Thanksgiving serves up classic games

Thanksgiving is always a great day.

The family is together. The food is great. And, invariably, so is the football.

The NFL will present fans with a Thanksgiving tripleheader this Thursday as traditional competitors Detroit and Dallas host games during the day and NFL Network kicks off the first of its eight primetime games this season with a nightcap featuring the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons.

NFL Network's eight-game Thursday and Saturday night package kicks off in HD on Thanksgiving night with award-winning broadcasters Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth.


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Some of the most memorable NFL games in history have been played on Thanksgiving Day – the “Clint Longley” game…the Cowboys-Dolphins’ “snow” game…Barry Sanders running for 167 yards and three touchdowns ... and many others.

There may be memories waiting to happen Thursday. At 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX, the Green Bay Packers will visit the Detroit Lions. It will be the Lions’ 68th Thanksgiving game in their history.

At 4:15 p.m. ET on CBS, the Dallas Cowboys will play their 40th Thanksgiving game when they host the New York Jets. It will be a matchup of running-back brothers -– 28-year-old Thomas Jones against his sibling, 25-year-old Julius of the Cowboys. This will be the second meeting of their professional careers –- Julius (150 yards, two touchdowns) got the better of Thomas’ Bears on Thanksgiving Day in 2004 in a 21-7 Cowboys’ victory.

The Thanksgiving tripleheader continues at 8:15 p.m. ET on NFL Network when the Colts visit the Falcons.

Following are some of the NFL’s most memorable games and moments on Thanksgiving Day:

Nov. 25, 1920 - Akron Pros 7, Canton Bulldogs 0: In the first professional football game played on Thanksgiving Day, Fritz Pollard, the first African-American quarterback in the NFL, led Akron to a 7-0 victory over Jim Thorpe and the Canton Bulldogs. The game marked the start of the Thanksgiving tradition of pro football in America.

Nov. 26, 1925 - Chicago Cardinals 0, Chicago Bears 0: Harold “Red” Grange, in his first professional season, led the Bears to a scoreless tie against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The game attracted 36,000 fans, the largest crowd in pro football history at the time.

Nov. 28, 1929 - Chicago Cardinals 40, Chicago Bears 6: The Cardinals defeated the crosstown-rival Bears behind six rushing touchdowns by Ernie Nevers, a still-standing NFL single-game record. Nevers accounted for all 40 of the Cardinals’ points, converting four of six points-after-touchdown.

Nov. 29, 1934 - Chicago Bears 19, Detroit Lions 16: In the first NFL game to be broadcast nationally (on NBC radio), the Chicago Bears defeated the Detroit Lions, 19-16. The game marked the beginning of the NFL’s Thanksgiving tradition in Detroit.

Nov. 22, 1962 - Detroit Lions 26, Green Bay Packers 14: Before 57,598 fans at Tiger Stadium and a national television audience, the Lions sacked Packers quarterback Bart Starr 11 times for 110 yards in losses. It was the Packers’ only loss of the year.

Nov. 28, 1974 - Dallas Cowboys 24, Washington Redskins 23: Trailing Washington 16-3 in the third quarter, Dallas rookie quarterback Clint Longley replaced an injured Roger Staubach and lifted the Cowboys to victory with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with 0:28 remaining.

Nov. 25, 1976 - Detroit Lions 27, Buffalo Bills 14: Buffalo’s O.J. Simpson runs for a Thanksgiving Day-record 273 yards (most in NFL history at the time) in a losing effort.

Nov. 27, 1980 - Chicago Bears 23, Detroit Lions 17 (OT): Chicago kick returner Dave Williams returned the overtime kickoff for a touchdown, completing a Bears comeback from a 17-3 deficit. Williams’ return is one of only two overtime kickoff returns for touchdowns in history.

Nov. 22, 1990 - Dallas Cowboys 27, Washington Redskins 17: Rookie running back Emmitt Smith carried 23 times for 132 yards, including two second-half touchdown runs, as the Cowboys score the final 17 points in the game.

Nov. 25, 1993 - Miami Dolphins 16, Dallas Cowboys 14: On a snowy Thanksgiving in Dallas, the Cowboys’ Jimmie Jones blocked Miami’s game-winning field-goal attempt with 0:15 remaining. With the game seemingly over, Dallas’ Leon Lett revived the dead ball, sliding into it at the Cowboys’ seven-yard line. Miami recovered the ball at the Dallas one with :03 left -- enough time for Pete Stoyanovich to kick a game-winning 20-yard field goal.

Stephen Dunn / Getty Images
Randy Moss celebrates a big game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day 1998.

Nov. 28, 1997 - Detroit Lions 55, Chicago Bears 20: Lions running back Barry Sanders ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns. In the process, Sanders passed Eric Dickerson for second on the all-time rushing list.

Nov. 26, 1998 - Minnesota Vikings 46, Dallas Cowboys 36: Minnesota’s rookie wide receiver Randy Moss caught only three passes against the Cowboys, but all were touchdowns as he finished the day with 163 receiving yards.

Nov. 28, 2002 - Dallas Cowboys 27, Washington Redskins 20: Down 20-10, the Cowboys came back to post their 10th consecutive victory over the archrival Redskins. Dallas running back Emmitt Smith ran for 144 yards, becoming the only player in history to eclipse the 17,000 career rushing-yards mark.

Nov. 24, 2005 - Denver Broncos 24, Dallas Cowboys 21 (OT): Broncos running back Ron Dayne rushed for a 16-yard touchdown in the third quarter and his 55-yard scamper set up Jason Elam’s game-winning 24-yard field goal in overtime.

Following are some of the greatest single-game individual performances in NFL Thanksgiving Day history:
Record Total Player Teams Year
Most TDs 6 Ernie Nevers, Chicago Cardinals Chicago Cardinals 40, Chicago Bears 6 1929
Most yards rushing 273 O.J. Simpson, Buffalo Detroit Lions 27, Buffalo Bills 14 1976
Most yards passing 455 Troy Aikman, Dallas Minnesota Vikings 46, Dallas Cowboys 36 1998
Most yards receiving 303 Jim Benton, Cleveland Cleveland Rams 28, Detroit Lions 21 1945
Most interceptions 4 Bobby Dillon, Green Bay Detroit Lions 34, Green Bay Packers 15 1953
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