Coin flip controversy, Butt Fumble & Randy Moss' crazy game: NFL's greatest Thanksgiving moments

Mark Sanchez, Randy Moss, Jerome Bettis

Thanksgiving football. There’s simply not much that tops the feeling of three straight football games back-to-back-to-back all while eating some overrated food dosed in gravy, right?

I mean let’s be honest the food isn’t that good, but the football? Oh well that has given us some pretty memorable moments. Here are, in no particular order, my eight favorites.

The Randy Moss Game

Even if you didn’t actually watch this game you have almost certainly seen the graphic of Randy Moss’ stats. 

Moss was already on his way to a solid rookie campaign with the Vikings, but his Thanksgiving showing against the Cowboys in 1998 was the signature moment that vaulted him ahead of the pack in the rookie of the year race. 

Moss finished the game with three catches and 168 yards, for three touchdowns. It was a once-in-a-lifetime performance that let the NFL know just how much trouble they were in for the next decade. 

Video: Randy Moss puts up Madden numbers on Thanksgiving in 1998:

Lawrence Taylor’s Game Winner

In an absolute defensive battle, the Giants and Lions were tied at six heading into the fourth quarter, but Detroit was driving down the field and looked poised to score the first touchdown of the game.

The Lions, riding the back of Billy Sims and his 114-yard performance, had gotten all the way to the three-yard line. Instead of sticking with Sims though, the Lions drew up a play for Horace King that Lawrence Taylor was all over. The reigning defensive rookie – and player – of the year jumped the route and took the ball 97 yards to the house as he put New York up 13-6. 

No one would score after that, as Taylor’s play turned out to be the game-winning play en route to another defensive player of the year award.

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Barry Sanders Goes Nuclear

Don’t worry Lions fans I got you. I know the LT pick-six isn’t the fondest of memories, but I’m sure Barry Sanders’ three touchdown performance brightens your mood.

Led by Sanders’ 167 rushing yards and the aforementioned three touchdowns, the Lions dropped 55 points on the Bears in an absolute rout on Thanksgiving. 

The Lions ended up with north of 500 yards on the game and marked the signature moment during Barry’s 1997 MVP-campaign.

Heads… uh no I mean Tails

After a back-and-forth four quarters of football, the Steelers and Lions were headed to overtime in a 1998 Thanksgiving showdown. 

While most of the game up to that point had been fairly normal, during the coin toss Bettis initially called heads, but then flipped to tails while the coin was still in the air. The ref stood with Bettis’ initial call of heads, so when the coin landed as tails, the Lions were awarded the ball.

Bettis, outraged, can be heard yelling at the ref “I said tails!” but to no avail. The Lions would drive down and score a touchdown on their first possession, sealing the win for Detroit.

Video: Jerome Bettis causes confusion at the coin toss:

Peyton Manning throws for six

In 2004, Peyton Manning absolutely shredded the Lions defense, throwing for 238 yards and six touchdowns en route to a blowout victory of 41-9 for the Colts.

It was performances like these that led Manning to break Dan Marino’s single-season touchdown record as the former Tennessee Volunteer tallied 49 on the year. 

He probably could have tallied more than six too had the Lions made it a more competitive game, as Manning was taken out after the third quarter.

The Butt Fumble

The first real Thanksgiving football moment I remember watching was this.

With the Jets down 14-0 in the second quarter, Mark Sanchez attempted a QB run up the middle, and well, you probably know the rest.

Patriots’ defensive tackle Vince Wilfork made an impressive play, shoving Jets guard Brandon Moore backward into Sanchez as his butt collided with Sanchez’s face. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, the contact jarred the ball loose, allowing the Patriots to pick it up and run it 32 yards the other way for a touchdown. 

The Pats went on to win the game 49-19 in what was one of the most humiliating Thanksgiving games in NFL history. 

O.J. Simpson rushes into the history books

After recording the first 2,000-yard rushing season in 1973, Simpson then went on to rush for a then-NFL record 273 yards on Thanksgiving day in 1976. 

Simpson also tacked on two touchdowns, and was also quite efficient on the day, only needing 29 carries to reach the record-breaking number. 

The performance wasn’t enough though, as the Bills still lost the game 27-14 to the Lions.

Leon Lett’s Fumble in the Snow

Although this was well before my time in watching football, I still know about this play. 

Fresh off arguably the biggest blunder in Super Bowl history, Leon Lett made yet another poor decision. With the score 14-13, the Dolphins attempted a game-winning field goal but after it was blocked by Jimmie Johnson, Leon Lett went to recover the football, making it a live ball. Unfortunately with all the snow, Lett was unable to corral it as the Dolphins recovered with three seconds left.

Miami wouldn’t miss the second kick, as they went on to win 16-14 in what was yet another blemish on Lett’s career.

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