The NFL's Top 5 Thanksgiving Memories

Ryan BrowerContributor IIINovember 22, 2012

The NFL's Top 5 Thanksgiving Memories

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    Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, quality family time and some football. These are all things that make up the modern American Thanksgiving Day. 

    Football on Thanksgiving goes back to 1920, and it has been a regular occurrence in the NFL since. The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys began hosting games each Thanksgiving starting in 1945 and 1966, respectively. 

    From John Madden and his turducken to a rookie Randy Moss going berserk (seen above), Thanksgiving Day games have given us plenty of incredible memories over the years. 

    Here are the top five NFL Thanksgiving memories, and hopefully some more are made today.

    Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the NFL games today.

    2012 NFL Thanksgiving Day TV Schedule

    12:30 p.m. ET – CBS
    Houston Texans at Detroit Lions

    4:15 p.m. ET – FOX
    Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

    8:20 p.m. ET – NFL Network
    New England Patriots at New York Jets

Honorable Mention: Barry Sanders Demolishes the Bears in 1997

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    Was there a running back more fun to watch than Barry Sanders? No, of course not. 

    In 1997 after going down 14-3 in the first quarter (as Sanders' Detroit Lions had a tendency of doing), Sanders picked up the slack and rushed for 167 yards and three scores, leading the Lions to a 55-20 victory. 

    What also made this game even more memorable was the fact that during it Sanders passed Eric Dickerson for second on the all-time rushing list.


5. O.J. Simpson Sets Thanksgiving Day Rushing Mark Against the Lions

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    Yes, the Buffalo Bills did fall to the Detroit Lions in this one (27-14), but O.J. Simpson was completely unstoppable. He ran for 273 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns

    With the ridiculous performance on Turkey Day, Juice set the all-time Thanksgiving rushing record and still holds it to this day. It also proved to be the best game of his 10-year NFL career. 


4. 1998's Cowboys and Vikings Shootout

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    In 1998 Randy Moss was a rookie with the Vikings and Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman was in the last couple years of his career. Moss had Hall of Famer Cris Carter and quarterback Randall Cunningham, while Troy was still part of the big three with Emmitt Smith and Michael Irving. 

    The two teams in this one combined for 82 points, with the Vikings beating the Cowboys 46-36. There was a ton of offensive production in this one with three receivers going for over 100 yards (Moss had 163 yards, Carter had 135 yards, and Irving had 137 yards). Troy Aikman had 455 yards himself. 

    But the memory of this one was Randy Moss showing the entire country what he was capable of. His 163 yards were gained on only three receptions, all of which went for touchdowns. 


3. Peyton Manning Tosses 6 Scores Against Lions

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    During what was Peyton Manning's best statistical season of his career, the 2004 Thanksgiving matchup against the Lions was the epitome of Peyton's surgical ways under center. 

    He threw for 236 yards and six touchdowns, all six of which were split between Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley. This was truly one of Peyton's masterpieces as he set the standard for performing on the big stage of Thanksgiving Day. 


2. Lions and Steelers Botched Overtime Coin Toss Call

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    While Randy Moss was lighting up the Cowboys, the other game during Thanksgiving 1998 was the Steelers and Lions. It was one of those hard-fought, low-scoring games the whole time. The Steelers had taken charge in the first half, but the Lions mounted a second-half comeback to tie the score at 16 and send it to overtime.

    Rarely does it occur that the action of a game happens during the coin toss, but that's where it happened in this one. Steelers running back Jerome Bettis insisted he had called tails while referee Phil Luckett said his first call was heads. The coin landing on tails, the Lions were awarded the ball and quickly kicked a field goal to win the game. 

    After an enhanced audio of the call was released it was apparent that Bettis had started to say heads but switched to tails while the coin was in the air. 


1. Leon Lett Couldn't Let It Go in the Snow

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    In 1993 it actually snowed in Dallas on Thanksgiving. This was another one of those conservative, defensive battles. The Cowboys were the defending Super Bowl champions, despite Leon Lett's blunder at the goal line while running back a defensive score. Little did the Cowboys know that Lett would again have a serious mental lapse, except this time costing them the game.

    The Cowboys were leading the Dolphins 14-13 with 15 seconds left. They lined up for a 41-yard field goal and it was blocked, essentially ending the game. Instead of just letting the ball spin dead, Lett tried pouncing on it while everyone else was just standing around celebrating. He slipped on his way to the ball and it got away from him, allowing the Dolphins to recover it on the 1-yard line.

    They lined up for another field-goal attempt and knocked it through. The vision of a ball spinning in the snow with players huddled around it, then seeing Leon Lett come sliding into the image will forever be ingrained in anyone's mind who was watching the game.

    Above, Emmitt Smith talks about it—you can sure bet he wasn't thankful for it.