Thanksgiving Day is traditionally known for turkey and stuffing, getting stuffed on turkey and stuffing ... and football. The Detroit Lions began this NFL tradition in 1934 and with the exception of 1939-44 (when the series was interrupted by World War II), they've been at it ever since. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys have also made Turkey Day an annual event and have been playing steadily on Thanksgiving since 1978.
There have been a lot of great games over the years, Bounty Bowls and Phil Luckett coin flips aside. Here are arguably the best of the best ...
Chicago Cardinals 40, Chicago Bears 6 (November 28, 1929): Not a great game but a great performance by Ernie Nevers of the Cardinals. More than 80 years later, the Hall of Fame running back owns the longest standing records in NFL history -- rushing for six touchdowns and scoring 40 points (thanks to four PATs) in a 40-6 victory over the rival Bears at fabled Comiskey Park. For his career, Nevers scored 38 touchdowns in five seasons.
Detroit Lions 26, Green Bay Packers 14 (November 22, 1962): Vince Lombardi's defending NFL champions entered this game 10-0 but ran into a buzz saw at Detroit as the Lions opened up a 23-0 halftime lead and sacked Packers QB Bart Starr 10 times. It was the only game Green Bay lost that season on its way to another NFL title.
Buffalo Bills 27, San Diego Chargers 24 (November 26, 1964): In a preview of the AFL Championship Game (also won by the Bills), the Chargers took a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter after RB Keith Lincoln threw a 53-yard TD pass to Hall of Fame WR Lance Alworth. But a safety, a 1-yard TD sneak and 2-point conversion run by Bills QB Daryle Lamonica and PK Pete Gogolak's 33-yard field goal in the closing seconds rescued Buffalo.
Dallas Cowboys 24, Washington Redskins 23 (November 28, 1974): Tom Landry's team trailed 16-3 in the third quarter and QB Roger Staubach was on the sidelines. Enter little-known backup QB Clint Longley, who led the team to three touchdowns, throwing a 50-yard strike to WR Drew Pearson with 28 seconds left to stun George Allen's playoff-bound Redskins.
Chicago Bears 23, Detroit Lions 17 (OT) (November 27, 1980): Perhaps there could be no more heartbreaking way to lose a game. The Lions owned a 17-3 lead in the fourth quarter, watched Bears QB Vince Evans run 4 yards for a touchdown on the final play of regulation (with the subsequent PAT tying the game) and teammate KR David Williams returning the kickoff 95 yards for a score in overtime for an unlikely Chicago victory.
Green Bay Packers 44, Detroit Lions 40 (November 27, 1986): In one of the wildest Turkey Day games, the Lions took a 10-point lead with just over five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. But Packers QB Randy Wright threw a 11-yard TD pass to RB Paul Ott Carruth less than two minutes later and WR Walter Stanley (who caught 2 TD passes in the game) returned a punt 83 yards for the game-winning score with less than a minute to play.
Minnesota Vikings 44, Dallas Cowboys 38 (OT) (November 26, 1987): Dallas was en route to a lost season, while the wild card 8-7 Vikings wound up in the NFC Championship Game. Minnesota took a 38-24 lead with less than 10 minutes to play, but Cowboys QB Danny White threw two TD passes to WR Mike Renfro to tie the score. Then it came down to the Nelsons (sort of). Vikings kicker Chuck Nelson missed a 46-yard field goal in the final seconds that would have won it, and RB Darrin Nelson ran 24 yards for the game-winning TD in overtime.
Miami Dolphins 16, Dallas Cowboys 14 (November 25, 1993): In the snow and slush at Texas Stadium, the defending Super Bowl champions appeared to have dodged a bullet when DT Jimmie Jones blocked Dolphins PK Pete Stoyanovich's 41-yard field goal in the closing seconds. Inexplicably, Cowboys DT Leon Lett tried to pick up the ball, Dolphins T Jeff Dellenbach recovered the muff and Stoyanovich took advantage of his second chance. The 9-2 Dolphins didn't win again that season while the 7-4 Cowboys didn't lose and repeated as Super Bowl champions.
Dallas Cowboys 42, Green Bay Packers 31 (November 24, 1994): Last season, Jason Garrett lost his first Thanksgiving Day game as head coach. But 17 years ago, he won as the starting quarterback in place of injured QB Troy Aikman, throwing for 311 yards, two scores and one interception, rallying his team from a 17-3 deficit and offsetting a tremendous effort from Packers WR Sterling Sharpe, who caught nine passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns.
New Orleans Saints 30, Dallas Cowboys 27 (November 25, 2010): As for that aforementioned game and Garrett, the Cowboys appeared primed to beat the defending Super Bowl champions via a 27-23 lead and WR Roy Williams on the end of a 47-yard pass play possibly en route to an insurance touchdown. But Saints S Malcolm Jenkins stripped Williams, recovered the fumble and it took QB Drew Brees only five plays to cover 89 yards, his 12-yard touchdown pass to WR Lance Moore with 1:55 to play proving to be the difference.
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