(Photos courtesy of the Detroit Lions)
Talk of Fame Network
Turkey and football.
That combination has made Thanksgiving the great American holiday. For decades the Detroit Lions would be the pre-Thanksgiving dinner television entertainment. Then the Dallas Cowboys would follow up with the post-dinner entertainment. In 2006, the NFL added a third game – an evening contest – that rotates among the other 30 cities. Call it Thanksgiving dessert.
The Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving since 1934, the Cowboys since 1966. From 1960-69, the American Football League also staged a Thanksgiving game to compete for TV viewers with the NFL teams. In all, there have been more than 200 football games played on Thanksgiving.
We’re trying to determine the most memorable Thanksgiving game ever played and we’re asking our Talk of Fame Network listeners and readers to help us out. We’re offering up five options in this week’s poll:
1962: Detroit 26, Green Bay 14. The Lions picked apart Vince Lombardi’s best team, handing the Packers their only loss of a 13-1 season. Green Bay had five Hall of Famers on offense and two others selected to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team who are not enshrined in Canton. Yet the Lions decimated this great offense, sacking Bart Starr 11 times and forcing five turnovers. Roger Brown had six of the sacks, including one for a safety. Lions defensive end Sam Williams also scooped up a fumble and ran 6 yards for a touchdown as the Lions built a 26-0 lead through three quarters. The Lions had four Hall of Famers of their own on that defense. The defensive coordinator who drew up the plan to defeat Lombardi's greatest team? Don Shula.
1974: Dallas 24, Washingon 23. The Cowboys looked cooked when Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach went down with an injury in the third quarter and his team trailing, 16-3. Rookie Clint Longley stepped in and threw two touchdown passes, the first a 35-yarder to tight end Billy Joe Dupree in the third quarter and the second a 50-yard Hail Mary to Drew Pearson in the closing seconds for the victory. Longley, who was dubbed the Mad Bomber, completed 11 of 20 passes for 203 yards with those two touchdowns and no interceptions.
1976: Detroit 27, Buffalo 14. The Lions won but the story on this day was O.J. Simpson. He set an NFL record with 273 yards rushing that day on 29 carries, scoring both Buffalo touchdowns. It was one of an NFL record six 200-yard games Simpson collected in his career. He averaged 9.4 yards per carry against the Lions and scored on runs of 48 and 12 yards. Walter Payton would break Simpson’s single-game rushing record a year later when he rushed for 275 yards against Minnesota.
1993 Miami 16, Dallas 14. An overnight ice storm coated Dallas and left the footing treacherous at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys were the defending Super Bowl champions and appeared to escape the upset bid when they blocked a 41-yard field goal by Pete Stoyanovich in the final minute to protect a 14-13 lead. But as the ball skittered on the ice toward the Dallas goal line, Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett inexplicably attempted to fall on the ball. It slipped from his hands and the Dolphins recovered at the Dallas 1 with three seconds left. Stoyanovich then trotted onto the field and kicked a game-winning 19-yard field goal.
1998: Minnesota 46, Dallas 36. Randy Moss always wanted to play for the Cowboys, who had the chance to fulfill his dream with the eighth overall pick of the 1998 draft. But the Cowboys took defensive end Greg Ellis instead -- and Moss slid all the way to the 21st pick where the Vikings claimed him. Moss circled that Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys on the Minnesota schedule that season. He was going to make the Dallas pay for passing him up. Did he ever – Moss caught eight passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns of 56, 56 and 51 yards as the Vikings crushed the Cowboys.