Welcome to Thanksgiving within the NFL: All the things it’s essential know in regards to the historical past, information, moments and extra

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 recreation on TV as dinner begins, this custom is as previous as time. Nicely, virtually as previous 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 recreation for the Dallas Cowboys within the Nineteen Sixties. These franchises — and their followers — solely know soccer on Thanksgiving. In 2006, the NFL added a 3rd recreation with no particular host group 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 hundreds of kilos of meals is served on the stadium? We requested NFL Nation reporters Todd Archer and Eric Woodyard to clarify the historical past.

We have now additionally laid out the Thanksgiving stats and numbers it is best to know and even took a journey again in time to discover the most important and finest moments on the turkey day stage. (Notice: This text was initially posted in November 2021 and has been up to date for 2022.)

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Thanksgiving information | By the numbers
Greatest 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 group 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 a long time later, Thanksgiving soccer has develop into 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 group: The Cowboys first performed on Thanksgiving in 1966, beating the Cleveland Browns 26-14 on the Cotton Bowl. Normal supervisor Tex Schramm wished extra nationwide publicity for the Cowboys — this was earlier than they have been often called America’s Group — and thought the vacation recreation 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 wished to see if the St. Louis Cardinals might construct their reputation beneath 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 recreation again.

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

Thanksgiving information

Given how lengthy the sequence 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 group taking part in at the moment, all eyes on us,” Elliott stated in 2021. “Everyone seems to be watching. We have got the stage so we simply must exit and deal with our enterprise.”

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

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

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

“The Thanksgiving Day recreation form of marks the purpose of the season that you just’re in,” he stated 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 group. Or in the event you’re gonna make some noise within the playoffs, it’s essential begin taking part in higher. At that time, all the things must be clicking for you, particularly in the event you’re at that time within the season.”

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

“It is gonna be cool,” he stated. “I’ve obtained a complete 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 a number of thrilling stuff and hopefully we get a giant win on Thanksgiving. After which go have fun after, eat some turkey and eat some good meals. So that is the plan.

“I am searching for a win.” — Woodyard

How do gamers have fun Thanksgiving?

All celebrations usually do not occur till the subsequent 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, not less than for me, I went on an consuming binge Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I might 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 duty after that recreation till subsequent week. So, it was virtually like one other little open week and that is the way in which we form of checked out it, too.” — Woodyard

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

Are there any group traditions?

Whereas the Lions do not maintain any locker room or group traditions for the vacation recreation, Brown stated 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.

“Once I seemed on the schedule when it got here out, the second factor I checked out was Thanksgiving,” Brown stated. “The very first thing I at all times checked out was to see if we had a Monday Night time Soccer recreation, then the second factor can 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 group. We used to inform the entire younger boys coming in that we do not lose on Thanksgiving. That is a recreation that we stated we positively needed to win.” — Woodyard

The Cowboys open the Salvation Military’s Purple Kettle Kickoff Marketing campaign at halftime of each Thanksgiving recreation. Since 1997, almost $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 follow has been placed on maintain the previous two years due to the pandemic.

Prior to now, gamers usually 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 chance to offer again to individuals which might be much less lucky,'” Witten stated a number of years in the past. “They do it with a contented coronary heart. I believe they like seeing these followers and having 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 brilliant and early at 9 a.m. usually within the parking zone of Detroit’s Jap Market. Normally, they cook dinner about 4 turkeys and every indicators as much as deliver a facet dish. The dishes are named primarily based on the group the Lions are going through — for instance, Bears Stew and Mac-And-Not-Packer-Cheese.

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

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

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

“That was the entire aim was simply to decorate like a pilgrim, be festive and get on TV,” Mullins stated. “So, the subsequent yr comes round and the entire individuals in my part have been like, ‘Hey, massive 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 often called Captain America, holds an annual Turkey Bowl recreation 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 approach as he noticed the quarterback.

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

Group dinners

The night time earlier than Thanksgiving is just not essentially a group turkey dinner for the Cowboys, however turkey and all of the fixings can be found for the gamers if they need. However a number of the gamers stick to 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 massive group Thanksgiving dinner, as some would possibly assume. Some guys would understandably moderately 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 recreation 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 prime of the record 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 keeping with 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 Area in Detroit, the stadium’s culinary hospitality group 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 accessible to buy. And extra in depth Thanksgiving meals are served to suite members. — Woodyard

Here is a breakdown of meals by the pound, in keeping with 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 recreation, 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 finest 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 all the way down to defeat the Lions 23-17 in additional time behind Dave Williams’ 95-yard kickoff return. It was the primary additional time recreation 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 recuperate a blocked game-winning area aim try. The ball was booted ahead by Lett and recovered by the Dolphins on the 2-yard line. Miami related on its subsequent area aim try and gained 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 neglect. Jets QB Mark Sanchez fumbled the ball after working right into a teammate in New York’s 49-19 loss to the Patriots. Also called the “Butt Fumble.”

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