Screw the turkey, Thanksgiving is all about football! What better way to avoid talking to your strange uncle than by staring at the TV for three back-to-back football games?
Though, we certainly encourage eating some turkey, mashed potatoes, and your other foodie favorites while you watch all the touchdowns, sacks, and interceptions on the big screen.
This year’s Thanksgiving matchups are Bears-Lions at 12:30 p.m. ET, Washington-Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. and Falcons-Saints at 8:20 p.m. But before we get to those games, it’s time to look back on some of the best Thanksgiving NFL games.
Of course there was THE butt fumble in 2012. That year actually had three great games (more on that later). There was also the 1974 Washington-Cowboys game known as The Clint Longley Game as Longley came into the game in relief of an injured Roger Staubach and led the Cowboys to a comeback victory. And, we can’t forget the 1980 Bears vs. Lions game that went to overtime before Chicago overcame a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to win.
The Cowboys and Lions are annual Thanksgiving Day contenders and each of those fanbases have experienced their fair share of amazing wins and crushing losses on turkey day. So let’s hear from the fans themselves!
Blogging the Boys producer RJ Ochoa and Pride of Detroit site manager Jeremy Reisman weighed in on some of their favorite, and least favorite Thanksgiving NFL memories while The Falcoholic contributor Jeanna Thomas discussed the Falcons’ limited Thanksgiving history and what she’s hoping to see on Thursday night.
It’s been 25 years since the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVIII, which means it’s been just as long since one of the worst Thanksgiving games ever.
In 1993 when the Miami Dolphins visited, it actually snowed in Texas Stadium. The game was so weird that the Cowboys were leading by one late, they blocked a Dolphins field goal, and Leon Lett ran over to the ball, deciding to touch it. Chaos ensued, Miami recovered what Lett made a live ball, and they kicked the game-winning field goal. It was gutting.
On the other side of the spectrum, Thanksgiving Day 2006 was quite the thrill for Cowboys fans. It was the first time we saw Tony Romo on Turkey Day, wearing those classic Cowboys throwbacks at that, and he threw five touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Five! One of them even went to Terrell Owens who used the Salvation Army kettle as a prop way before Ezekiel Elliott ever did. It was the official announcement to the world that Tony Romo was in fact for real.
Good times. - RJ Ochoa
On the surface, Thanksgiving 2012 wasn’t all that different from a normal Thanksgiving for a Lions fan. The team, just 4-6 heading into the holiday special, lost yet another game, and dinner was spoiled, per usual.
But that roller coaster of a day turned out to be one of my favorite Thanksgiving Day Classics of all time.
The Lions were in control for most of the game against a Houston Texans team led by Matt Schaub. They didn’t trail for a single second in regulation. But as the game turned over into the second half, you knew something funky was going to happen. On the Texans’ second possession in the third quarter, Justin Forsett took a second-and-10 handoff for a modest seven-yard gain. But then something odd happened. He pulled himself off the ground and ran another 74 yards into the end zone. Everyone at Ford Field other than Forsett and the referees knew he was down, yet the play continued.
Foaming at the mouth, head coach Jim Schwartz heaved the challenge flag onto the field. Unfortunately for Schwartz, this was the just the second year scoring plays were automatically reviewed. And in one of the league’s most inane rules of all time, challenging a scoring play meant that the play would no longer be reviewed. The call on the field would stand, despite the fact that Forsett’s elbow, knee and forearm were clearly down upon replay. The infinite wisdom of the NFL Rulebook deemed that it was more interested in punishing the coach than getting the play call right.
Lions fans know when a moment like that happens, the game is immediately over. An iconic bad break like that is never overcome by the Lions because ... they’re the Lions. So when reliable Lions kicker Jason Hanson lined up for the game-winning kick in overtime, we knew it was bound to bounce off the right upright. And that it did, as the Texans went on to kick the actual game-winning field goal.
After the Lions lost, I was despondent. I silently stuffed my face with food and avoided friends and family under the guise that I was watching football.
Then the butt fumble happened. It was the best Thanksgiving ever. - Jeremy Reisman
Falcons memories and wishes
This Thanksgiving matchup between the Falcons and the Saints is the Falcons’ third time playing on Turkey Day. The first one, a 27-7 win over the Lions, came weeks after I moved to Atlanta from Ohio and fell in love with seeing all that Michael Vick was capable of on a football field. The second was a crushing 31-13 loss to the Colts in 2007. I drank wine, stress-ate leftover pumpkin cheesecake, and cursed Bobby Petrino enthusiastically to ease the pain of that game, one of many low points in that nightmare of a season.
Now the Falcons have a chance to leave me with a happier Thanksgiving memory if they can somehow pull off an unexpected win on the road against Atlanta’s most bitter rival, the Saints. But the Falcons are missing too many key players, they’ve dropped games to the Browns and the Cowboys in consecutive weeks, and the Saints are actually good. I’m a realist. I’ll make sure I have plenty of wine and pumpkin cheesecake on hand to get through this one, too. - Jeanna Thomas
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving football memory?