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Thanksgiving Classics: The Tradition Continues


Thanksgiving is always a great day.

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

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 a lot of others.

There may be memories waiting to happen this Thursday. This year on Thanksgiving, the Detroit Lions host the Green Bay Packers (12:30 PM ET, FOX) and the Dallas Cowboys welcome the Miami Dolphins (4:15 PM ET, CBS). The Cowboys' game will be the 100th Thanksgiving Day game hosted by the two clubs since Detroit began the series in 1934.

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

(11/25/20) Canton Bulldogs 0 at Akron Pros 7

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.

(11/26/25) Chicago Cardinals 0 at 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.

(11/28/29) Chicago Cardinals 40 at Chicago Bears 6

The Cardinals defeated the crosstown-rival Bears behind six rushing touchdowns by Ernie Nevers, a still-existing NFL single-game record. Nevers accounted for all 40 of the Cardinals' points, converting four of six points-after-touchdown.

(11/29/34) Chicago Bears 19 at 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

(11/22/62) Green Bay Packers 14 at Detroit Lions 26

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.

(11/28/74) Washington Redskins 23 at Dallas Cowboys 24

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.

(11/25/76) Buffalo Bills 14 at Detroit Lions 27

Buffalo's O.J. Simpson runs for a Thanksgiving Day- record 273 yards (most in NFL history at the time) in a losing effort.

(11/27/80) Chicago Bears 23 at Detroit Lions 17 (OT)

Chicago kick returner Dave Williams returns 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 NFL history.

(11/25/93) Miami Dolphins 16 at 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.

(11/27/97) Chicago Bears 20 at Detroit Lions 55

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.

(11/26/98) Minnesota Vikings 46 at 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.

(11/28/02) Washington Redskins 20 at Dallas Cowboys 27

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 NFL history to eclipse the 17,000 career rushing-yards mark.

Following are some of the greatest single-game individual performances in NFL Thanksgiving Day history:

Most TDs: 6, Ernie Nevers (Chi. Card.); 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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