57 + 57 Football: Detroit Lions Regular Season Week 4

Detroit Lions LogoThe Detroit Lions roared back on Sunday, defeating the Green Bay Packers at home, 19 – 7. The Lions defense entered the field as one and dominated the game, holding Packer star quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a mere 162 passing yards and the entire Packer offense to 76 rushing yards. Detroit’s defense also scored the lion’s-share of the team’s points. Nine points from a returned fumble and a safety meant both the Lions’ and the Packer’s offensive teams were outscored for the afternoon. There were unfortunate moments: more injuries (one from too much celebrating), turnovers, missed field goals. Bottom line: the Lions are 2 – 1, tied for first in the NFC North Division with the Chicago Bears AND for the first time, we defeated Aaron Rodgers in a game he finished. Let’s Get Well and Carry On! Tune in Sunday at 1:00 PM Eastern when we ground the Jets at MetLife Stadium.

Before we delve into details about the championship 1957 Lions team, let’s look briefly at the 1950s seasons leading up to our banner year, and two individuals who weren’t part of the 1957 squad.

After “roaming the basement” in the forties, Detroit pulled together an amazing run in the fifties, led for the most part by coach Raymond “Buddy” Parker (1951-1956). The Lions took their division four times, in 1952, 1953, 1954, and 1957. They appeared in the NFL Championship game in all four of those years, winning the NFL title in 1952, 1953, and 1957 (no Superbowl yet). Many of the core players in 1952, 1953, and 1954 remained with the team for the 1957 season. Two exceptions are worth mentioning.

The first of those two roster changes occurred at the top. Head coach Buddy Parker left the Lions at the end of the 1956 to move to Pittsburgh and the Steeler franchise. Parker and QB Bobby Layne had a great relationship and seemed to be able to get inside each other’s heads. Together, they popularized the two-minute offense. Parker, while superstitious (no #13s!) was a good judge of talent and consistently recruited valuable players for the team. Parker had himself suited up in a Lions uniform in 1935 and 1936, playing fullback. His overall record with Detroit in the fifties was 47 – 23 – 2, for an impressive win-loss percentage of 0.671.

The second man no longer in Detroit pads was Pro Hall-of-Famer Doak Walker, a 1948 Heisman Trophy winner who, at 5-11 and 173 pounds, wasn’t supposed to be a hot prospect when he joined the Lions in 1950. Right out of the gate, Walker won Rookie of the Year honors, was named all-NFL, went to the Pro Bowl, and was the league-scoring champion. His pro career lasted six years, all with Detroit, and during that time he was named all-NFL five times and went to five Pro Bowls. There was nothing Doak couldn’t do. Listed as halfback, he set statistics in every possible category: rushing, passing, receiving, punt and kickoff returns, punting, place-kicking, and interceptions. He amassed 534 career scoring points and held two NFL scoring titles. He consistently made key plays and when he retired at the end of the 1955 season, his #37 jersey went with him. Handsome, much-loved Doak appeared on Wheaties boxes and in countless ads and magazine covers. Why did he retire at the ripe old age of 28? According to his 1997 biography, More Than a Hero, he “didn’t want to be one of those guys who stayed a year too long. I didn’t want to leave burned out or crippled.”

The 1957 Detroit Lions carried on without Walker and Parker. Next week: the season opener against the Baltimore Colts and their “Golden Arm.”

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