Turkey and football 

Thanksgiving day games recap, history behind NFL holiday tradition



The WSU football team runs onto the field before the Apple Cup, Nov. 26.

ERICK AGUILAR, Evergreen reporter

Thanksgiving is one of America’s favorite holidays. A brisk day of the year filled with family, food and…football. 

Yes, football. Football on turkey day is a tale as old as time. Allow me to go over a recap of this year’s featured matchups and some neat history regarding the special correlation between  Thanksgiving and pro football. 

This year saw three matchups on Thursday. Bills vs Lions, Giants vs Cowboys and Patriots vs Vikings 

Bills vs Lions 

First, let’s be real: it would have taken a lot for the Lions to walk out on top. 

That being said the score was 28-25, Buffalo, closer than expected. Both teams went toe to toe the whole game. The Lions’ offense produced and their defense made a few big plays to keep them in the race. 

With 30 seconds left on the clock, it was a tie game at 25 a piece. The Bills happened to have the ball last and they did not waste the opportunity as Stefon Diggs reeled in a 35-yard dart from Josh Allen to set them into field goal range. 

Tyler Bass called game with a 45-yard kick that skimmed its way into the uprights. The Bills won by the skin of their teeth. 

Giants vs Cowboys 

This was a HEAVILY anticipated matchup between two division rivals and it did not disappoint. 

This Giants squad has certainly exceeded expectations this year with the return of Saquon Barkley off the injured reserve list for first-year head coach Brian Daboll. 

Despite Dak Prescott throwing two early interceptions, the Cowboys’ offense was ROLLING. 

The Giants could not stop the run, that’s what cost them the game. Ezekiel Eliot had one TD with 16 carries for 92 yards, averaging a handsome 5.8 yards per carry. 

The Giants’ defense seemed out of character in the second half and the offense simply could not keep up.

Vikings vs Patriots

This was a fun game to watch, another toe to toe matchup of 26-26 at the start of the fourth quarter. This was very much a game decided by the clock. 

I strongly think that if there were 30 seconds left on the clock the Patriots would have forced overtime. Nothing more to say really, both teams played well, one team simply played a bit better. 

But why is football and Thanksgiving so important? 

Well, the two date back to the 1800s when college teams would face off on the holiday. Professionally, the first thanksgiving game was in 1920 between the Akron Pros and Canton Bulldogs. 

Keeping up with traditions, two particular teams have a long history of playing on the holiday: 

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions playing on Thanksgiving has become a tradition just as revered as the turkey itself. With their first-holiday appearance in 1934. 

Their only absences were during the years of 1939-44 because of World War II. The motor city football team always kickoffs its game at 12:30 every year meant to accommodate the east coast time zone audience. 

Including this year, the Detroit Lions have played in 82 Thanksgiving day games, most in the NFL.

Dallas Cowboys 

The Cowboy made their first turkey day appearance in 1966, which set a then Cowboys attendance record of 80,259 spectators. 

America’s team has only missed two thanksgiving day appearances since they began playing on turkey day, 1975 and 1977 because the NFL selected the St. Louis Cardinals as a host team instead. 

The team always plays in the afternoon game, also for time zone specifics The team has the second most turkey day appearances with 54. 

Of course in NFL fashion, there are some games that became INSTANT Thanksgiving classics.

  • The most touchdowns thrown in a turkey bowl are six held by Bob Griese in 1977 and Peyton Manning in 2004.
  • In the Thanksgiving day game of 1976, OJ Simpson set the NFL’s single-game rushing record of 273 yards. 
  • In 1998, Troy Aikman set the holiday’s passing yards record with a monstrous total of 455. 
  • The biggest score difference on the holiday? Unfortunately, the Seahawks are mentioned here but not in the best way. In 1980 the Hawks lost to the cowboys in a 51-7 pummeling. 
  • Randy Moss, 1998 Minnesota Vikings rookie and future Hall of Famer walked into the fourth quarter with three receptions and three TDs with a total of 163 yards.
  • 2012’s Thanksgiving evening game is probably one of the most infamous NFL games of all time. Ladies and gentlemen… the butt fumble. It permanently cemented the New York Jets as a laughing stock franchise. There is really only one way to explain it and you need to see it for yourself.
  • Probably the most impressive record on the list. The most points were scored by one man in a single game. Set on thanksgiving in 1929 by Chicago Cardinals fullback, Ernie Nevers. Nevers found the end zone six times and was tossed the rock on four extra-point attempts. That is 40 points. How many points did the Cardinals score that day? 40 points, yes, Nevers scored every single one of his team’s points.