NFL Thanksgiving: Remembering the Best Games Played on Turkey Day
Thanksgiving Day is one of the best times of the year. It spawns the beginning of the holiday season and is a day off from the busy life of citizens everywhere.
From the smell of a roasted turkey to the grouping of family members, the day is cherished by Americans across the nation.
But perhaps the most enjoyable part of the day is watching football. The NFL on Thanksgiving has grown into an American tradition, and has given fans a lot to be excited about over the years.
1969: Cowboys vs 49ers
The Cowboys were one of the most talented teams in the league in 1969, and were expected to dismantle a struggling 49ers squad.
However, San Francisco played a terrific game, and were just minutes away from snatching a win over the 8-2 Cowboys. But a late touchdown pass by Dallas quarterback Craig Morton drew the Cowboys even in the final seconds, and Big D managed to squeeze out a tie, 24-24.
1974: Cowboys vs Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins combined to play one of the most exciting games in Thanksgiving Day history in 1974.
The ferocious NFC East rivals were close all game, but an injury to star Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach seemed to doom Dallas. However, rookie backup Clint Longley became a hero when he led the offense to a game-winning drive in the final minute, as he connected with wideout Drew Pearson from 50 yards out to give the Cowboys the 24-23 victory.
1980: Bears vs Lions
Two of the NFL's fiercest rivals met in a classic Thanksgiving Day game in 1980.
The Chicago Bears, led by elite running back Walter Payton, possessed a productive offense and a ferocious defense, while the Detroit Lions, with incredible balance on both sides of the ball, were in the thick of the NFC playoff race.
Detroit steamrolled Chicago for the first three quarters, as they jumped out to a 17-3 lead. However, a late surge by the "Monsters of Midway" tied the game at 17 at the end of regulation.
In overtime, an unbelievable 95-yard return touchdown by the speedy Dave Williams gave the Bears the win, and seemingly eliminated the Lions from postseason contention.
1986: Packers vs Lions
The Detroit Lions again combined with one of their fiercest rivals to form one of the most entertaining games in Thanksgiving history in 1986.
Although the NFC North rivals were both experiencing troubled seasons that year, the mixture of speedy offensive playmakers and defensive instability led to an entertaining show. The teams combined for 88 points, but the amazing performance by the little-known Walter Stanley made the difference.
Stanley contributed on several phases of the game, as he returned an 83-yard punt for a touchdown on special teams, while also catching two touchdown passes on offense.
1993: Dolphins vs Cowboys
Two of the NFL's powerhouses met in a Turkey Day classic in 1993.
The Miami Dolphins, led by their terrific defense, and the Dallas Cowboys, led by the star offensive trio of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmit Smith, sat at a combined record of 15-5 when they met on Thanksgiving.
The game was full of miscues and odd occurrences, as fans saw a bonehead mistake by one of the Cowboys' best players, as well as snow in Texas. The untimely blunder occurred when Leon Lett attempted to grab the ball after a blocked field goal. After Lett secured possession, the young star fumbled it, and Miami won possession.
This allowed the 8-2 Dolphins to attempt another field goal. Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich booted it through the uprights and gave Miami the shocking 16-14 win.
After the devastating loss, the Cowboys went on to win Super Bowl XXVIII. The Dolphins collapsed and lost their final five games, and missed out on a playoff spot.
1998: Steelers vs Lions
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys met in one of the most classic games in Thanksgiving Day history in 1998.
The Steelers were well on their way to a postseason berth, but a devastating 19-16 Turkey Day loss doomed their season.
Star running back Jerome Bettis ran for 1,185 yards in 1998, but had a dismal game against Detroit. The future Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champions averaged a horrific 2.6 yards per carry on the day, on 26 carries.
Bettis also was involved in a controversial coin toss in overtime, as the referee misheard the Notre Dame product, and awarded the ball to the Lions.
On their first possession in overtime, Detroit drove the ball down field, en route to a Jason Hanson game-winning field goal.
2010: Saints vs Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys' disappointing 2010 season reached one of its lowest points on Thanksgiving against the defending champion Saints.
Despite rallying from 17 points down, Dallas allowed former Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees and the explosive New Orleans offense to drive down the field in the final few minutes, securing a game-winning touchdown.
Brees threw for 352 yards, while the New Orleans defense forced three timely turnovers, including a huge fumble recovery late in the game. This recovery came when Saints safety Michael Jenkins stripped Cowboys veteran wideout Roy Williams deep in the redzone.
This win gave the Saints an 8-3 record, while the Cowboys fell to a lowly 3-8.