Like homemade stuffing and pecan pie, football is a time-honored Thanksgiving Day tradition. In fact, the rite dates all the way back the era of the sport’s inception in the late 1800s, when college powerhouses Yale and Princeton commenced the tradition. Today, a turkey feast just wouldn’t seem right without the Cowboys and Lions. So as we gather to feast and football with our loved ones this Thursday, we’re taking a look back at the best Thanksgiving Day games in NFL history!
1979: Oilers vs. Cowboys
This Thanksgiving Day classic pitted two greats against one another with all-star running backs Earl Campbell and Tony Dorsett. The battle stayed tight throughout the game, but Campbell and his 195 rushing yards led the Oilers to an exciting win on the national holiday stage.
1980: Bears vs. Lions
On a lovely Thanksgiving Day afternoon in 1980, the Bears stunned Detroit with one of the most thrilling come-from-behind wins in franchise history. Chicago was down 17-3 in the fourth quarter, and Lions fans could practically taste victory. But after the Bears scrambled to tie the game just as the clock expired, Chicago miraculously secured the win in dramatic fashion when Dave Williams returned the overtime kickoff 95 yards for a TD.
1982: Giants vs. Lions
This 1982 Thanksgiving Day matchup was a defensive battle, but what makes this game truly a classic was the buildup. The Giants were winless, and Lawrence Taylor disappointed with his year following being deemed the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in ‘81. Worse yet, due to a recent knee injury, he spent the majority of his Thanksgiving Day appearance on the sidelines. But with the game tied 6-6 late in the 4th and the Lions driving within only a few short yards of the goal line, Taylor astounded the Detroit crowd when he picked off the ball and ran it 97 yards for a TD and Giants victory.
1997: Lions vs. Bears
When the game kicked off, it shortly appeared Chicago would have no problem taking care of the Lions and quickly racked up a 14-3 lead. But it was the time to shine for Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, and the dynamic running back broke for 167 yards and three long touchdowns to blast past the Bears for a crushing 55-20 victory. This was a critical win for Detroit, and the Lions went on to finish the season with a playoff appearance.
2015 Thanksgiving Day Football Schedule
Eagles vs. Lions – 12:30 pm EST.
Panthers vs. Cowboys – 4:30 pm EST.
Bears vs. Packers – 8:30 pm EST.