Thanksgiving Day and NFL football has become a way of life for many families on turkey day. I have several fond memories of me and my brothers sitting in front of the TV with a plate in hand each cheering for a different team. There was even one time in which a food fight erupted when a blob of mildly warm mashed potatoes hit me on the chin. The fight was quickly ended when my granny walked in. I can't remember the year this happened, but the game was between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns; the Browns won. With the exception of the hiatus during World War II (the early 40's) there has been a game on this special Thursday for decades, and looks to be one for decades to come.
When it comes to Thanksgiving Day NFL football, most people immediately think of the Lions, and for good reason, as they have played on this day on over seventy occasions. George A. Richards purchased the Portsmouth Spartans and moved them to Detroit in 1934. Mr. Richards took a calculated risk and decided to hold a contest between the Lions and the World Champion Chicago Bears so he could get his Detroit Lions a little more coverage in the press. The game was an all-time classic as Detroit could move into a first place tie with Chicago if they won. The game was being held at the University of Detroit Stadium; tickets were gone weeks in advance of the game and it was estimated that if more seats were available they would have quickly sold out as well. The Chicago Bears defeated the Detroit Lions 19 – 16 and days later clinched the NFL Western Division. The game was the first NFL game to be broadcast nationally (NBC radio), and marked the beginning of the Lions playing on Thanksgiving Day as a tradition.
Other Memorable NFL Games
• 1974 – Dallas Cowboys 24, Washington Redskins 23: The Cowboys were down 16-3 with an injured Roger Staubach when backup QB Clint Longley stepped in and led them to a last minute victory.
• 1976 – Detroit Lions 27, Buffalo Bills 14: Buffalo's O. J. Simpson put on a rushing performance of 273 yards in a losing effort against the Lions. Part of the problem may have been with Bill's QB Gary Marangi completing only 4 of 21 pass attempts for 29 yards.
• 1993 – Miami Dolphins 16, Dallas Cowboys 14: On a snowy afternoon in Dallas, Jimmie Jones blocks a late field goal by Miami to preserve 14-13 lead. Dallas Cowboy Leon Lett tries to pick up the ball but fumbles it back to Miami on the seven yard line. With seconds left, Miami kicker Pete Stoyanovich kicks another winning field goal.
• 1998 – Minnesota Vikings 46, Dallas Cowboys 36: Rookie wide receiver Randy Moss finishes the day with three touchdowns and 163 receiving yards.
• 2002 – Dallas Cowboys 27, Washington Redskins 20: Led by 144 yards rushing by Emmitt Smith (eclipsing 17,000 yards) Dallas comes back from a 20-10 deficit to defeat their archrival.
• 2004 – Indianapolis Colts 41, Detroit Lions 9: Peyton Manning made his Thanksgiving Day debut shredding the defense of the Lions by throwing six touchdowns and improving the record of the Colts to 8-3.
Photo by: Conman33 / Wikimedia Commons