As we lead into the most sacred of American holidays (the one where you wake up with a massive hangover, don’t go to work, eat like it’s your last meal, and then go out shopping for a “discounted” TV) I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the best Thanksgiving day moments that involve our AFC East teams. We’ve had some highlights and a whole bunch of low lights. Not all games will be represented, and I’m only considering Thanksgiving games post merger. And yes…that play is going to be on this list.
November 25, 1976: Lions 24 Bills 13
We’ll start this list off with my Buffalo Bills doing what they do best: Being impressive in a loss! While the score of this game leaves much to be desired. OJ Simpson, who later went on to be a movie star, sports broadcaster and then fell off the face of the planet and didn’t do anything of note after 1992, broke his own rushing record in a game with 273 yards and also scored two TDs. This was OJ’s 5th 200 yard performance which broke Jim Brown’s record. The rest of the offense managed to gain less than a 1/4 of what Simpson did that day mustering only 49 yards and also missed an extra point and a field goal because obviously nothing is allowed to go right.
To his credit Simpson downplayed his personal achievement saying he would have preferred a win, but we all know he went home and beat up a pillow…
November 24, 1977: Dolphins 55 Cardinals 14
This game makes the list just because it’s the last time St. Louis Cardinals hosted a Thanksgiving game in relief of Dallas (the previous being in 1975 when the Bills romped them 32-14). Due to convoluted NFL rules (you don’t say!) St. Louis was forced to play Miami on this day and as the score indicates they didn’t really try. I’m sure they were loaded with turkey, stuffing and a huge heaping pile of “Why are we doing this?” To be fair, St. Louis was actually a good team they just had a bad day at the office.
This game was significant for Miami because they set team records for yards (503), points, and Bob Griese threw 6 TDs which was also a record. Miami also controlled the ground game with 295 rushing yards as well. This was en route to a 10-4 season for Miami where they didn’t make the playoffs.
November 22, 1984: Cowboys 20 Patriots 17
Now we come to New England’s first foray into Turkey Day revelry with a loss to Dallas. Remember that epic draft of 1983 and all the amazing quarterbacks selected? Elway, Marino, and Kelly? Well the Pats selected Tony Eason and then proceeded to try to kill him (much like the Dolphins have been trying to do with Ryan Tannehill). Poor Eason was sacked a remarkable 10 times in this game which is bound to be an NFL record on Thanksgiving but I don’t have the funds to pay for the Elias Sports Bureau. This game went a long way to him setting the record for most times sacked in a season at the time.
The game itself was unremarkable in most ways. The Pats did rush for over 100 yards, and Eason was able to throw a TD as well as rush for one. The Pats were down 14 in the 4th but managed to pull even at 17 before losing on a 23 yard field goal at the end. The Pats were so unimpressive they weren’t allowed to play on Thanksgiving again until the new millennium.
November 29, 1985: Lions 31 Jets 20
As an editorial aside, I want you to understand how obnoxious it is to find anything about the Jets on Thanksgiving because of…well…you know what. It is my theory that Woody Johnson has had the records of their Thanksgiving history expunged from the internet.
Coming into this game the Jets were rolling through their competition. They had set a team record for points scored two weeks prior, and squeezed out a win against New England. Then they went to Motor City and got destroyed by the Lions. The score indicates a closer game, but it wasn’t. Detroit dominated the playoff bound Jets and introduced QB Ken O’Brien to the Silverdome Turf 7 times. Most of the Jets points were junk time 4th quarter scores as the Lions were focusing on turkey legs and stuffing. The Jets were given the table scraps…like the real cranberry sauce instead of the cool stuff that holds the shape of the can.
November 25, 1993: Dolphins 16 Dallas 14
Because when I think of Dallas, I think of a friggin’ snow storm.
This may be one of the most iconic Thanksgiving moments (barring That Play That Must Not Be Named). Miami and Dallas played in a snow storm which was unexpected and completely unwelcome. It’s already hard enough to work on a national holiday but to do so in inclement weather? Who the hell do you think these guys are, football pla….oh right…
This game will forever be known for the second worst mistake Dallas’ Leon Lett ever made on a football field. The first is celebrating too early in the Super Bowl the previous year returning a fumble and being caught by Don Beebe and stripped just before he scored. The second being the last 10 seconds of this game. Dallas blocked the potential game winning field goal and as the ball spun harmlessly in the snow and players formed a circle around it as if they were encouraging a bare knuckle boxing match. Lett, for reasons only known to him, dove into the circle to grab the ball and seal an already assured victory for Dallas.
Except he muffed it and Miami recovered his fumble. The Dolphins kicked a chip shot 19 yard field goal to win.
Lett became the goat and Miami held the best record in the NFL. Of course the two teams went in opposite directions from that point on. Miami didn’t win again that season and Dallas didn’t lose.
November 24, 1994: Lions 35 Bills 21
In the waning days of the K Gun offense the Bills played a game that should be eerily familiar to current Bills fans. They were outsmarted on the second play of the game with a Flea Flicker and had to play catch up the entire game. In his only Thanksgiving Day game, Jim Kelly threw 29 of 35 for an 82.85% completion percentage but as the Bills were driving late he threw a Pick 6 which sealed this game for the Lions. Thurman Thomas had over 100 total yards but it wasn’t enough to overcome trickery and overall better play of the Lions. The Bills, in similar fashion to the Pats, have since been punished by the football gods and not permitted to play on Thanksgiving again.
November 28, 2002: Patriots 20 Lions 12
After serving their sentence in Thanksgiving Purgatory (and paying the price in 2000 with the Bledsoe led Patriots against the Lions in a 34-9 loss) The New England Patriots returned but this time with a secret weapon: A camcorder Tom Brady.
To be fair, Brady appeared in the 2000 massacre but was put into the game in relief of a horrific Bledsoe led offense. This day, however, was a different matter….sort of. Brady kinda stunk up the joint. He barely threw for 200 yards and threw a pick and no TDs but as was the case in the early Darth Belichick era the Patriots defense led the way. Patriot-Homer-For-Life Tedy Bruschi earned a pick 6 of the Lions on this day which really was the difference maker even though it was in the 1st Quarter. Neither team was lighting the world on fire with offense but if you rostered Jason Hanson from the Lions you would have likely won the kicker position in fantasy.
November 25, 2010: Jets 26 Bengals 10
In the new tradition started in 2006, the rest of the NFL was permitted to get in on the Thanksgiving fun thus ruining the day even further for those families that love football, but hate when the TV is on during dinner.
The Jets recorded their only Thanksgiving Day victory in their history on this day against Carson Palmer and the Bengals. It’s sort of like a precursor for Andy Dalton and the Bengals in primetime. However, this game wasn’t a game the Jets offense won. This was a special teams expo. Brad Smith lost his cleat on a kick off return for a TD, and also scored on an end around.
Jets did what they do best with Rex Ryan as their coach and played spectacular defense forcing multiple interceptions of Carson Palmer and a safety just to add insult to injury.
I wanted to make sure I got their once victory in here. I felt like it would be a nice gesture for poking at this next wound…
November 22, 2012: Patriots 49 Jets 19
10 seasons after the Patriots last appeared on Thanksgiving they treated us to one of the greatest 60 seconds of football if you enjoy wallowing in other’s misery.
It starts innocently enough. Shane Vareen escapes the backfield and catches a pass from Brady but because Wes Welker rubbed Bart Scott off his coverage Vareen takes it 83 yards to the house. Following the kick off we would be treated to a piece of infamy that will never be lived down.
Mark Sanchez takes the snap and turns the wrong way to hand off the ball which is a moot point because the Powell had run to the left and the fullback ran directly through the line without passing Go or collecting $200. As chaos ensues, Sanchez tries to salvage the play and rushes up the middle through the same hole the fullback did. Except Vince Wilfork shoves the OL back into Mark as he’s falling down and poof:
You have a Buttfumble. The best part of this infamous play is Mark rolling over and pounding the ground once he regains his bearings and realizes what just happened.
The icing on this particular Poo Sundae for the Jets is on the ensuing kick off the Jets commit their 4th turnover and Julian Edelman (red gloves and all) snatches the ball out of the air and jogs in for the third touchdown in 54 seconds. You need know nothing more of this game. This description contains it all. I suppose I could mention that the Jets forced a safety on Brady but at that point the score was already 35-5 and it was half way through the 3rd quarter and the Patriots were already eyeing the 6 turkey legs on that mutant turkey they trot out every year.
Thanksgiving is a time for family, food, and football. Enjoy your day, be safe, and above all else….don’t Buttfumble.