The 11 Most Memorable Thanksgiving Day Game Moments

If anything goes better with turkey on Thanksgiving it’s without doubt football. While Thanksgiving Day football games in high schools and universities have long and established rivalries, professional football brought the tradition to the masses.

Today, I don’t think many of us miss any of the NFL games on Thanksgiving. It’s become a part of the holiday tradition. And, it’s created some memorable football moments as well. Here are the 11 most memorable Thanksgiving Day Game moments.

11. November 25, 1965: The NFL in Color

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The first-ever color television broadcast of an NFL game happened on Thanksgiving Day 1965. Unfortunately, viewers were treated to a 24-24 tie between the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Colts.


10. November 24, 2011: “The Har-Bowl”

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Most fans have become aware of the subplots surrounding sporting events. But, what subplot could be better than a brother vs. brother battle. That’s what happened when Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers squared off against his brother John and the Ravens in 2011. This was the first time that two teams head-coached by brothers played against each other, both in the NFL and on Thanksgiving.


9. November 28, 1968: “The Mud Bowl”

After raining for some 36 hours, the game between the Eagles and Lions has become known as the “Mud Bowl,” but it’s also remembered for some controversy. Rumor has it that Eagles kicker Sam Baker was using dry balls, while Detroit wasn’t. At the time, NFL rules permitted the home team to replace game balls, which is why many believe Philly went on to shutout the Lions 12-0.


8. November 27, 1980: Dave Williams Kickoff Return


Dave Williams won the game for the Bears after returning the overtime kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown in a mere 21 seconds against the Lions. This was the only time this has happened on Thanksgiving.


7. November 25, 1920: The Beginning of a Tradition

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On November 25, 1920 the first Thanksgiving Day Classic took place. There were actually a total of six games. The games were:

The Akron Pros over the Canton Bulldogs, 7-0.

The Decatur Staleys beating the Chicago Tigers, 6-0.

The Dayton Triangles defeating the Detroit Heralds 28-0.

Columbus Panhandles tying the Elyria Athletics, 0-0.

The Chicago Boosters blowing out the Hammond Pros, 27-0.

The All-Tonawanda topping the Rochester Jeffersons, 14-3.


6. November 23, 1989: “The Bounty Bowl”


The 27-0 Eagles blowout over Dallas is memorable for two reasons. This was the first ever “Turkey Leg Award,” which was presented to Reggie White by John Madden, but more infamously it was the “Bounty Bowl”. It earned this title after Philly head coach Buddy Ryan allegedly placed a bounty on the Cowboys kicker.


5. November 28, 1974: The One-Hit Wonder


After leading the Cowboys 16-3, and Roger Staubach getting taken out of the game, the Redskins probably felt pretty confident that they had this game wrapped up. Enter Dallas rookie QB Clint Longley who lead the team to an amazing 24-23 win.


4. November 25, 1976: The Juice is Loose

Despite a losing effort to Detroit, the Bills still had something to be thankful for when O.J. Simpson set the league record for most rushing yards in a single game with 273 yards.


3. November 26, 1998: “The Coin Toss Game”


The infamous “The Coin Toss Game” earned its name for the confusion surrounding Jerome Bettis’ call of tails before overtime began. It started when Referee Phil Luckett claimed he heard Bettis call heads, which awarded the ball to Detroit when the coin landed on tails. On their first drive, Detroit got a field goal, which ended the game. Because of the confusion, there was a rule change where teams are now required to call heads or tails before the coin toss instead of while the coin is in the air. Also, this was one of the games which forced the NFL to change their overtime rules, meaning, a game doesn’t immediately end if a team scores a field goal on the opening drive of overtime.


2. November 24, 1994: Garrett Outdoes Favre


Green Bay should have walked away from this game victorious, after both Dallas’ QBs Troy Aikman and Rodney Peete were sidelined. Enter the Cowboys current head coach, Jason Garrett, who had an unforgettable shootout with Brett Favre. In the end, the Cowboys defeated the Packers 42-31.


1. November 25, 1993: Leon Lett’s Mistake


A true classic between Miami and Dallas on a snow-covered field at Texas Stadium. With the already close game coming to a close, the Dolphins go for the win with a field goal. However, the attempt is blocked. Things go from good to bad in Dallas. Defensive lineman Leon Lett mistakenly slides through the snow and knocks the ball toward the end zone. This makes the dead ball live and Miami recovers. This time, Miami’s kicker Pete Stoyanovich finishes the game and Miami wins 16-14 over Dallas.

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