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Ranking the 10 Greatest Thanksgiving Day Games of All Time

Jeffrey SchmidtCorrespondent IIINovember 24, 2016

Ranking the 10 Greatest Thanksgiving Day Games of All Time

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    NFL football on Thanksgiving Day has been a regular occurrence since the league's inception in 1920, and the tradition has shown no signs of slowing down.

    This year's lineup may be the best of all-time on one Thanksgiving, because all three games have teams that are vying for playoff positions. 

    The early game features the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers against the Detroit Lions, while game No. 2 features the resurgent Miami Dolphins and America's team; the Dallas Cowboys.

    The latter game (which is airing on NFL Network) is certainly the most intriguing game of all, as the San Francisco 49ers travel east to take on the Baltimore Ravens in the battle of the Harbaugh brothers.  

    With a great week of football, family and food, here are the greatest Thanksgiving Day games of all time. 

10. 2004: Colts 41, Lions 9

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    Peyton Manning threw for a career-high six touchdown passes in his first Thanksgiving Day game. 

    Brandon Stokley and Marvin Harrison would each have three touchdowns on the day while Edgerrin James contributed 105 yards on the ground. 

    This Colts offense was one of the best of all-time and they were led by Manning, who would set the then-NFL record with 49 touchdown passes.

9. 1997: Detroit 55, Chicago 20

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    The 1997 turkey day classic was sparked by Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders. The Hall of Fame back ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Lions to a come from behind victory. 

    Sanders galloped for touchdown runs of 40, 25 and 15 yards and led the Lions to a 9-7 record overall, which was enough for the playoffs. 

8. 1976: Detroit Lions 27, Buffalo Bills 14

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    Bills running back O.J. Simpson put the team on his back, as he rushed for a then-NFL record 273 rushing yards with two touchdown runs.   

    Simpson's record-setting performance was not enough to guide Buffalo to victory however, as Bills quarterback Gary Marangi struggled mightily in the game. He completed just 4 of 21 pass attempts for 29 yards and an interception. 

    Lions rookie receiver David Hill had two touchdown receptions which sealed the deal for Detroit.   

7. 1986: Green Bay Packers 44, Detroit Lions 40

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    The highest-scoring game ever to take place on Thanksgiving was between two teams that were among the league's worst, but it was exciting nonetheless. 

    Green Bay overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit and won the game when Walter Stanley returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown. 

    Stanley was the star of this game. He caught two touchdown passes while having 124 receiving yards and 207 all-purpose yards.  

6. 1980: Bears 23, Lions 17 (OT)

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    Vince Evans accounted for two touchdowns as the Bears scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter after being down 17-3. Chicago started the comeback with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Evans to Bob Fisher and then tied it with a four-yard touchdown run by Evans to force overtime.

    Dave Williams would return the ensuing kickoff 95 yards to give the Bears a dramatic victory. His return touchdown is one of only two in NFL history that have occurred in overtime. 

5. 2010: New Orleans 30, Dallas 27

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    The Saints were off to an early 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, and it appeared that this game would be over at halftime. That would not be the case however, as Dallas held New Orleans to just three second quarter points while adding three of their own. 

    The Cowboys would come out swinging in the second half with touchdowns from Miles Austin and Marion Barber which brought the Cowboys to a deficit of just three. Dallas then earned its first lead of the game after a Tashard Choice touchdown, but the team left too much time for Drew Brees to work his late game magic.

    Brees would capitalize on the mistakes of the Cowboys, and lead his team on a 89-yard scoring drive to win the game.   

4. 1987: Vikings 44, Cowboys 38 (OT)

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    This game would be another fourth quarter comeback miracle. The Vikings held a commanding 38-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter when Dallas quarterback Danny White led the Cowboys to an amazing comeback.

    The quarterback threw two touchdown passes to Mike Renfro in the final minutes to send the game into overtime with Dallas carrying all of the momentum. 

    The Vikings would get the ball in overtime and they would eventually win the game on a Darrin Nelson touchdown run. 

3. 1998: Lions 19, Steelers 16 (OT)

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    This Thanksgiving Day game will always be remembered for when Jerome Bettis claimed he called the coin toss in overtime as "tails" although referee Phil Luckett heard "heads."

    It was later reported that Bettis started to say heads prior to staying tails and Luckett abided by NFL rules by going with Bettis' first call. 

    Detroit would go on to take the ball down the field, and eventually set up a game-winning 42-yard field goal by Jason Hanson. 

2. 1974: Cowboys 24, Redskins 23

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    Dallas backup quarterback Clint Longley came in for an injured Roger Staubach and rallied his troops to an amazing comeback on this Thanksgiving Day. 

    Longley, who was also a rookie, threw a 50-yard touchdown to Drew Pearson for the winning score with 28 seconds remaining. 

    The game gave Dallas some well needed revenge after they lost to Washington just two weeks before. 

1. 1993: Dolphins 16, Cowboys 14

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    Dallas is not known for snow by any means, but the field was covered with it by the time this instant classic was over. 

    Both teams were vying for the playoffs as Dallas stood at 7-3 while Miami had an impressive record of 8-2. The game lived up to its expectations and Leon Lett left the game with yet another blooper that will withstand time.  

    Lett tried to pick up the ball and fumbled it back to Miami after a blocked field goal which allowed the Dolphins to attempt another. 

    Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich would go on to make the 19-yard opportunity to win the game for Miami. 

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