History, traditions and finest 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 From highschool soccer within the morning to watching the afternoon sport on TV as dinner begins, this custom is as outdated as time. Nicely, virtually as outdated as time.

The Detroit Lions have performed at house on Thanksgiving yearly since 1934 — besides when video games have been paused from 1939 to 1944 throughout World Battle II. The annual vacation custom expanded so as to add a house sport 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 sport with no particular host workforce to the prime-time window.

The 2022 Thanksgiving Day schedule:

So why do the Lions and Cowboys all the time play at house 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.

We now have additionally laid out the Thanksgiving stats and numbers you must know and even took a journey again in time to discover the largest and finest moments on the turkey day stage. (Word: 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 12 months Richards had bought the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans soccer workforce 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 change into a staple in Detroit with the Lions going 37-42-2 within the annual vacation basic. — Woodyard

Thirty-two years later, the Cowboys joined as a house workforce: 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 Workforce — and thought the vacation sport made good sense. The NFL was a bit fearful, nevertheless, and assured the Cowboys a certain quantity of gate income. Some 80,259 followers confirmed up and a convention 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 recognition underneath coach Don Coryell, whose groups have been nicknamed the Cardiac Youngsters 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 asked if we’d take it back. I said only if we get it permanently. It’s something you have to build as a tradition. He said, ‘It’s yours forever.'” — Archer

Thanksgiving information

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 wish 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 favorite thing about playing on Thanksgiving is we’re the only team playing at that time, all eyes on us,” Elliott mentioned in 2021. “Everyone is watching. We’ve got the stage so we just have to go out and handle our business.”

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 don’t think it was really preplanned,” Elliott mentioned. “It was kind of spur of the moment.” — Archer

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

“The Thanksgiving Day game kind of marks the point of the season that you’re in,” he mentioned in 2021. “Meaning, you’re getting ready to turn the last quarter of the season over and get into the homestretch or get into the stretch to where if you want to be a playoff team. Or if you’re gonna make some noise in the playoffs, you need to start playing better. At that point, everything should be clicking for you, especially if you’re at that point in the season.”

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

“It’s gonna be cool,” he mentioned. “I’ve got a whole bunch of people coming to the game. This is gonna be my first time playing two games in four days, so it’s a lot of exciting stuff and hopefully we get a big win on Thanksgiving. And then go celebrate after, eat some turkey and eat some good food. So that’s the plan.

“I am searching for a win.” — Woodyard

How do players celebrate Thanksgiving?

All celebrations generally don’t happen until the next day, when Lions players can celebrate with their families. 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, at the very least 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 accountability after that sport till subsequent week. So, it was virtually like one other little open week and that is the best way we form of checked out it, too.” — Woodyard

For the Cowboys, most players with families will also celebrate on Friday. With a late-afternoon kickoff, most of the time players will not get back to their homes until later in the evening, far too late for such a heavy meal. — Archer

Are there any team traditions?

While the Lions don’t hold any locker room or team traditions for the holiday game, Brown said that former Lions coach Wayne Fontes did place extra emphasis on the annual contest by dropping inclinations about its importance all throughout the season. Players took that to heart, too.

“Once I regarded on the schedule when it got here out, the second factor I checked out was Thanksgiving,” Brown said. “The very first thing I all the time checked out was to see if we had a Monday Evening Soccer sport, then the second factor can be who’re we enjoying on Thanksgiving. That was the order yearly after I regarded on the schedule. Thanksgiving was just about crucial factor and we used to emphasise that as leaders on the workforce. 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 Crimson Kettle Kickoff Marketing campaign at halftime of each Thanksgiving sport. 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 observe has been placed on maintain the previous two years due to the pandemic.

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

“I just try to tell [my kids], ‘Look, you’re going to have an opportunity to give back to people that are less fortunate,'” Witten mentioned just a few years in the past. “They do it with a happy heart. I think they like seeing those fans and being able to hand out that food.” — 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. sometimes within the car parking zone of Detroit’s Japanese 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 workforce 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 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 attire up yearly as a pilgrim for every Thanksgiving Day sport along with his daughter, Mandie, accompanying him additionally in costume.

“We’re known in Detroit as the pilgrims,” he mentioned in 2021. “Matter of fact, I’ve got souvenirs from all my friends this year because it’s my 30th anniversary of actually dressing as the pilgrim.” Every year, 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 whole goal was just to dress like a pilgrim, be festive and get on TV,” Mullins mentioned. “So, the next year comes around and all of the people in my section were like, ‘Hey, big guy, you’re gonna be the pilgrim again?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I guess I should.'” — 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 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’s Roger Staubach,” McCarthy, a Pittsburgh native, mentioned, turning his consideration again to the media. “Man, I’m shook. Just thinking about the old Super Bowls, Steelers and the Cowboys …” — Archer

Team dinners

The night before Thanksgiving is not necessarily a team turkey dinner for the Cowboys, but turkey and all the fixings are available for the players if they want. But a lot of the players stick with their traditional night-before-game meal of either a steak, chicken, fish or pasta. Given how most people feel after wolfing down their turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, it’s probably wise the players don’t gorge themselves like that. — Archer

The Lions don’t have one big team Thanksgiving dinner, as some might think. Some guys would understandably rather eat at home with family. Traditional Thanksgiving fare is typically served to players at the day before the game. — Woodyard

What does Cowboys owner 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 house in Highland Park. It is a conventional Thanksgiving meal with dishes whose recipes have been handed down by the years from the moms of Jerry and Gene Jones.

On the high 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 standard Thanksgiving Day meal is served. — Archer

Right here is the breakdown of the meals that was served in 2021, based on 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 workforce will get the day began at 3 a.m. ET to make sure every thing 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 obtainable to buy. And extra in depth Thanksgiving meals are served to suite members. — Woodyard

Here is a breakdown of meals by the pound, based on 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 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 go 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 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 deal with Leon Lett inexplicably tried to get better a blocked game-winning discipline objective try. The ball was booted ahead by Lett and recovered by the Dolphins on the 2-yard line. Miami related on its subsequent discipline objective 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 ranking. Brady accomplished 21 of 27 passes for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns within the Patriots’ 45-24 rout of the Lions. The Patriots truly trailed 24-17 halfway by 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.”