What’s more American than eating tons of turkey on Thanksgiving while watching one pro football game after another?
Over the years, some of the games themselves have been real turkeys (we’re looking at you, Detroit), but memorable moments like these make watching all of those lopsided contests worthwhile.
1974: The Rookie - Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
Quarterback Clint Longley, a Dallas Cowboys rookie, took the field after starter Roger Staubach was felled by a concussion in the third quarter. With his team down 16-3, Longley threw a 35 yard touchdown pass, drove the team on a 70-yard touchdown drive, and then with seconds remaining, and the Cowboys down 23-17, slung a 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Drew Pearson. The Cowboys won 24-23. The rest of Longley’s Cowboys career didn’t go as well, as he was traded the following year after he sucker punched Staubach in the locker room.
1989: The Bounty Bowl – Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Rumors were running wild that the Eagles had put a $200 bounty put on the heads of Dallas Cowboys kicker Luis Zendejas, who had been let go by the Eagles, and rookie quarterback Troy Aikman. The Eagles crushed the hapless Cowboys, who would finish the season 1-15, winning in a runaway, 27–0. Afterwards, Eagles coach Buddy Ryan said of the alleged bounty: “Be realistic, if you had a bounty out, why in the hell would you put it on a kicker who’s been in a six-week slump?” Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson was reportedly so mad he wanted to yell at Ryan, saying afterward “I would have said something to Buddy, but he wouldn't stand on the field long enough. He put his big, fat rear end into the dressing room.”
1998: The Coin Toss – Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions
The Steelers had managed to tie the closely fought game 16-16 and force an overtime. The Steelers captain, running back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, called tails on the ensuing coin flip, but referee Phil Luckett said Bettis had called heads. The coin landed on tails, the Lions got the ball, and kicked a field goal on their first possession. Game over: Lions win, 19-16. The coin toss blunder caused the league to change how it was done going forward, with the visiting captain calling his toss before the coin was flipped, not after.
2012: The Butt Fumble – New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
Quarterback Mark Sanchez and his Jets teammates’ brief miscommunication on Thanksgiving turned into one of the funniest plays in NFL history. Sanchez moved back from center to hand the ball off to his running back, who was nowhere to be found. Sanchez attempted to salvage a couple of yards by running it himself, but instead ran full speed, head first into his own lineman’s backside, bounced off like a pinball, and fumbled the football. The Patriots returned Sanchez’s “butt fumble” for a touchdown on their way to a 49-19 rout.
2011: The Ejection – Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers
The Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh did not want to break bread with his opponents on Turkey Day. During a showdown between the Lions and the Green Bay Packers, Suh pounded the head of Evan Dietrich-Smith into the field three times after tackling him, and then punctuated that with a foot stomp to the stomach. Suh, known throughout the league as a dirty player, was yanked from the game, and sat out the next two. Green Bay had the last laugh though, winning 27-15.