If anything is true during Thanksgiving, it’s that you’re going to stuff yourself to the gills, and you’re not going to move a muscle while you watch the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys play their games. Let’s look at the most exciting Thanksgiving NFL games in history.
Cowboys vs. Commanders (1974)
Dallas against Washington has been a storied rivalry throughout the bad owners and nickname changes. But before Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder came into the league, the two squads had a brouhaha on Thanksgiving Day in 1974.
The Cowboys bested Washington that day 24–23 without Roger Staubach leading the charge. Dallas’ backup quarterback, Clint Longley, relieved for the hobbled Staubach, connecting with Drew Pearson on a 50-yard score to win the game with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Packers vs. Lions (1986)
The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions are two of the oldest teams in league history, so it feels special when these two lock up for a Thanksgiving tilt. This game is one for the record books because it’s the highest-scoring Thanksgiving Day game, with the Packers emerging victorious by a 44–40 score. The Pack won the game on a punt return touchdown from Walter Stanley.
Lions vs. Bills (1976)
Before he became infamous for other well-known things, O.J. Simpson was an extraordinary running back for the Buffalo Bills. Simpson broke the record for the most rushing yards in a single game when he amassed 273 against the Lions’ defense. What’s more amazing than Simpson’s big day is that the Bills lost the game 27-14. O.J. can blame his quarterback, who went 4-for-21 with 29 yards and an interception for the defeat.
Lions vs. Steelers (1998)
Since the Lions are often on the losing end of their Thanksgiving games, it’s nice to highlight their big wins. One win sticks out from the crowd, and that’s the infamous “coin-toss” game against the Steelers in 1998.
Steelers hall of fame running back Jerome Bettis was adamant he called tails, but referee Phil Luckett heard otherwise. Unfortunately for Bettis and Pittsburgh, this game predated one of the most significant rule changes in NFL history—the inclusion of instant replays—so their pleading wouldn’t matter. Detroit used that momentum to march down the field for a game-winning field goal from Jason Hanson.
Dolphins vs. Cowboys (1993)
Even if you aren’t a diehard football fan, you’ve likely seen a clip of the Thanksgiving Day showdown between the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys in 1993. This game is memorable for two things: the snow and Leon Lett.
Cowboys Stadium doesn’t expect snow during the holiday, but that was the case on this faithful day. The 8-2 Cowboys appeared to be on their way to 9-2 after blocking a Miami field goal. However, Leon Lett inexplicably tried and failed to recover the loose ball, giving Miami another shot to win the game.
The most exciting Thanksgiving NFL games in history continue to live on forever. Here’s to hoping we get some magic this season.