10 Greatest Thanksgiving Football Moments, From Mark Sanchez’s Butt Fumble to Peyton Manning’s Huge Day (Photos)

Sean Burch

Turkey, family and football. It’s a Thanksgiving trio that’s been going strong for nearly a century now. Your first thought when it comes to Thanksgiving football might be simply that the Detroit Lions play — and lose — every year, during an otherwise “meh” day of games. But your memory would be deceiving you. First off, the Lions aren’t that bad on Thanksgiving, with an all-time holiday record of 37-40-2. Not too shabby.  And there have been a fair amount of noteworthy performances, controversies and bloopers on Thanksgiving — enough to even make a list of 10 memorable football moments without having to resort to including that “Friends” episode where Monica and Ross wrestle over the ball for hours.

Check out our 10 memorable moments below:

Butt Fumble 2012

Butt fumble. How could we not start here? Two simple words joining together to perfectly and succinctly summarize what is perhaps the most infamous NFL blooper ever. If you’ve seen it once, you can’t forget it: Jets QB Mark Sanchez dropping back, then immediately darting forward and running directly into the rump of beefy teammate Brandon Allen. Sanchez dropped the ball to the ground and it was promptly run back for a touchdown by the Patriots — putting them up 21-0 on their way to a Thanksgiving 2012 blowout. It was a “Three Stooges” skit come to life, and for non-Jets fans is the first thing fans remember about Sanchez, not his back-to-back trips to the AFC title game.

Mike Tomlin 2013

Chicanery or an honest mistake? Depends on if you’re talking to a Ravens or Steelers fan about their 2013 matchup. Ravens return man Jacoby Jones looked like he was on his way to a kickoff return touchdown until Steelers coach Mike Tomlin entered the picture. Tomlin, with his back to Jones and his foot straddling the field, helped slow down Jones just enough to help Cortez Allen tackle him. The “defense” from Tomlin saved a touchdown, as the Ravens were only able to convert a field goal on the drive. Baltimore went on to narrowly win the game 22-20, anyway. Afterward, Tomlin said he’d simply “lost my placement” while watching the play on the Jumbotron. He was later fined $100,000 by the NFL for his close proximity to the the field.

Randy Moss 1998

Revenge was on the menu for Randy Moss in 1998. Months after being passed over by the Cowboys in the draft, Moss torched Dallas for 163 yards and three scores as the Vikings waltzed to a 46-36 victory. He was efficient, too, needing only 3 catches to rack up his three touchdowns.

Leon Lett 1993

Poor Leon Lett probably had a rough Thanksgiving dinner in 1993. The Cowboys blocked what seemed like a game-winning field goal attempt from the Dolphins with less than 30 seconds to play… only to have Lett come sliding in and bump the ball as it rolled around on the ground, making it a live ball once again. The ball continued rolling around before the Dolphins recovered it and had another opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal. Miami didn’t miss it’s second try and ended up winning 16-14. It was a monumental blunder by Lett, but he still ended up with a Super Bowl ring at the end of the season.

Bob Griese 1977

Dolphins QB Bob Griese torched the St. Louis Cardinals in 1977, tossing 6 touchdown passes in only three quarters of play, as Miami went on to rack up a Thanksgiving record 55 points in their victory.

Peyton Manning 2004

27 years later, Peyton Manning did his best Griese impression: The NFL legend threw 6 touchdown passes — also in only 3 quarters of play — as the Colts drubbed the Lions 41-9 on Thanksgiving day 2004.

Jerome Bettis 1998

Talk about a wild finish. With the Steelers and Lions knotted at 16, referee Phil Luckett goes to flip the coin at the beginning of overtime; Steelers running back Jerome Bettis starts to say “heads” but changes his mind to “tails,” all while the coin is flipping in the air. Luckett awards the ball to the Lions, though, after the coin comes up tails. Bettis looks around, baffled, with his arms upturned. Minutes later, the Lions won the game 19-16 on a field goal kick from Jason Hanson. Players are now required to choose heads or tails before the coin is flipped.

Richard Sherman 2014

Richard Sherman and the 49ers are flying high in 2019, but five years ago he was on the other side of the Seattle-San Francisco rivalry. Sherman’s two interceptions helped the Seahawks take down the Niners 19-3. Afterwards, while munching on a turkey leg, Sherman said the San Francisco fans were throwing some “pretty vulgar” barbs around — helping spur his big performance. “Sometimes you should let sleeping dogs lie,” Sherman said, “so you get this.”

John Madden Turducken

The Turducken. It’s synonymous with the NFL and Thanksgiving, made famous by legendary coach and broadcaster John Madden. “This thing here is a de-boned duck, stuffed in a de-boned chicken, stuffed in a de-boned turkey, with stuffing,” Madden explained to longtime partner Pat Summerall in 1997, “Now you’re talking. And that has 8 legs.”

O.J. Simpson 1976

Before becoming a pariah two decades later — and someone many believe was wrongfully found not guilty on murder charges — O.J. Simpson was a damn good football player. “The Juice” ran for a Thanksgiving-record 273 yards in 1976. His two touchdowns were the only scores for the Bills on the day, though, as they lost to the Lions 27-14 on the road.

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