It wouldn't be Thanksgiving Day without a heaping helping of pro football, and the NFL has provided countless highlights -- and gaffes -- for its fans on the fourth Thursday in November. Here are a few that we have little trouble remembering:
Leon Lett (1993)
Lett had gained fame earlier in the year for a blunder that was decidedly less costly: He was stripped of the ball while showboating on a fumble return before crossing the goal line in the Cowboys’ 52-17 win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII.
Ten months later, the Cowboys were locked in a tight Thanksgiving Day duel with the Miami Dolphins, leading 14-13 with 15 seconds left in the game. Miami kicker Pete Stoyanovich had a 41-yard field goal attempt blocked, but while his teammates celebrated, Lett tried — and failed — to recover the ball. By touching it, Lett allowed the Dolphins to recover the ball and try another, shorter field goal with three seconds left. This time Stoyanovich’s kick was good, giving the Dolphins a 16-14 win.
Phil Luckett (1998)
The Steelers and the Lions were headed to overtime tied 16-16. During the overtime coin toss, referee Phil Luckett’s microphone picked up Pittsburgh captain Jerome Bettis calling “tails.” The coin came up tails, but Luckett declared the Lions the coin toss winners. Detroit drove to a game-winning field goal on its first possession in the overtime.
Subsequently, the visiting captain’s choice of heads or tails is now called before the coin is flipped, and the referee repeats the choice over his microphone to avoid any disputes.
Randy Moss (1998)
You could argue that the Cowboys did a decent job covering Moss, then a rookie wide receiver with the Vikings, in their 46-36 loss. After all, they limited him to three catches. It’s just that those catches went for 51, 56 and 56 yards, each for a touchdown. With that performance, Moss provided a glimpse of the dominance he would show at the wide receiver position throughout his career.
Lawrence Taylor (1982)
The 1982 NFL season was disrupted by a 57-day players’ strike, costing teams a total of seven games. The Giants-Lions matchup on Thanksgiving Day was the teams’ fourth game back, and it was a game the Giants, at 0-3, desperately needed to win.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the game tied 6-6, the Lions were driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown. Quarterback Gary Danielson floated a pass toward running back Horace King near the goal line. Taylor broke on the ball, picked it off and went 97 yards untouched for the deciding touchdown in New York’s 13-6 win.
O.J. Simpson (1976)
Only three years earlier, Simpson had set an NFL single-season record with 2,003 yards rushing. On Thanksgiving Day against the Lions, the Bills running back claimed the single-game record as well, torching Detroit for 273 yards. Lost in Simpson’s remarkable performance that day was the fact that Buffalo lost the game 27-14.