreement with NBC to broadcast his Thanksgiving games on 94 stations across the country.


Since 1978, the Lions and Cowboys have hosted a game on Thanksgiving every year. Detroit always plays the early game, followed by Dallas in the late afternoon and a rotating prime-time matchup added in 2006.


A pride of lions is usually made up of related females and their cubs, plus a male or small group of males who defend their pride. The lionesses rear their cubs together and cubs can suckle from any female with milk.


The Lions open the 2022 NFL regular season at home against the Philadelphia Eagles in what will be the first Week 1 matchup between the two teams in their series history. Detroit plays host to the Washington Commanders in Week 2, marking the first time in franchise history the Lions have faced two consecutive NFC East opponents to start a season. This is the first time since 1997 Detroit will open a season with back-to-back home games.


In Week 11, the Lions travel to MetLife Stadium to play the New York Giants for the first time since 2017. Detroit will return to MetLife in Week 15 to take on the New York Jets. The two contests will mark the first time the Lions have traveled to New York twice in a season since 2000. It is also the first time Detroit will play in MetLife Stadium twice in one season.


In Week 15, three of five designated matchups will be played on Saturday with the remainder to be played on Sunday. Specific dates and start times for the designated Week 15 matchups will be determined and announced at a later date during the season.


In Week 18, two games will be played on Saturday (4:30 PM ET and 8:15 PM ET) with the remainder to be played on Sunday afternoon (1:00 PM ET and 4:25 PM ET) and one matchup to be played on Sunday night (8:20 PM ET). Specific dates, start times, and networks for Week 18 matchups will be determined and announced following the conclusion of Week 17.


Richards also owned radio station WJR, which was one of the biggest stations in the country at that time. Richards had a lot of clout in the broadcasting world, and convinced NBC to show the game nationwide. The NFL champion Chicago Bears came to town, and the Lions sold out the 26,000-seat University of Detroit field for the first time. Richards kept the tradition going the next two years, and the NFL kept scheduling them on Thanksgiving when they resumed playing on that date after World War II ended. Richards sold the team in 1940 and died in 1951, but the tradition he started continues today when the Lions play ... the Chicago Bears.


The Cowboys first played on Thanksgiving in 1966. They came into the league in 1960 and, as hard as it is to believe now, struggled to draw fans because they were pretty bad those first few years. General manager Tex Schramm basically begged the NFL to schedule them for a Thanksgiving game in 1966, thinking it might get them a popularity boost in Dallas and also nationwide since the game would be televised.


Far from it. Everybody likes a good story about a lion lying down with a lamb. But in nature, "the lamb always gets eaten," said ecologist Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota. "It's quite common for cats to play with their prey and they can look very gentle doing it. But it always ends in tears," he said.


According to Packer, the scene depicted in the photos is familiar to anyone who has studied lions, and to anyone who has ever watched their cat catch a mouse. "These are just variations on the theme of cat-and-mouse, where cats capture their prey and play with it until they either get bored and leave it or get hungry and eat it," he told Life's Little Mysteries.


Lions and other large cats can be surprisingly gentle when playing with young, feeble prey, he noted, but only in order to keep the creature alive and prolong the game of cat-and-mouse. [What Would Happen If a Lion Fought a Tiger?]


If Goff continues to impress and Detroit doesn't need to select a QB in this draft, that pick could end up being used on a top position player or a perfect pick to trade. There's plenty of time left until then, but where it stands right now is a huge positive for Detroit.


Allen started terribly, then played better as the game progressed, but it would be a stretch to say that he, and the rest of the once unstoppable offense, is back to its early-season form. Perhaps the performance against Cleveland was a step in the right direction, though, if the Bills can continue to run the ball the way they did.