History, traditions and greatest moments

Thanksgiving Day to sports activities followers is as a lot about soccer as it’s in regards to the conventional turkey dinner. From highschool soccer within the morning to watching the afternoon sport on TV as dinner begins, this custom is as outdated as time. Nicely, nearly as outdated as time.

The Detroit Lions have performed at dwelling on Thanksgiving yearly since 1934 — besides when video games have been paused from 1939 to 1944 throughout World Struggle II. The annual vacation custom expanded so as to add a house sport for the Dallas Cowboys within the Sixties. These franchises — and their followers — solely know soccer on Thanksgiving. In 2006, the NFL added a 3rd sport with no particular host staff to the prime-time window.

The 2022 Thanksgiving Day schedule:

So why do the Lions and Cowboys at all times play at dwelling on Thanksgiving? What does the day appear to be for the coaches, gamers, households and followers who put their vacation celebrations on pause to participate? And what number of 1000’s of kilos of meals is served on the stadium? We requested NFL Nation reporters Todd Archer and Eric Woodyard to clarify the historical past.

Now we have additionally laid out the Thanksgiving stats and numbers you need to know and even took a journey again in time to discover the most important and greatest moments on the turkey day stage. (Word: This text was initially posted in November 2021 and has been up to date for 2022.)

Bounce to:
Thanksgiving data | By the numbers
Finest moments in Thanksgiving historical past

How the Thanksgiving custom started

The Lions have been first as much as host video games yearly: In 1934, Lions proprietor G.A. Richards scheduled a vacation matchup between the Lions and the Bears. Earlier that yr Richards had bought the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans soccer staff and moved it to the Motor Metropolis, renaming it the Detroit Lions. The Bears, the defending back-to-back world champions, beat the Lions 19-16 in entrance of 26,000 followers on the College of Detroit Stadium on Nov. 29, 1934.

Now, greater than eight many years later, Thanksgiving soccer has turn out to be a staple in Detroit with the Lions going 37-42-2 within the annual vacation traditional. — Woodyard

Thirty-two years later, the Cowboys joined as a house staff: The Cowboys first performed on Thanksgiving in 1966, beating the Cleveland Browns 26-14 on the Cotton Bowl. Basic supervisor Tex Schramm needed extra nationwide publicity for the Cowboys — this was earlier than they have been referred to as America’s Group — and thought the vacation sport made good sense. The NFL was a bit anxious, nevertheless, and assured the Cowboys a specific amount of gate income. Some 80,259 followers confirmed up and a practice was born. The Cowboys have performed on each Thanksgiving Day since — besides in 1975 and 1977.

Why did not the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving these two years? Previous to the 1975 season, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle needed to see if the St. Louis Cardinals might construct their recognition below coach Don Coryell, whose groups have been nicknamed the Cardiac Children due to their thrilling finishes. So he scheduled them to host Thanksgiving video games in 1975 and 1977. Sadly, the Cardinals misplaced each video games decidedly, and Rozelle went again to Schramm to ask whether or not the Cowboys would take the Thanksgiving sport again.

“It was a dud in St. Louis,” Schramm mentioned in 1988 to the Chicago Tribune. “Pete requested if we would take it again. I mentioned provided that we get it completely. It is one thing you must construct as a practice. He mentioned, ‘It is yours eternally.'” — Archer

Thanksgiving data

Given how lengthy the collection has lasted, it isn’t a shock that the Lions have probably the most wins and losses on Thanksgiving Day. However two different groups that frequent the vacation custom are the Bears and Packers.

What’s it prefer to play on Thanksgiving?

Ezekiel Elliott has performed on Thanksgiving yearly however one since becoming a member of the Cowboys in 2016. He would not have one favourite reminiscence.

“My favourite factor about taking part in on Thanksgiving is we’re the one staff taking part in at the moment, all eyes on us,” Elliott mentioned in 2021. “Everyone seems to be watching. We have got the stage so we simply should exit and deal with our enterprise.”

Elliott had a viral second when he tossed Dak Prescott into the Salvation Military pink kettle after a landing within the 2018 sport vs. Washington.

“I do not assume it was actually preplanned,” Elliott mentioned. “It was type of spur of the second.” — Archer

Lomas Brown, former Lions Professional Bowl OT (1985-95), mentioned gamers view the Thanksgiving sport as a gauge for a way the season goes or the way it wants to finish.

“The Thanksgiving Day sport type of marks the purpose of the season that you simply’re in,” he mentioned in 2021. “Which means, you are on the brink of flip the final quarter of the season over and get into the homestretch or get into the stretch to the place if you wish to be a playoff staff. Or for those who’re gonna make some noise within the playoffs, that you must begin taking part in higher. At that time, all the things must be clicking for you, particularly for those who’re at that time within the season.”

The Lions’ No. 2 general choose and Michigan native, Aidan Hutchinson, will play in his first Thanksgiving sport in 2022.

“It is gonna be cool,” he mentioned. “I’ve obtained an entire bunch of individuals coming to the sport. That is gonna be my first time taking part in two video games in 4 days, so it is quite a lot of thrilling stuff and hopefully we get an enormous win on Thanksgiving. After which go have fun after, eat some turkey and eat some good meals. So that is the plan.

“I am on the lookout for a win.” — Woodyard

How do gamers have fun Thanksgiving?

All celebrations typically do not occur till the following day, when Lions gamers can have fun with their households. Brown says he “could not wait till after the sport was over, man.”

“As a result of look, it wasn’t simply that Thursday night time, no less than for me, I went on an consuming binge Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I’d placed on weight over the vacation as a result of a brother would throw down as a result of you did not have no extra accountability after that sport till subsequent week. So, it was nearly like one other little open week and that is the way in which we type of checked out it, too.” — Woodyard

For the Cowboys, most gamers with households will even have fun on Friday. With a late-afternoon kickoff, more often than not gamers is not going to get again to their properties till later within the night, far too late for such a heavy meal. — Archer

Are there any staff traditions?

Whereas the Lions do not maintain any locker room or staff traditions for the vacation sport, Brown mentioned that former Lions coach Wayne Fontes did place further emphasis on the annual contest by dropping inclinations about its significance all all through the season. Gamers took that to coronary heart, too.

“After I seemed on the schedule when it got here out, the second factor I checked out was Thanksgiving,” Brown mentioned. “The very first thing I at all times checked out was to see if we had a Monday Night time Soccer sport, then the second factor could be who’re we taking part in on Thanksgiving. That was the order yearly once I seemed on the schedule. Thanksgiving was just about crucial factor and we used to emphasise that as leaders on the staff. We used to inform the entire younger boys coming in that we do not lose on Thanksgiving. That is a sport that we mentioned we positively needed to win.” — Woodyard

The Cowboys open the Salvation Military’s Pink Kettle Kickoff Marketing campaign at halftime of each Thanksgiving sport. Since 1997, practically $3 billion has been raised, and aiding the Salvation Military is a long-standing precedence for Cowboys proprietor Jerry Jones. Jerry, alongside along with his daughter Charlotte, have led a number of initiatives year-round with the Salvation Military, from elevating cash with the 50/50 raffle at video games to vacation initiatives that profit native communities.

In most years, Cowboys gamers will go to a Salvation Military shelter in Dallas or Fort Value and feed early Thanksgiving Day meals to these in want, though that observe has been placed on maintain the previous two years due to the pandemic.

Previously, gamers typically have been joined by their wives and kids. Former TE Jason Witten had his two sons and two daughters take part in handing out meals throughout his profession with the Cowboys.

“I simply attempt to inform [my kids], ‘Look, you are going to have a possibility to provide again to folks which might be much less lucky,'” Witten mentioned a number of years in the past. “They do it with a cheerful coronary heart. I feel they like seeing these followers and with the ability to hand out that meals.” — Archer

What are some season-ticket holder traditions?

There’s a tailgating group of greater than 100 die-hard Lions followers who collect vivid and early at 9 a.m. usually within the parking zone of Detroit’s Jap Market. Normally, they prepare dinner about 4 turkeys and every indicators as much as carry a aspect dish. The dishes are named based mostly on the staff the Lions are dealing with — for instance, Bears Stew and Mac-And-Not-Packer-Cheese.

Megan Stefanski, a lifelong Lions fan and longtime season-ticket holder, helps manage the festivities. She makes a five-hour drive from Goetzville, Michigan — positioned within the Higher Peninsula — to Detroit.

Mark “Pilgrim” Mullins has been a season-ticket holder since 1991 and attire up yearly as a pilgrim for every Thanksgiving Day sport along with his daughter, Mandie, accompanying him additionally in costume.

“We’re recognized in Detroit because the pilgrims,” he mentioned in 2021. “Matter of truth, I’ve obtained souvenirs from all my mates this yr as a result of it is my thirtieth anniversary of really dressing because the pilgrim.” Annually, he has added to his costume, because the Pontiac Silverdome days and now at Ford Discipline. He additionally attends the tailgates with Stefanski.

“That was the entire purpose was simply to decorate like a pilgrim, be festive and get on TV,” Mullins mentioned. “So, the following yr comes round and the entire folks in my part have been like, ‘Hey, large man, you are gonna be the pilgrim once more?’ And I am like, ‘Nicely, I assume I ought to.'” — Woodyard

And the way about maybe probably the most well-known Cowboys season-ticket (or suite) holder, Roger Staubach?

The Corridor of Fame quarterback, higher referred to as Captain America, holds an annual Turkey Bowl sport at AT&T Stadium on the day earlier than Thanksgiving.

How a lot sway does Staubach have? As he entered The Star final November, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy needed to catch his breath in a method as he noticed the quarterback.

“That is Roger Staubach,” McCarthy, a Pittsburgh native, mentioned, turning his consideration again to the media. “Man, I am shook. Simply fascinated by the outdated Tremendous Bowls, Steelers and the Cowboys …” — Archer

Group dinners

The night time earlier than Thanksgiving isn’t essentially a staff turkey dinner for the Cowboys, however turkey and all of the fixings can be found for the gamers if they need. However quite a lot of the gamers keep on with their conventional night-before-game meal of both a steak, rooster, fish or pasta. Given how most individuals really feel after gorging down their turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, it is most likely sensible the gamers do not gorge themselves like that. — Archer

The Lions do not have one large staff Thanksgiving dinner, as some would possibly assume. Some guys would understandably quite eat at dwelling with household. Conventional Thanksgiving fare is often served to gamers on the day earlier than the sport. — Woodyard

What does Cowboys proprietor Jerry Jones eat for Thanksgiving?

The Joneses are like most of their gamers. They’ve a full Thanksgiving meal on the Friday after the Cowboys sport at Jerry’s dwelling in Highland Park. It is a conventional Thanksgiving meal with dishes whose recipes have been handed down via the years from the moms of Jerry and Gene Jones.

On the high of the listing are the household recipes for duck, dressing and candy potatoes. — Archer

Thanksgiving dinners on the stadium

For all of the Cowboys’ suite holders, in addition to these with entry to the membership areas and the press field at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, a conventional Thanksgiving Day meal is served. — Archer

Right here is the breakdown of the meals that was served in 2021, in response to Legends Hospitality:

  • 11,500 kilos of turkey

  • 7,600 kilos of Cowboys Mac ‘N Cheese

  • 4,640 kilos of cornbread

  • 4,150 kilos of ham

  • 2,340 kilos of potato puree

  • 234 gallons of cranberry sauce

  • 175 gallons of whipped cream for desserts

At Ford Discipline in Detroit, the stadium’s culinary hospitality staff will get the day began at 3 a.m. ET to make sure all the things is able to go forward of the 12:30 p.m. kickoff. For followers within the stadium, earlier years featured turkey legs, loaded candy potatoes and bourbon-spiked cider out there to buy. And extra intensive Thanksgiving meals are served to suite members. — Woodyard

Here is a breakdown of meals by the pound, in response to Levy Eating places in 2021:

  • 1,300 kilos of turkey

  • 1,000 turkey legs

  • 2,500 slices of pie

  • 75 gallons of gravy

  • 35 gallons of cranberry sauce

  • 25 gallons of cranberry BBQ sauce

  • 2,000 kilos of mashed potatoes

  • 400 kilos of inexperienced beans

  • 300 kilos of corn on the cob

  • 1,100 kilos of stuffing

Thanksgiving by the numbers

1: Variety of groups to by no means play on Thanksgiving Day: Jacksonville Jaguars

4: Winless groups on Thanksgiving: Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jaguars

6: Most touchdowns in a single Thanksgiving sport, held by Bob Griese (1977) and Peyton Manning (2004).

6: Thanksgiving Day shutouts because the merger in 1970. There has not been a shutout because the Cowboys shut out the Miami Dolphins in 1999.

8.5: Most profession sacks on Thanksgiving, held by former Lions DE Ezekiel Ansah.

11: Most profession receiving touchdowns, held by former Lions WR Calvin Johnson.

18: Most profession landing passes on Thanksgiving, held by former Cowboys QB Tony Romo and former Lions QB Matthew Stafford.

895: Most profession receiving yards on Thanksgiving, held by former Cowboys TE Jason Witten.

1,178: Most profession dashing yards on Thanksgiving, held by former Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith. Smith additionally has probably the most profession dashing touchdowns on Thanksgiving with 13.

3,000: Most profession passing yards on Thanksgiving, held by Stafford in 10 profession Thanksgiving video games.

Thanksgiving’s greatest moments


Backup QB Clint Longley took over for a concussed Roger Staubach with the Cowboys trailing Washington 16-3. Longley rallied Dallas by capping off the comeback with a 50-yard landing cross to Drew Pearson with 28 seconds left to edge Washington 24-23.


The Bears rallied from 17-3 right down to defeat the Lions 23-17 in time beyond regulation behind Dave Williams’ 95-yard kickoff return. It was the primary time beyond regulation sport on turkey day (the OT interval was instituted in 1974).


New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor returned a 97-yard pick-six in a 13-6 win over the Lions.


Cowboys defensive sort out Leon Lett inexplicably tried to get better a blocked game-winning discipline purpose try. The ball was booted ahead by Lett and recovered by the Dolphins on the 2-yard line. Miami linked on its subsequent discipline purpose try and received 16-14.


Barry Sanders and the Lions crushed the Bears 55-20, with Sanders dashing for 167 yards and three touchdowns.


Vikings rookie Randy Moss had solely three catches, however all three went for 50-plus-yard touchdowns in a 46-36 win over the Cowboys. Three catches. Three TDs. 163 yards.


In Indianapolis’ 41-9 win over the Lions, Colts QB Peyton Manning threw six touchdowns, tied for probably the most on Thanksgiving Day with Bob Griese (1977).


Tom Brady completed with an ideal passer score. Brady accomplished 21 of 27 passes for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns within the Patriots’ 45-24 rout of the Lions. The Patriots really trailed 24-17 halfway via the third quarter earlier than Brady threw three landing passes — of 79 and 22 yards to Deion Department, and 16 yards to Wes Welker — in a span of 13 minutes, 30 seconds.


A play nobody will overlook. Jets QB Mark Sanchez fumbled the ball after operating right into a teammate in New York’s 49-19 loss to the Patriots. Also referred to as the “Butt Fumble.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *