Most memorable Thanksgiving moments in NFL history

From star performances to unforgettable blunders, here are 10 iconic NFL moments on Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is synonymous with football, and there are countless NFL moments that are synonymous with the holiday.

Whether it’s stars shining under the national spotlight or bloopers fans will never forget, there have been some iconic performances on Turkey Day.

With three games on tap for the holiday in 2023, let’s look back at some of the top Thanksgiving moments in NFL history.

Nov. 28, 1974: Clint Longley leads Cowboys comeback

Trailing 16-3 against rival Washington, backup quarterback Clint Longley stepped in for a concussed Roger Staubach. He connected with Drew Pearson on a 50-yard score with 28 seconds left to give the Dallas Cowboys a 24-23 victory.

Nov. 27, 1980: Bears return overtime kickoff for touchdown

The Chicago Bears had a Thanksgiving rally of their own in 1980. Quarterback Vince Evans scrambled for a 4-yard touchdown run on the final play of regulation and Dave Williams brought the overtime kickoff to the house to stun the Lions in Detroit.

Nov. 25, 1993: Leon Lett’s unforgettable blunder

A snowstorm in Texas was unusual enough for a Thanksgiving game, but nothing was more inexplicable than what Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett did at the end of their contest against the Miami Dolphins.

Leading 14-13 in the final seconds, the Cowboys blocked Pete Stoyanovich’s 40-yard field goal attempt. Instead of letting the ball sit on the turf, Lett decided to slide into it with his foot. Miami recovered the loose ball and Stoyanovich hit a 19-yard kick to hand Lett and Dallas a 16-14 defeat.

Nov 27, 1997: Barry Sanders runs all over the Bears

Barry Sanders put on a show for Lions fans in 1997. The Hall of Fame running back tallied 167 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries as Detroit steamrolled Chicago 55-20.

Nov. 26, 1998: Coin toss fiasco costs Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers sent their 1998 Thanksgiving matchup against the Lions to overtime with a late field goal, but the drama was just beginning.

Referee Phil Luckett had Steelers running back Jerome Bettis call the overtime coin toss while it was in the air. Bettis appeared to say tails and it landed tails, but Luckett claimed that Bettis said heads and gave the Lions the chance to receive the ball. The Steelers never got the ball again, as kicker Jason Hanson hit a 42-yard field goal on the Lions’ opening possession of overtime.

After the game, reporters told Bettis that Luckett believed he had heard “heads-tails,” which Bettis called “a baldfaced lie.”

Nov. 26, 1998: Randy Moss gets a TD turkey

Randy Moss created one of the NFL’s signature statlines against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in 1998.

He only had three catches all game, but he sure made them count. The first was a 51-yard touchdown in the first quarter, the second was a 56-yard touchdown in the second quarter and the third was a 56-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Three catches, 163 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

Nov. 22, 2001: Creed takes halftime show to new heights

Cowboys fans may not have seen their team win on Thanksgiving in 2001, but they did get to witness an all-time halftime performance. Creed made Texas Stadium their stage with a Super Bowl-level show that featured acrobatic dancers soaring through the air.

Nov. 25, 2004: Peyton Manning tosses six touchdowns in Detroit

Peyton Manning lit up the Lions for six passing touchdowns in a 41-9 Indianapolis Colts win in 2004 – and it only took him three quarters to get them. The six touchdowns matched the NFL record for passing touchdowns in a Thanksgiving game, a mark set by Bob Griese in 1977.

Nov. 25, 2010: Tom Brady’s perfect day

Tom Brady may not have gotten six touchdowns against the Lions on Thanksgiving in 2010, but he did compile a perfect passer rating. The seven-time Super Bowl champion went 21-for-27 passing for 341 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The New England Patriots trailed 14-3 in the second quarter before turning the tide and ultimately winning 45-24.

Nov. 22, 2012: The Butt Fumble

Twenty-nine years after Lett slid into the ball, another all-time NFL mishap took place on Thanksgiving with the “Butt Fumble.”

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez took a snap, found nobody to hand the ball off to and ran right into offensive lineman Brandon Moore’s backside. The ball dislodged out of Sanchez’s hands and fell onto the turf before Patriots safety Stephen Gregory picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown.

The Patriots wound up winning 49-19, but the game will always be remembered for the Butt Fumble.

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