CBS Local Sports
Whether it’s an outdoor game in the morning with your friends or it’s a day spent around the TV with the family while dinner’s cooking, Thanksgiving and football go hand-in-hand. It’s actually a piece of our American history, believe it our not. The first Thanksgiving football game was played way back in 1869 between the Young America Cricket Club and the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia.
Almost needless to say, that game doesn’t make our list of top Thanksgiving Day Games of all-time. But there are a lot of good ones on here and some of the most memorable moments in NFL history.
Here is our list of the Top 5 Thanksgiving Games of all time, and we promise, Cowboys fans, nothing against your team… they’ve just been on the wrong end of some of the most memorable moments on Thanksgiving. That’s bound to happen when you play every Thanksgiving, of course.
Onto the list:
1. Randy Moss Exacts Revenge On Cowboys (1998)
Imagine this: back in 1998 Jerry Jones had reservations about a player’s character and elected to bypass that player for his team. Boy have times changed. But that actually happened as the Cowboys, who were favored to draft Randy Moss, passed on the receiver due to some off-the-field incidents. Shortly after being taken by the Vikings, Moss said this about teams that passed over him “(they) will regret it once they see what kind of a player I am and what kind of guy I really am.” Moss showed exactly what kind of player he was even as a rookie vs. the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He had just three touchdowns but they all went for touchdowns and were all over 50 yards. Final stat-line: 3 receptions, 163 yards, 3 touchdowns as the Vikings won 46-36.
2. Leon Lett’s Blunder Costs Cowboys (1993)
The visual for this game was noteworthy in itself. A snowstorm in north Texas in November was unheard of but that’s what hit Irving during Thanksgiving in 1993. But what this game is most memorable for was for a(nother) Leon Lett error, but unlike his infamous Super Bowl one, this one actually affected the outcome of the game. The Cowboys were leading the Marino-less Dolphins 14-13 with 15 seconds remaining. Miami lined up for a potential game-winning field goal but it was blocked by Dallas. With the blocked ball then spinning on the ground, and shouts of “Peter, Peter” coming from the Cowboys players, Lett inexplicably tried to recover the ball for reasons still unknown. If a Dolphins player touched it, or even if the refs blew the play dead, the Cowboys would receive possession and the game would essentially be over. But when Lett touched the ball it became live and the Dolphins were able to gain possession. That enabled another field goal attempt, this time coming with 3 seconds remaining, and as you would expect, the Dolphins made this kick and escaped Dallas with a 16-14 victory.
3. “Dak Back Game” (2013)
It’s not only NFL games that comprise this list. The Egg Bowl has occasionally been contested Thanksgiving tonight and 2013 was the most recent holiday edition. Mississippi State defeated Ole Miss with the help of an injured Dak Prescott “Willis Reed-ing” the team to victory. Prescott missed the two previous games due to a bum shoulder and was just cleared for this game earlier that day. He didn’t enter the game until the fourth quarter but he managed to drive the team for a game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime. He then scored a rushing touchdown on 4th down in overtime that proved to be the deciding score as the Bulldogs defeated their in-state rivals 17-10.
Now, of course, Dak will have the opportunity to add to his legend with a game against the Redskins on Thursday night. Will it live up to the “Dak Back Game?” That’s a tough ask, but the way the Cowboys and Prescott are rolling right now, who knows.
4. Jerome Bettis Calls Heads…And Tails (1998)
Before The Bus made his last stop in Detroit at Super Bowl XL, Jerome Bettis had one of the lowest moments of his career in his hometown of Detroit. After the Lions and Steelers went to overtime, Bettis went out for the coin toss and when asked to make a call, infamously uttered “Hea-tails”. The ref used the first call Bettis made – heads, and of course the coin landed on tails. The Lions then proceeded to take the opening kickoff down the field for a game-winning field goal without Pittsburgh possessing the ball (Yes, kids, that’s how OT used to work.) The ref was correct in taking the first call Bettis made but the uproar afterwards caused the NFL to mandate that players declare heads or tails before the coin toss is even made.
5. The Bounty Bowl (1989)
Long before Alex Smith, Frank Gore, or Teddy Bridgewater ever had a bounty placed on them, a freaking kicker had one on him by the Eagles! Cowboys kicker Luis Zendejas was with the Eagles early in 1989 but was later cut. He then signed with the rival Cowboys which infuriated many of his former teammates. Thus, a $200 bounty was “allegedly” placed on Zendejas with intent to injure him. Eagles’ coach Buddy Ryan denied the bounty scheme and joked: “Be realistic, if you had a bounty out, why in the hell would you put it on a kicker who’s been in a six-week slump?” The Eagles never got many opportunities to cash in on their bounty as Dallas didn’t score a point in a 27-0 loss. No word on if Gregg Williams was in attendance.