Gobble, Gobble: A Postmortem on Thanksgiving Football

[As you watched the games on Thanksgiving in Detroit, Dallas and Indianapolis, did you wonder how those three games stacked up against the NFL contests that have been played on holiday’s past?  Washington, D.C.-based Ezra Troy did.

His rumination led to this fun piece on the top five “big” events that have defined the NFL during their great Thanksgiving games.  As we look out to Christmas (which includes an incredibly important Chiefs-Broncos game at Arrowhead on Christmas night), here is some great writing on the holiday that just was as you head back to school.]



In a failed season for the Jets, (they went 6-10 and failed to reach the playoffs) on November 22, 2012, they were 4-6 with a chance at the playoffs when they hosted the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving Day. After the first quarter, with the score tied 0-0, the Patriots scored following a Jets fumble. Then came the play that will be remembered for a long, long time. The butt fumble. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran into offensive lineman Brandon Moore and the fumble was returned for a touchdown. The Patriots scored three more touchdowns that quarter and ended up beating the Jets 49-19. This was the beginning of the end for Sanchez on the Jets, as he was benched a few games later and then left the Jets the following year.


In 1982, there was a strike that cost the NFL 7 weeks of the season. The Giants came into the Thanksgiving game in Detroit 0-3 and looking to turn their season around. Unfortunately, their star linebacker Lawrence Taylor had been injured the game before against the Redskins. After being named the Defensive Player of the Year the previous year as a rookie, his performance in 1982 was somewhat lacking. For the first quarter he stayed on the sideline and came in early in the second quarter. At halftime, the Giants were down 6-0.; however, they came back in the third quarter and going into the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 6-6. The Lions drove deep into Giants territoey to set up a third and goal from the four. Taylor intercepted a pass intended for the Lions tight end and turned up field for a 97-yard pick six. The Giants won the game 13-7 and LT turned his season around with one of the greatest Thanksgiving performances in recent memory.



In 1980, the Bears traveled to Detroit to face division rival Lions. With the Lions up 17-3, the Bears began one of the greatest comebacks in Thanksgiving history. After scoring a touchdown, the Bears forced a Lions punt and got the ball back at their own six yard line with three and a half minutes left to play. The Bears drove downfield for a game-tying score and forced overtime. The Bears chose to receive the kick in and Otis Wilson took it back for a touchdown to win the game for the Bears, as well as setting the record for shortest OT in a regular season game (since broken).


In 1993, the Dolphins traveled to Dallas on Thanksgiving the field was covered in snow. Though everyone remembers this game for Leon Lett’s blunder, it wasn’t just that which made this game a classic. Firstly, Dan Marino didn’t even play, he was injured. Miami also came into that game 8-2, and after winning this game to move to 9-2, they lost all their remaining games to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Dallas didn’t lose a game the rest of the year and went on to be super bowl champs. At the end of the game, Dallas led 14-13, but the Dolphins were in field goal range with a few seconds left and attempted a game winning 41-yard field goal. After the kick was blocked, the game was all but over. Miami couldn’t touch the ball unless Dallas touched it first and nobody on Dallas would touch it because they all knew that rule. Not Leon Lett. Lett, who thought the ball was live, tried to jump on it as Miami players stood around. He touched the ball, making it became live, and the Dolphins recovered, giving their kicker a second chance with a 19-yard chip shot. The kicker converted and Miami shocked Dallas 16-14.



On Thanksgiving Day, 1974, Dallas played Washington. Down 16-3 in the third quarter, Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach was knocked out of the game and Dallas brought in backup Clint Longley. Longley then had the greatest game of his career, going 11-20 with two TD passes and leading Dallas to a 17-16 win. Two years later, Longley punched Roger Staubach and was immediately traded to San Diego, where he played one more year before retiring.

Ezra Troy

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One comment on “Gobble, Gobble: A Postmortem on Thanksgiving Football
  1. DT says:

    Nice piece, Ezra.

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