NFL on Thanksgiving Day

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Thanksgiving Classic)
Jump to: navigation, search
The NFL Thanksgiving logo used for 2010; the year is updated annually, with the new NFL shield being used for the first time in 2008.

The National Football League on Thanksgiving Day is a traditional series of games played during the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. It has been a regular occurrence since the league's inception in 1920. Currently, three NFL games are played every Thanksgiving. The first two are hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, with one team from each conference playing either team on a rotating basis; a third game, with no fixed opponents, has been played annually since 2006.

History[edit]

The concept of American football games being played on Thanksgiving Day dates back to 1876, shortly after the game had been invented. In that year, the college football teams at Yale and Princeton began an annual tradition of playing each other on Thanksgiving Day.[1] The University of Michigan also made it a tradition to play annual Thanksgiving games, holding 19 such games from 1885 to 1905.[2][3][4][5][6] The Thanksgiving Day games between Michigan and the Chicago Maroons in the 1890s have been cited as "The Beginning of Thanksgiving Day Football."[7]

By the time football had become a professional event, playing on Thanksgiving had already become an institution. Records of pro football being played on Thanksgiving date back to as early as the 1890s, with the first pro–am team, the Allegheny Athletic Association of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1902, the "National" Football League, a Major League Baseball-backed organization based entirely in Pennsylvania and unrelated to the current NFL, attempted to settle its championship over Thanksgiving weekend; after the game ended in a tie, eventually all three teams in the league claimed to have won the title. Members of the Ohio League, during its early years, usually placed their marquee matchups on Thanksgiving Day. For instance, in 1905 and 1906 the Latrobe Athletic Association and Canton Bulldogs, considered at the time to be two of the best teams in professional football (along with the Massillon Tigers), played on Thanksgiving. A rigging scandal with the Tigers leading up to the 1906 game led to severe drops in attendance for the Bulldogs and ultimately led to their suspension of operations. During the 1910s, the Ohio League stopped holding Thanksgiving games because many of its players coached high school teams and were unavailable. This was not the case in other regional circuits: in 1919, the New York Pro Football League featured a Thanksgiving matchup between the Buffalo Prospects and the Rochester Jeffersons. The game ended in a scoreless tie, leading to a rematch the next Sunday for the league championship.

The first owner of the Lions, G.A. Richards, started the tradition of the Thanksgiving Day game as a gimmick to get people to go to Lions football games, and to continue a tradition begun by the city's previous NFL teams.[8]

Several other NFL teams played regularly on Thanksgiving in first eighteen years of the league, including the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals (1922–33; the Bears played the Lions from 1934 to 1938 while the Cardinals switched to the Green Bay Packers for 1934 and 1935), Frankford Yellow Jackets, Pottsville Maroons, Buffalo All-Americans, Canton Bulldogs (even after the team moved to Cleveland they played the 1924 Thanksgiving game in Canton), and the New York Giants (1929–38, who always played a crosstown rival). During the Franksgiving controversy in 1939 and 1940, the only two teams to play the game were the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, as both teams were in the same state (Pennsylvania). (At the time, then-president Franklin Roosevelt wanted to move the holiday for economic reasons and many states were resistant to the move; half the states recognized the move and the other half did not. This complicated scheduling for Thanksgiving games. Incidentally, the two teams were also exploring the possibility of a merger at the time.[9]) Because of the looming World War II and the resulting shorter seasons, the NFL did not schedule any Thanksgiving games in 1941, nor did it schedule any in the subsequent years until the war ended in 1945. When the Thanksgiving games resumed in 1945, only one game would be played each year (except 1950 and 1952), and only the Lions would have a permanent Thanksgiving game. In 1951, the Packers began a thirteen-season run as the perpetual opponent to the Lions each year through 1963.

In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys, who had been founded six years earlier, adopted the practice of hosting Thanksgiving games. It is widely rumored that the Cowboys sought a guarantee that they would regularly host Thanksgiving games as a condition of their very first one (since games on days other than Sunday were uncommon at the time and thus high attendance was not a certainty). Incidentally, Texas was the last state to recognize the "fourth Thursday" rule for Thanksgiving that had been imposed as a result of the Franksgiving compromise two decades prior, and had just adopted the rule (as opposed to the previous last-Thursday rule) in 1961, five years before Dallas started hosting Thanksgiving games. (The fourth and final Thursdays were the same between 1957 and 1960; the last time Texas had celebrated Thanksgiving on the week after the rest of the country was 1956.) The two "traditional" Thanksgiving Day pro football games have then been in Detroit and Dallas. Because of TV network commitments, to make sure that both the AFC-carrying network and the NFC-carrying network got at least one game each, one of these games was between NFC opponents, and one featured AFC-NFC opponents. Thus, the AFC could showcase only one team on Thanksgiving, and the AFC team was always the visiting team.

The All-America Football Conference and American Football League, both of which would later be absorbed into the NFL, also held Thanksgiving contests, although neither of those leagues had permanent hosts. Likewise, the AFL of 1926 also played two Thanksgiving games in its lone season of existence. (The 1936–41 incarnations of the American Football League ended their seasons the weekend before Thanksgiving.)

Since 2006, a third NFL game on Thanksgiving has been played at night. It originally aired on the NFL Network as part of its Thursday Night Football package until 2011; NBC began carrying the night game in 2012. The Thanksgiving night game has no fixed opponents or conferences, enabling the league to freely choose whatever marquee match-up to feature on that night. The 2012 changes will allow both Dallas and Detroit in the future to offer NFC games (one would be played at night), and CBS can offer a game with two AFC teams.

Throwback uniforms[edit]

Since 2001 teams playing on Thanksgiving have worn throwback uniforms on numerous occasions. In some years (namely 2002), it extended to nearly all games of the weekend, and in some cases also involved classic field logos at the respective stadiums.

In 2001–2004, and again in 2008 and 2010, the Detroit Lions have worn throwback uniforms based on their very early years.

From 2001–2003, Dallas chose to represent the 1990s Cowboys dynasty by wearing the navy "Double-Star" jersey not seen since 1995. In 2004, the team wore uniforms not seen since 1960. In 2009, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the AFL, both Dallas and Oakland played in a "AFL Legacy Game." In 2013, the Cowboys intended to wear their 1960s throwbacks, but chose not to do so after the NFL adopted a rule banning alternate helmets during the season; rather than sport an incomplete throwback look, the Cowboys instead wore their standard blue jerseys at home for the first time since 1963.[10]

Memorable games[edit]

  • 1920: An urban legend states that the Chicago Tigers and Decatur Staleys challenged each other to a Thanksgiving duel, in Chicago, in the league's inaugural season, with the loser being relegated out of the league at the end of the season, purportedly explaining why the Tigers were the only NFL team to fold after the 1920 season (no other team would fold until 1921). The claims of it being a duel are unsubstantiated and no evidence exists that the Tigers were ever officially league members; nevertheless, the Tigers, after a 27–0 win over the non-league Thorn Tornadoes the next week, never played football again. The Staleys would move to Chicago during the next season, later renaming themselves the Bears.
  • 1952: The Dallas Texans are forced to move their lone remaining home game to the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Ohio as the undercard to a high school football contest. Their opponent for that game, the Chicago Bears, grossly underestimate the then-winless Texans and sent their second string team to the game; the Texans scored a 27–23 upset over the Bears scrubs for their only win of their existence.
  • 1962: The Lions handed the 10–0 Green Bay Packers their lone defeat of the season.
  • 1974: Unknown Cowboys backup quarterback Clint Longley took over for an injured Roger Staubach with the team down 16–3 and rallied them to an improbable victory over Washington on two deep passes.
  • 1976: The Bills offense put forth one of the best and the worst performances in Thanksgiving history. O. J. Simpson set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a single game, with 273. However, Bills backup quarterback Gary Marangi completed only 4 of 29 pass attempts, for 29 yards passing, and a rating of 19.7.
  • 1980: Detroit and Chicago went to overtime tied 17–17, the first Thanksgiving game to do so, and the first overtime game at the Silverdome. Bears running back Dave Williams returned the opening kickoff in overtime 95 yards for a game-winning touchdown, ending the shortest overtime period in NFL history at the time.
  • 1986: The Lions and the Packers had the highest scoring game in Thanksgiving history. It was the best day of receiver Walter Stanley's career; Stanley netted 207 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, including an 83-yard punt return to win the game for Green Bay, 44–40. Stanley had an otherwise undistinguished career in the NFL.
  • 1989: Known as the "Bounty Bowl," the Eagles crushed the Cowboys by a score of 27–0. Allegations surfaced that the Eagles had placed a bounty on the Cowboys kicker, thus becoming the first of a string of three bitterly-contested games between the two teams, the other two being Bounty Bowl II and the Porkchop Bowl a year later.
  • 1993: In one of the more infamous Thanksgiving Day games in recent history, the Cowboys led the Dolphins 14–13 with just seconds remaining in a rare, snow-filled Texas Stadium. Miami's Pete Stoyanovich attempted a game winning 40-yard field goal that was blocked by the Cowboys' Jimmie Jones. Dick Enberg of NBC proclaimed "The Cowboys will win."[11] However, Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett chased the ball and touched it, making a live ball. Miami recovered and regained possession. They were able to make another field goal attempt, this time from a much shorter distance, and won the game 16–14.
  • 1998: In another controversial Thanksgiving Day game, the Steelers and Lions went to overtime tied 16–16. Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis called the coin toss in the air, but confusion surrounded the call. Head referee Phil Luckett misheard Pittsburgh's call and awarded Detroit the ball. The Lions went on to kick a field goal on the first possession, winning 19–16. As a result of the fiasco, team captains are now required to call the coin toss before the coin is tossed. It was also the first of a series of controversial games which Luckett has been involved with.
  • 2008: The 10–1 Titans routed the 0–11 Lions by a score of 47–10, one of the most lopsided results in history on Thanksgiving. The Lions would go on to finish the season 0–16.
  • 2012: The prime time contest became infamous for the "Butt fumble," an incident in which Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran headfirst into the buttocks of his own offensive lineman. He subsequently fumbled the ball, it was recovered by New England, who returned it for a touchdown.

Home team controversy[edit]

It has remained a tradition for Dallas and Detroit to host the afternoon games dating back several decades. However, in recent years, other teams have expressed interest in hosting Thanksgiving games. Lamar Hunt, the former owner of the Chiefs, lobbied heavily in favor of his team hosting a game on Thanksgiving. When the NFL adopted a third prime time game, the Chiefs were selected as the first team to host such a contest.

The host issue came to a head in 2008, focusing particularly on the winless Lions. Going into the game, Detroit had lost their last four Thanksgiving games, and opinions amongst the media had suggested removing Detroit and replacing them with a more attractive matchup.[14][15] The team also required an extension to prevent a local television blackout.[16] The Lions were routed by Tennessee 47–10, en route to the team's 0–16 season.[17] NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the Lions would stay on Thanksgiving for 2009 season, but kept the issue open to revisit in the future.[18][19]

Conversely, the Dallas Cowboys, which typically has a larger television draw,[20] have had much fewer public calls to be replaced on Thanksgiving. One issue that has been debated is a perceived unfair advantage of playing at home on Thanksgiving.[21]

With the introduction of the prime time game, which effectively allows all teams in the league to opportunity to play on Thanksgiving, the calls for Detroit and Dallas to be removed have curtailed.

Game results[edit]

(Winning teams are denoted by boldface type; tie games are italicized.)

Pre–1920[edit]

  • This is a partial listing of professional football games played on Thanksgiving Day between 1892 (the year the first known professional player debuted) and 1919 (the last season before the NFL's formation), featuring various teams from the Ohio League (1903–19), New York Pro Football League (early 1900s–1919), National Football League (1902), the western Pennsylvania professional circuit (1892–1903), the eastern Pennsylvania pro-am circuit (1897–1919), the New Jersey circuit, and various other independent teams active at the time. Please note that during this era it was not unusual for professional football teams to play against college football teams or amateur local teams, touchdowns were worth only four points until 1896 and five points from 1897 to 1912, and that Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday in November at the time.
Season Visiting Team Score Home Team Score
Nov. 24, 1892 Lehigh Mountain Hawks 21 Pittsburgh Athletic Club 0
  Allegheny Athletic Association 4 Cleveland Athletic Club 0
Nov. 30, 1893 Penn State Nittany Lions 12 Pittsburgh Athletic Club 0
Nov. 29, 1894 Penn State Nittany Lions - Pittsburgh Athletic Club -
  Altoona Athletic Club 4 Greensburg Athletic Association 6
Nov. 28, 1895 Beaver Falls Y.M.C.A - Greensburg Athletic Association -
  Duquesne Country and Athletic Club 10 Pittsburgh Athletic Club 6
  Crescent Athletic Club 0 Orange Tornadoes 10
Nov. 26, 1896 West Virginia Mountaineers 0 Pittsburgh Athletic Club 0
  Greensburg Athletic Association 10 Latrobe Athletic Association 0
  Washington & Jefferson Presidents 4 Duquesne Country and Athletic Club 0
  Paterson Independents - Orange Tornadoes -
Nov. 25, 1897 Greensburg Athletic Association 16 Pittsburgh Athletic Club 0
  West Virginia Mountaineers 6 Latrobe Athletic Association 16
  Washington & Jefferson Presidents 14 Duquesne Country and Athletic Club 0
  Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA 0 Columbia Football Club 6
  Elizabeth Athletic Club 4 Orange Tornadoes 6
Nov. 24, 1898 Grove City, Pennsylvania 0 Greensburg Athletic Association 35
  Latrobe Athletic Association 0 Pittsburgh Athletic Club 6
  Washington & Jefferson Presidents 0 Duquesne Country and Athletic Club 11
  Ormiston Athletic Association ? Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA Reserves ?
  Orange Tornadoes 5 Riverside Athletic Association
Played in New York City
0
Nov. 30, 1899 Indiana Normal School 0 Latrobe Athletic Association 35
  Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA 12 Phoenix Athletic Association 5
  Philadelphia & Reading YMCA 0 Frankford Yellow Jackets 28
  Newark Athletic Club 6 Orange Tornadoes 6
Nov. 29, 1900 Homestead Library & Athletic Club 17 Latrobe Athletic Association 0
  Newark Athletic Association 6 Orange Tornadoes 0
Nov. 28, 1901 Washington & Jefferson Presidents 0 Homestead Library & Athletic Club 42
Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA 18 Frankford Yellow Jackets 0
Yale Consolidated 0 Orange Tornadoes 29
Nov. 27, 1902 Philadelphia Athletics 0 Pittsburgh Stars 0
  Orange Tornadoes 0 Philadelphia Phillies 11
  Oil City Athletic Club 10 Franklin Athletic Club 0
Nov. 26, 1903 Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA 0 Latrobe Athletic Association 6
  Wooster College 0 Massillon Tigers 34
  East End Athletic Association 0 Franklin Athletic Club 23
  Forest Hill 6 Orange Tornadoes 6
Nov. 27, 1904 Kittaning, Pennsylvania 0 Latrobe Athletic Association 53
  Akron East Ends 5 Massillon Tigers 6
Nov. 30, 1905 Canton Athletic Club 4 Massillon Tigers 14
Nov. 29, 1906 Latrobe Athletic Association 0 Canton Bulldogs 16
Nov. 28, 1907 Columbus Panhandles 2 All-Massillons 4
  Parkdale Athletic Association 5 Union Club of Phoenixville 0
Nov. 26, 1908 Parkdale Athletic Association 0 Union Club of Phoenixville 0
Nov. 25, 1909 Reliance Club of Conshohocken 0 Union Club of Phoenixville 6
Nov. 24, 1910 Wabash South Side Athletic Club 0 Fort Wayne Friars 25
  Elyria Athletics 0 Tiffin Cornells 0
  Columbus Panhandles 0 Dayton Oakwoods 0
  Akron Indians 5 Shelby Blues 8
  Minneapolis Beavers 0 Minneapolis Marines 8
  Transfiguration Catholic Club 0 Corley Catholic Club 21
  Reliance Club of Norristown 3 Union Club of Phoenixville 6
Nov. 30, 1911 Shelby Blues 6 Akron Tigers 0
  Ann Arbor Independents 0 Detroit Heralds 10
  Notre Dame Corby Hall 18 Fort Wayne Friars 0
  USS Massachusetts 0 Union Club of Phoenixville 17
Nov. 28, 1912 Elyria Athletics 10 Akron Indians 0
  All-Syracuse 0 Rochester Jeffersons 18
  Cincinnati Christ Church 0 Cincinnati Celts 7
  Notre Dame Corby Hall 18 Fort Wayne Friars 0
  Frankford Yellow Jackets 0 Union Club of Phoenixville 47
Nov. 27, 1913 Shelby Blues 7 Akron Indians 7
  Canton Professionals 7 Akron Indians 7
  Detroit Heralds 0 Toledo Maroons 7
  Notre Dame Corby Hall 33 Fort Wayne Friars 0
  Dayton St. Mary's Cadets 26 Dayton Oakwoods 21
  Cincinnati Christ Church 7 Cincinnati Celts 7
  All-New Britain 13 Rockville, CT 0
  Tonawanda 0 Lancaster Malleables 7
Nov. 26, 1914 Akron Indians 21 Canton Professionals 0
  Brookdale Athletic Club 7 Union Club of Phoenixville 35
  Conshohocken Athletic Club 33 Junior Athletic Club of Norristown 0
  Syracuse Westcotts 6 Lancaster Malleables
Played at International Fair Association Grounds
14
Nov. 25, 1915 Columbus Panhandles 0 Fort Wayne Friars 3
  Cincinnati Christ Church Reds 0 Cincinnati Celts 13
  Pine Village, Indiana 29 Purdue All-Stars 0
  Frankford Yellow Jackets 0 Union Club of Phoenixville 21
  Conshohocken Athletic Club 3 Norristown Billikens 2
  Lancaster Malleables 0 Tonawanda Lumberjacks 8
  Bayonne Vikings - Union AA of Washburn Park -
Nov. 30, 1916 Youngstown Patricians 0 Massillon Tigers 27
  Detroit Heralds 6 Cleveland Indians 20
  Pitcairn Quakers 9 Dayton Triangles 20
  Bethlehem Blue Stars 6 Union Club of Phoenixville 13
  Norristown Billikens 3 Conshohocken Athletic Club 35
  Bayonne Vikings - Plainfield, NJ -
Nov. 29, 1917 Canton Bulldogs 7 Detroit Heralds 0
Camp Dix 309th Infantry 2 Buffalo All-Stars 0
Rochester Jeffersons 7 Tonawanda Lumberjacks
Played at Buffalo Baseball Park
9
  Union Club of Phoenixville 13 Norristown Billikens 0
Van Sicklens 0 Staten Island Stapletons 27
Nov. 28, 1918 Dayton Triangles 62 Miamis 0
Buffalo Pierce-Arrows 0 Buffalo Niagaras 20
U.S. Army Ambulance Corps 12 Lehigh Mountain Hawks 0
Nov. 27, 1919 Massillon Tigers 7 Cleveland Indians 0
Rochester Jeffersons 0 Buffalo Prospects 0
Thomas Athletic Club of Bethlehem 3 Holmesburg Athletic Club 19
Ewing Athletic Association - Frankford Yellow Jackets
Montanas 6 Staten Island Stapletons 14
Iroquois AA 0 Bayonne Vikings 6

1920–1940[edit]

  • The first American Football League (AFL I) also played Thanksgiving Day games in 1926.
  • Non-NFL team games between league teams and non league teams counted in the 1920 standings. The All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks later joined the league as the Tonawanda Kardex, albeit only for one game.
  • Thanksgiving fell on the final Thursday in November until 1938.

1945–1959[edit]

  • No Thanksgiving games were held from 1941–1944 due to WWII
  • Thanksgiving games were played on the fourth Thursday in November from 1945 onward.
  • The All-America Football Conference (AAFC) also played Thanksgiving games from 1946 to 1949.
Season League Visiting Team Score Home Team Score
Nov. 22, 1945 NFL Cleveland Rams 28 Detroit Lions 21
Nov. 28, 1946 NFL Boston Yanks 34 Detroit Lions 10
AAFC New York Yankees 21 Brooklyn Dodgers 7
Nov. 27, 1947 NFL Chicago Bears 34 Detroit Lions 14
AAFC Cleveland Browns 27 Los Angeles Dons 17
AAFC San Francisco 49ers 21 Brooklyn Dodgers 7
Nov. 25, 1948 NFL Chicago Cardinals 28 Detroit Lions 14
AAFC Cleveland Browns 31 Los Angeles Dons 14
AAFC Buffalo Bills 39 Chicago Rockets 35
Nov. 24, 1949 NFL Chicago Bears 28 Detroit Lions 7
AAFC New York Yankees 17 Los Angeles Dons 16
AAFC Cleveland Browns 14 Chicago Hornets 6
Nov. 23, 1950 NFL New York Yanks 14 Detroit Lions 49
Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Chicago Cardinals 17
Nov. 22, 1951 NFL Green Bay Packers 35 Detroit Lions 52
Nov. 27, 1952 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 48
Chicago Bears 23 Dallas Texans (at Akron, Ohio) 27
Nov. 26, 1953 NFL Green Bay Packers 15 Detroit Lions 34
Nov. 25, 1954 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 28
Nov. 24, 1955 NFL Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 24
Nov. 22, 1956 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 20
Nov. 28, 1957 NFL Green Bay Packers 6 Detroit Lions 18
Nov. 27, 1958 NFL Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 24
Nov. 26, 1959 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 17

1960–1969[edit]

Season League Visiting Team Score Home Team Score
Nov. 24, 1960 NFL Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 23
AFL New York Titans 41 Dallas Texans 35
Nov. 23, 1961 NFL Green Bay Packers 17 Detroit Lions 9
AFL Buffalo Bills 14 New York Titans 21
Nov. 22, 1962 NFL Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 26
AFL New York Titans 46 Denver Broncos 45
Nov. 28, 1963 NFL Green Bay Packers 13 Detroit Lions 13
AFL Oakland Raiders 26 Denver Broncos 10
Nov. 26, 1964 NFL Chicago Bears 27 Detroit Lions 24
AFL Buffalo Bills 27 San Diego Chargers 24
Nov. 25, 1965 NFL Baltimore Colts 24 Detroit Lions 24
AFL Buffalo Bills 20 San Diego Chargers 20
Nov. 24, 1966 NFL San Francisco 49ers 41 Detroit Lions 14
Cleveland Browns 14 Dallas Cowboys 26
AFL Buffalo Bills 31 Oakland Raiders 10
Nov. 23, 1967 NFL Los Angeles Rams 31 Detroit Lions 7
St. Louis Cardinals 21 Dallas Cowboys 46
AFL Oakland Raiders 44 Kansas City Chiefs 22
Denver Broncos 20 San Diego Chargers 24
Nov. 28, 1968 NFL Philadelphia Eagles 12 Detroit Lions 0
Washington Redskins 20 Dallas Cowboys 29
AFL Buffalo Bills 10 Oakland Raiders 13
Houston Oilers 10 Kansas City Chiefs 24
Nov. 27, 1969 NFL Minnesota Vikings 27 Detroit Lions 0
San Francisco 49ers 24 Dallas Cowboys 24
AFL Denver Broncos 17 Kansas City Chiefs 31
San Diego Chargers 21 Houston Oilers 17

1970–2005[edit]

  • From 1970 to 2005, three NFC teams and one AFC team played each Thanksgiving.
  • The two afternoon games were held at Detroit (12:30 p.m. EST) and Dallas (4:15 p.m. EST), respectively. Detroit always hosts the "early" game because a 12:30 p.m. EST kick-off at Dallas would be 11:30 a.m. local time (CST), and the NFL avoids starting games before noon locally. The two games rotate annually as intra-conference (NFC vs. NFC) and inter-conference (AFC vs. NFC) games. This is to satisfy the television contract balance between CBS (which broadcasts games in which the visiting team is from the AFC) and Fox (which broadcasts games in which the visiting team is from the NFC).
  • The "early" game kicks off at a special time of 12:30 p.m. EST as opposed to the typical afternoon start time of 1 p.m. This provides an additional 30 minutes to prevent overlapping of the "late" game, and also gives the network time for a pregame show and some additional time for a halftime concert. When Fox carries the "early" game, they typically start their pregame coverage (Fox NFL Sunday) at 11:30 a.m. When CBS carries the "early" game, they start their pregame coverage (The NFL Today) at 12:00 p.m., due to the fact that their morning parade coverage runs until noon. The network with the 4:15 "late" game begins pregame coverage at 3:30 p.m. EST.
  • Since the NFL began its current alignment in 2002, no team from the AFC North can play a Thanksgiving Day game against the traditional hosts. This is because under the current rotation, the Cowboys and the Lions each play AFC North teams in years that FOX is scheduled to broadcast its Thanksgiving Day game, requiring an NFC opponent. To date, the last game to feature an AFC North team was the Lions matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1998. AFC North teams can play in the prime time game, as the Cincinnati Bengals did in 2010.
Season Visiting Team Score Home Team Score OT
Nov. 26, 1970 Oakland Raiders 14 Detroit Lions 28
Green Bay Packers 3 Dallas Cowboys 16
Nov. 25, 1971 Kansas City Chiefs 21 Detroit Lions 32
Los Angeles Rams 21 Dallas Cowboys 28
Nov. 23, 1972 New York Jets 20 Detroit Lions 37
San Francisco 49ers 31 Dallas Cowboys 10
Nov. 22, 1973 Washington Redskins 20 Detroit Lions 0
Miami Dolphins 14 Dallas Cowboys 7
Nov. 28, 1974 Denver Broncos 31 Detroit Lions 27
Washington Redskins 23 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 27, 1975 Los Angeles Rams 20 Detroit Lions 0
Buffalo Bills 32 St. Louis Cardinals 14
Nov. 25, 1976 Buffalo Bills 14 Detroit Lions 27
St. Louis Cardinals 14 Dallas Cowboys 19
Nov. 24, 1977 Chicago Bears 31 Detroit Lions 14
Miami Dolphins 55 St. Louis Cardinals 14
Nov. 23, 1978 Denver Broncos 14 Detroit Lions 17
Washington Redskins 10 Dallas Cowboys 37
Nov. 22, 1979 Chicago Bears 0 Detroit Lions 20
Houston Oilers 30 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 27, 1980 Chicago Bears 23 Detroit Lions 17 (OT)
Seattle Seahawks 7 Dallas Cowboys 51
Nov. 26, 1981 Kansas City Chiefs 10 Detroit Lions 27
Chicago Bears 9 Dallas Cowboys 10
Nov. 25, 1982 New York Giants 13 Detroit Lions 6
Cleveland Browns 14 Dallas Cowboys 31
Nov. 24, 1983 Pittsburgh Steelers 3 Detroit Lions 45
St. Louis Cardinals 17 Dallas Cowboys 35
Nov. 22, 1984 Green Bay Packers 28 Detroit Lions 31
New England Patriots 17 Dallas Cowboys 20
Nov. 28, 1985 New York Jets 20 Detroit Lions 31
St. Louis Cardinals 17 Dallas Cowboys 35
Nov. 27, 1986 Green Bay Packers 44 Detroit Lions 40
Seattle Seahawks 31 Dallas Cowboys 14
Nov. 26, 1987 Kansas City Chiefs 27 Detroit Lions 20
Minnesota Vikings 44 Dallas Cowboys 38 (OT)
Nov. 24, 1988 Minnesota Vikings 23 Detroit Lions 0
Houston Oilers 25 Dallas Cowboys 17
Nov. 23, 1989 Cleveland Browns 10 Detroit Lions 13
Philadelphia Eagles 27 Dallas Cowboys 0
Nov. 22, 1990 Denver Broncos 27 Detroit Lions 40
Washington Redskins 17 Dallas Cowboys 27
Nov. 28, 1991 Chicago Bears 6 Detroit Lions 16
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 Dallas Cowboys 20
Nov. 26, 1992 Houston Oilers 24 Detroit Lions 21
New York Giants 3 Dallas Cowboys 30
Nov. 25, 1993 Chicago Bears 10 Detroit Lions 6
Miami Dolphins 16 Dallas Cowboys 14
Nov. 24, 1994 Buffalo Bills 21 Detroit Lions 35
Green Bay Packers 31 Dallas Cowboys 42
Nov. 23, 1995 Minnesota Vikings 38 Detroit Lions 44
Kansas City Chiefs 12 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 28, 1996 Kansas City Chiefs 28 Detroit Lions 24
Washington Redskins 10 Dallas Cowboys 21
Nov. 27, 1997 Chicago Bears 20 Detroit Lions 55
Tennessee Oilers 27 Dallas Cowboys 14
Nov. 26, 1998 Pittsburgh Steelers 16 Detroit Lions 19 (OT)
Minnesota Vikings 46 Dallas Cowboys 36
Nov. 25, 1999 Chicago Bears 17 Detroit Lions 21
Miami Dolphins 0 Dallas Cowboys 20
Nov. 23, 2000 New England Patriots 9 Detroit Lions 34
Minnesota Vikings 27 Dallas Cowboys 15
Nov. 22, 2001 Green Bay Packers 29 Detroit Lions 27
Denver Broncos 26 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 28, 2002 New England Patriots 20 Detroit Lions 12
Washington Redskins 20 Dallas Cowboys 27
Nov. 27, 2003 Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 22
Miami Dolphins 40 Dallas Cowboys 21
Nov. 25, 2004 Indianapolis Colts 41 Detroit Lions 9
Chicago Bears 7 Dallas Cowboys 21
Nov. 24, 2005 Atlanta Falcons 27 Detroit Lions 7
Denver Broncos 24 Dallas Cowboys 21 (OT)

2006–present[edit]

  • Since 2006, three contests have been played on Thanksgiving. In addition to the traditional Detroit and Dallas home afternoon games, a third game is now played in primetime and televised by NFL Network (2006–2011) or NBC (since 2012). Current plans call for the various NFL teams (other than the Lions and Cowboys) to take turns hosting the night game on a rotation basis.
  • In 2006, Kansas City hosted the first prime time Thanksgiving game. The game marked a new "Thanksgiving Tripleheader" tradition. The Denver/Kansas City game marked the first time more than two games were played on Thanksgiving (as well as the first all-AFC holiday matchup) since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
  • Rule changes in the 2012–2022 television contracts will permit "flex scheduling" of the Detroit/Dallas afternoon rotation. It would allow the Lions or the Cowboys to host the prime time game rather than their traditional afternoon slots. In such a case, CBS would be permitted to schedule an AFC vs. AFC game in their afternoon time slot.
Season Visiting Team Score Home Team Score OT
Nov. 23, 2006 Miami Dolphins 27 Detroit Lions 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 Dallas Cowboys 38
Denver Broncos 10 Kansas City Chiefs 19
Nov. 22, 2007 Green Bay Packers 37 Detroit Lions 26
New York Jets 3 Dallas Cowboys 34
Indianapolis Colts 31 Atlanta Falcons 13
Nov. 27, 2008 Tennessee Titans 47 Detroit Lions 10
Seattle Seahawks 9 Dallas Cowboys 34
Arizona Cardinals 20 Philadelphia Eagles 48
Nov. 26, 2009 Green Bay Packers 34 Detroit Lions 12
Oakland Raiders 7 Dallas Cowboys 24
New York Giants 6 Denver Broncos 26
Nov. 25, 2010 New England Patriots 45 Detroit Lions 24
New Orleans Saints 30 Dallas Cowboys 27
Cincinnati Bengals 10 New York Jets 26
Nov. 24, 2011 Green Bay Packers 27 Detroit Lions 15
Miami Dolphins 19 Dallas Cowboys 20
San Francisco 49ers 6 Baltimore Ravens 16
Nov. 22, 2012 Houston Texans 34 Detroit Lions 31 (OT)
Washington Redskins 38 Dallas Cowboys 31
New England Patriots 49 New York Jets 19
Nov. 28, 2013 Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 40
Oakland Raiders 24 Dallas Cowboys 31
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Baltimore Ravens 22
Nov. 27, 2014 Chicago Bears 0 Detroit Lions 0
Philadelphia Eagles 0 Dallas Cowboys 0
Seattle Seahawks 0 San Francisco 49ers 0

Thanksgiving Day standings[edit]

Of current NFL franchises. This includes American Football League and All-America Football Conference games.

Team Last Game Wins Losses Ties Win Pct. Other names appeared under
Baltimore Ravens 2013 2 0   1.000
Houston Texans 2012 1 0   1.000
New Orleans Saints 2010 1 0   1.000
Indianapolis Colts 2007 2 0 1 .833 Baltimore Colts (1953–83)
Minnesota Vikings 2000 5 1   .833
Philadelphia Eagles 2008 4 1   .800
St. Louis Rams 1975 3 1   .750 Cleveland Rams (1937–45), Los Angeles Rams (1946–94)
Miami Dolphins 2011 5 2   .714
Tennessee Titans 2008 5 2   .714 Houston Oilers (1960–96), Tennessee Oilers (1997–98)
San Francisco 49ers 2011 3 1 1 .700
Dallas Cowboys 2013 29 16 1 .641
San Diego Chargers 1969 2 1 1 .625
New York Giants 2009 7 4 3 .607
New England Patriots 2012 3 2   .600
New York Jets 2012 4 3   .571 New York Titans (1960–62)
Chicago Bears 2004 16 13 2 .548 Decatur Staleys (1920), Chicago Staleys (1921)
Kansas City Chiefs 2006 5 5   .500 Dallas Texans (1960–62), does not include 1–0 record of unrelated NFL Dallas Texans.
Cleveland Browns 1989 3 3   .500
Atlanta Falcons 2007 1 1   .500
Detroit Lions 2013 34 37 2 .479
Green Bay Packers 2013 14 19 2 .429
Oakland Raiders 2013 3 4   .429
Buffalo Bills 1994 3 5 1 .389 Does not include 1–0 record of unrelated AAFC team of same name.
Denver Broncos 2009 4 7   .364
Washington Redskins 2012 2 6   .333
Seattle Seahawks 2008 1 2   .333
Arizona Cardinals 2008 6 15 2 .304 Chicago Cardinals (1920–59), St. Louis Cardinals (1960–87), Phoenix Cardinals (1988–93)
Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 2 5   .286
Cincinnati Bengals 2010 0 1   .000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2006 0 1   .000

Notable appearance droughts[edit]

The last two current active franchises to have never played on Thanksgiving through 2013 are Carolina and Jacksonville, both of which joined the league in 1995. The Browns have not appeared since the rejoining the league as an expansion team in 1999, and the Rams have not played since 1975.

An idiosyncrasy in the NFL's current scheduling formula, which has been in effect since 2002 and revised in 2010, effectively precludes teams from the AFC North from playing the Lions or Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Conversely, the AFC East actually appears in successive years. Without further revisions or exceptions to the formula, AFC North teams can only appear in the prime time game.

San Diego has the longest active appearance drought as of 2013. They have not played on Thanksgiving since 1969, one year before the AFL–NFL merger.

Since 2010, the league has made efforts to end the longest droughts. Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Baltimore all played their first Thanksgiving game during this time frame, as did Houston, who joined the league in 2002. San Francisco likewise played their first Thanksgiving game since 1972 in the 2011 season.

Thanksgiving Day records of defunct teams[edit]

League teams only, since 1920.
Team Wins Losses Ties Win Pct. Other names appeared under
Frankford Yellow Jackets 2 0   1.000 Defunct (1931)
New York Yankees* 2 0   1.000 Defunct (1949)
Pottsville Maroons 2 0   1.000 Defunct (1928)
Boston Yanks 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1948)
Buffalo Bills* 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1949), unrelated to current NFL team with this name
Dallas Texans 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1952), does not count AFL's Dallas Texans, which are now the Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Buccaneers 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1926)
Oorang Indians 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1923)
Rock Island Independents 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1925)
All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1921)
Akron Pros 3 1 1 .700 Defunct (1926)
Buffalo Bisons 1 1 1 .500 Buffalo All-Americans (1920–23), Defunct (1929)
Canton Bulldogs 1 1 1 .500 Defunct (1926)
Cleveland Bulldogs 1 1   .500 Defunct (1927)
Dayton Triangles 1 1   .500 Defunct (1929)
Kansas City Cowboys 1 1   .500 Kansas City Blues (1924), Defunct (1926)
Milwaukee Badgers 1 1   .500 Defunct (1926)
Brooklyn Lions 0 1   .000 Defunct (1926)
Chicago Tigers 0 1   .000 Defunct (1920)
Detroit Heralds 0 1   .000 Defunct (1920)
New York Yanks 0 1   .000 Defunct (1950)
Providence Steam Roller 0 1   .000 Defunct (1931)
Racine Legion 0 1   .000 Defunct (1926)
Toledo Maroons 0 1   .000 Defunct (1923)
Brooklyn Dodgers* 0 2   .000 Defunct (1949)
Chicago Hornets* 0 2   .000 Chicago Rockets (1946–1948), Defunct (1949)
Columbus Panhandles 0 2   .000 Defunct (1926)
Detroit Panthers 0 2   .000 Defunct (1926)
Hammond Pros 0 2   .000 Defunct (1926)
Rochester Jeffersons 0 2   .000 Defunct (1925)
Los Angeles Dons* 0 3   .000 Defunct (1949)

*All-America Football Conference team.

Game MVPs[edit]

Since 1989, informal and sometimes lighthearted MVP awards have been issued by the networks broadcasting the respective games. Running back Emmitt Smith holds the record for most Thanksgiving MVPs with five (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 2002). Voting on the respective awards is typically done informally by the announcing crew themselves, and criteria is loose. Noteworthy statistical accomplishments weigh heavily, and "group" awards are common.

Turkey Leg Award (CBS & FOX)[edit]

In 1989, John Madden of CBS awarded the first "Turkey Leg Award," for the game's most valuable player. Pursuant to its name, it was an actual cooked turkey leg, and players typically took a celebratory bite out of the leg for the cameras during post-game interviews. Reggie White of the Eagles was the first recipient. The gesture was seen mostly as a humorous gimmick relating to Madden's famous multi-legged turkey, cooked and delivered by local restaurant owner Joe Pat Fieseler of Harvey's Barbecue (located less than a mile from Texas Stadium). Since then, however, the award has gained subtle notoriety. Madden brought the award to FOX in 1994, and it continued through 2001.

Because of the loose and informal nature of the award, at times it was awarded to multiple players. On one occasion (1994), it was given to players of both teams.

Galloping Gobbler (FOX)[edit]

When John Madden left FOX after 2001, the network introduced a new award, named the "Galloping Gobbler." It is represented by a small statue of a silver turkey wearing a football helmet.

Unlike the aforementioned "Turkey Leg Award," the "Galloping Gobbler" is only awarded to one player annually.

All-Iron Award (CBS)[edit]

When the NFL returned to CBS in 1998, they introduced their own award, the "All-Iron Award", which is, suitably enough, a small silver iron, a reference to Phil Simms' All-Iron team for toughness. The All-Iron winner also receives a skillet of blackberry cobbler made by Simms' mother.

Typically the trophy is only awarded to one player annually. Occasionally, it has been issued as a "group award" in addition to a single player award. In 2008, Simms stated it was "too close to call" and named four players to the trophy.

Prime time games (NFLN & NBC)[edit]

When the NFL Network held the right to broadcast the night game from 2007 to 2011, they gave out the "Pudding Pie Award" for MVPs. The award was an actual pie. In 2009, NFL Network gave Brandon Marshall a pumpkin pie rather than the chocolate pudding pie of the previous two years.

NBC began broadcasting the night game from 2012 onward. Their MVP award is called the "Madden Thanksgiving Player-of-the-Game", honoring John Madden (who announced NBC games from 2006–2008).[22][23]

*Of the members of the 2007 Cowboys defense, Chris Canty, DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman and Greg Ellis were particularly noted.

Broadcasting[edit]

DuMont was the first network to televise Thanksgiving games in 1953; CBS took over in 1956, and in 1965, the first ever color television broadcast of an NFL game was the Thanksgiving match between the Lions and the Baltimore Colts.

Starting in 2012, all three broadcast networks with NFL rights will carry one game apiece. The first two games are split between CBS and Fox. These games are rotated annually, with CBS getting the 12:30 p.m. (EST) "early" game, and Fox getting the 4:25 p.m. "late" game in even-numbered years, while Fox likewise gets the "early" game and CBS the "late" game in odd-numbered years. The third game, with a prime time 8:30 p.m. start, is carried by NBC.

The NFL on Westwood One Sports holds national radio broadcast rights to all three games.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Works cited[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Yale vs Princeton (NJ)". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  2. ^ "1885 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  3. ^ "1887 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  4. ^ "1888 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  5. ^ "1889 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  6. ^ "1891 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  7. ^ "Football on Thanksgiving: A Brief But Comprehensive History". Midwest Sports Fans. November 23, 2011. 
  8. ^ "The Origins of the Thanksgiving Day Tradition". Detroit Lions. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  9. ^ See also: Pennsylvania Keystoners
  10. ^ http://www.dallascowboys.com/news/article-NickEatman/Cowboys-To-Wear-Blue-Jerseys-At-Home-Thursday/9ed90bd1-5be2-4e84-92c8-6dd43ee6fe77
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ November 21, 2011 (2011-11-21). "NFL Thanksgiving Day Football Preview: Games, TV Schedule, Point Spreads, Picks and Predictions". Midwestsportsfans.com. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  13. ^ Silver, Michael (2011-11-21). "NFL Thanksgiving games are appealing, for once – NFL – Yahoo! Sports". Sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  14. ^ Bakay, Nick (12 November 2008). "Manly House of Football: Another helping of Lions football for the holiday? No, thanks!". NFL.com. 
  15. ^ Kulfan, Ted. Annual Lions game is roasted. The Detroit News. 25 November 2008
  16. ^ Slevin, Peter (November 27, 2008). "In Detroit, Tradition Takes a Hike; Annual Thanksgiving Football Game Offers Little Joy for Troubled City". Washington Post. p. A1. 
  17. ^ Lage, Larry (November 28, 2008). "Once-beaten Titans dominate winless Lions 47–10". Associated Press. 
  18. ^ Niyo, John (31 January 2009). "Turkey game safe ... for now". Detroit Free Press. p. C6. 
  19. ^ Kowalski, Tom (22 March 2009). "Lions president says NFL will not take away team's Thanksgiving Day game". mlive.com. 
  20. ^ Horn, Barry (10 March 2009). "Networks vie for Dallas Cowboys' home opener". Dallas Morning News. 
  21. ^ King, Peter (1 December 2008). "The best football writer of our time". si.com. 
  22. ^ "Easton-P'burg TV coverage won't crash gate". The Morning Call. November 20, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012. "As an added bonus, John Madden will return to NBC to open the broadcast and will give his first "Madden Thanksgiving Player of the-Game" award" 
  23. ^ "Thanksgiving Night Game on NBC New England Patriots vs. New York Jets" (Press release). NBCUniversal. November 20, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012. 

External links[edit]