NFL

Ranking the 10 Best Turkey Bowl Games Ever

Josh SchochAnalyst IIINovember 18, 2013

Ranking the 10 Best Turkey Bowl Games Ever

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Football has become as much a part of Thanksgiving as anything, and it's not hard to see why. The NFL has come to put on some of its best performances on Turkey Day on a national stage.

    Thanksgiving has played host to some of the best games in league history, and playing on such a big stage always seems to bring drama with it.

    Let's take a look at the most exciting Thanksgiving games in NFL history.

10. Kansas City Chiefs 28, Detroit Lions 24 (1996)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Barry Sanders didn't get a lot of help from his Detroit Lions teammates in the 90s, but in this game he was the one weighing the team down.

    With just 77 yards, Sanders had a rough game. However, his Lions were actually winning for most of the game, including a 24-21 lead with 8:41 left in the fourth.

    However, the Chiefs would drive the length of the field on a drive that ate up almost eight minutes for their second touchdown of the fourth quarter. The team showed great clock management to slowly drive their way down the field and take the lead.

    The Chiefs simply didn't leave enough time on the clock for the Lions to have a chance to answer, and they would go on to win the game because of this incredible drive.

9. Denver Broncos 24, Dallas Cowboys 21 (2005)

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    This was the last Thanksgiving game to go to overtime, and the only one in last 14 years.

    The Broncos and Cowboys went back and forth all day, but it was Denver who took home the W in overtime after a big performance from a surprising star.

    Ron Dayne was expected to be an elite running back in the NFL after he came out of Wisconsin, but he never lived up to those lofty expectations. However, every dog has his day, and this was Dayne's.

    Despite only getting seven carries, Dayne proved to be a solid replacement option for the injured Mike Bell, rushing for 98 yards and a touchdown. His biggest play came on a 55-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal in overtime.

8. Houston Oilers 30, Dallas Cowboys 24 (1979)

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    Tony Duffy/Getty Images

    The Cowboys and Oilers seemed to play an instant classic every time they met on Thanksgiving day, and their meeting in 1979 was no exception.

    Led by Hall of Fame running backs Earl Campbell and Tony Dorsett, the two offenses would go back and forth for most of the game.

    Campbell was a hero for the Oilers that day, compiling 195 yards on the day, compared to Dorsett's 54 for Big D.

    However, the rest of the Cowboys were able to keep the game close, and Dallas actually led 24-23 late in the fourth quarter.

    Oilers quarterback Don Pastorini would have none of it, however, as he led the team down the field and hit Ken Burrough for the game-winning touchdown.

7. Detroit Lions 44, Minnesota Vikings 38 (1995)

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The Lions and Vikings apparently forgot to play defense on Thanksgiving day in 1995, as the two teams combined for 82 points.

    This shootout was led by quarterbacks Scott Mitchell and Warren Moon, who finished the game with an astounding 794 yards passing and 7 touchdowns between the two of them.

    Detroit had the difference-maker in Barry Sanders, however, as he racked up another 138 yards and a touchdown for the Lions.

    The Lions led for most of the game, but the Vikings just kept coming back. In fact, Moon's final pass of the game was intercepted in the end zone, but could have potentially won the game for Minnesota.

    It's rare to see two teams combine to put on an offensive show like this one on Thanksgiving, but the two teams kept butting heads until the final whistle.

6. Minnesota Vikings 44, Dallas Cowboys 38 (1987)

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Speaking of shootouts on Thanksgiving, the Vikings and Cowboys had a similar one of their own in 1987.

    The Vikings looked to put the Cowboys away three different times, taking 14-point leads on each occasion (14-0, 28-14, 38-24). However, Danny White and co. kept clawing their way back into the game.

    White's four touchdowns kept the Cowboys in the game, but his three interceptions also took them out of it. His third came in Vikings territory in overtime, and led to Minnesota's game-winning touchdown drive.

    Anthony Carter (184 yards on eight catches) and Darrin Nelson (118 yards, two touchdowns) led the Vikings on this day, and it was Nelson's 24-yard touchdown that ended it.

5. New Orleans Saints 30, Dallas Cowboys 27 (2010)

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    There might not ever be a more back-and-forth Thanksgiving game than the one between the Saints and Cowboys in 2010.

    The Saints came out firing on all cylinders in this one, running the score up to 17-0 in just over 10 minutes. They would then hold Dallas to just six points in the rest of the first half, leading 20-3 at halftime.

    The Cowboys wouldn't go away, however, opening the second half on a 21-3 run, stretching from their opening drive in the third quarter to the last two minutes of the game.

    Drew Brees then drove the Saints 89 yards in just over a minute, highlighted by a 55-yard pitch and catch to Robert Meachem and ending with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore to go up 30-27.

    However, Dallas would keep fighting.

    Even without Tony Romo, who was out with an injury, the Cowboys marched down the field behind quarterback Jon Kitna. He brought the team to the New Orleans 41-yard line, where the drive stalled when he threw three incompletions to Dez Bryant.

    The Cowboys then attempted a 59-yard field goal with 25 seconds left that would have sent the game to overtime, but David Buehler's kick sailed wide left to end the game.

4. Miami Dolphins 16, Dallas Cowboys 14 (1993)

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    Leon Lett is responsible for arguably the biggest blunder in a Thanksgiving game in NFL history.

    The Dolphins and Cowboys were playing in Dallas in 1993. It was a weird game from the beginning, as it was 32 degrees and snowing in Texas in November.

    The two sides had played sloppy, memorable football for just under 60 minutes when the Dolphins lined up for a 41-yard field goal that could win the game.

    Cowboys lineman Jimmie Jones looked like a hero when he blocked the kick and essentially sealed the game for Big D. However, Lett inexplicably decided not to let the ball come to a stop, diving after it and missing.

    Miami would then recover the ball on the one-yard line and kick a chip shot to win the game by two points in a ridiculous finish.

3. Detroit Lions 19, Pittsburgh Steelers 16 (1998)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    It's never good when a referee becomes the center of attention in a game, but that was the case when the Lions and Steelers met on Thanksgiving in 1998.

    The two teams couldn't separate from each other in the first 60 minutes of the game, being tied at 16 and heading to overtime.

    Referee Phil Luckett told Jerome Bettis to call the coin toss in the air. Bettis claims to have correctly called "tails", while Luckett said that he heard Bettis say "heads-tails" so Luckett awarded the ball to the Lions.

    As you can hear on this video, Bettis clearly does call "tails", and even the announcers are shocked that Luckett botched the ball.

    The Lions then took the kickoff and marched down the field to win the game on the field goal, leaving Pittsburgh fans to always wonder 'what if?'

2. Green Bay Packers 44, Detroit Lions 40 (1986)

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    A 1986 Thanksgiving game between the Packers and Lions was the national stage on which Walter Stanley became a legend.

    The Packers' receiver/return man was never really a star, but on this day he played like one.

    The game started with Green Bay taking a 23-13 lead, but saw the Lions come back with 24 unanswered points to leave the score at 37-23.

    The Packers did their best to get back in the game, scoring two touchdowns to trail by just three late in the fourth quarter. However, with a 40-37 lead and the ball, the Lions drained the clock down to under a minute before punting.

    That was all Stanley needed.

    Against the orders of his coach, Stanley took Detroit's punt from his own 13-yard line and brought it back 83 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

    When it was all said and done, Stanley finished the game with 3 touchdowns and 287 total yards, becoming a legend among Packers fans.

1. Dallas Cowboys 24, Washington Redskins 23 (1974)

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    When facing their arch-rivals in 1974, the Washington Redskins and coach George Allen had no concern for anything except winning.

    As former Redskins’ offensive lineman George Starke told ESPN 980 in March of last year, Allen went so far as to put a bounty on star Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach's head.

    Yes, George Allen did in fact put a bounty on Roger Staubach of 200 bucks, and the bounty was to knock him out. Not hurt him. Let’s be clear about that. Knock him out....We used call it drag-offs. Pete Wysocki named it drag-offs—if you hit him and knock him and he had to be drug off the field—and of course only defensive players think in those terms. That’s called a drag off. But just for irony, the only time George actually ever put a bounty on Roger Staubach happened to have been in the Thanksgiving game that Clint Longley came in and beat us. That was the only time.

    Linebacker Dave Robinson successfully knocked Staubach out of the game, but it didn't guarantee anything for the Redskins.

    Despite a 16-3 deficit and the fact that he had no NFL experience, backup quarterback Clint Longley stepped in and pulled off a miracle for the Cowboys.

    Scoring three of the last four touchdowns to end the game, the Cowboys won the game 24-23. The final strike came on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Longley to Drew Pearson with just 28 seconds left to cap off one of the most unbelievable comebacks in NFL history.

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