The Worst Thanksgiving Day Football Games of All-Time


This post originally ran on Thanksgiving 2015.

Thanksgiving Day Football is a long-time American tradition. It brings up fond memories. That’s because we repress and bury most of them. There’s been lots of bad football games on Thanksgiving. After all, the Detroit Lions have been featured in them for a long time. There are so many to choose, but here are some of the worst.

Philadelphia Eagles 7, Pittsburgh Steelers 0 (1940): The Eagles won their only game of the 1940 season on Thanksgiving, over the 2-7-2 Steelers. Only 5,000 people attended, and could you blame them? The game was scoreless until the 4th quarter until the immortal Dick Riffle broke the tie with a touchdown run on a reverse after a Steelers fumble.

The Mud Bowl (1968): This earlier Thanksgiving game between the Lions and Eagles had it all, if “all” is things that make for a terrible game. Two bad teams, and horrible weather, in what was designated the “Mud Bowl.” Eagles kicker Sam Baker made four field goals, one in each quarter, in what turned out to be controversial fashion, as the Eagles won an enthralling game 12-0. Playing in ankle-deep mud that one writer described as “turf [that] made the average pig’s quarters appear to be wall-to-wall carpeted by comparison,” the Eagles substituted in clean footballs, which were against the rules at the time. They got away with it because the kicker lost his cell phone in the ensuing million-dollar NFL crack investigation.

Philadelphia Eagles 27, Dallas Cowboys 0 (1989):  The Bounty Bowl. Yes, it’s famous. The game itself was awful, featuring the 1-15 Cowboys using their two-fullback offense because they were so lacking in weapons. Troy Aikman went 7 for 21 with 3 interceptions. The most eventful thing was the hit on Luis Zendejas on the opening kickoff of the second half (I’ve started the below full game footage at the commercial featuring current NBA coaches Byron Scott and Doc Rivers demonstrating the Reebok pump shoe, before the start of the 2nd half).

After the game, Jimmy Johnson accused Buddy Ryan of putting a bounty on kicker Zendejas and Troy Aikman (Zendejas had been with the Eagles at the start of the season). After the game, Johnson said, “I was going to confront him about it, but he took his fat ass off the field instead of shaking my hand.”

Every Detroit Lions Game Between 2004 and 2012: Truly awful. The Joey Harrington/Mike McMahon classic in a 41-9 drubbing by the Colts started it, a year after an improbable upset of the Packers. But for 9 years, the Lions lost on Thanksgiving, often in dreary fashion that had you spacing out and moving your meal up.

The end, in 2011 and 2012, at least gave us the Suh stomp and the next year the challenge by Jim Schwartz that prevented the Justin Forsett touchdown from being reviewed (and led to a rule change). In between, the Lions got drubbed by an average margin of 32 to 12.

The Butt Fumble Game (2012): New England beat the Jets 49-19 on Thanksgiving night 2012, with a second quarter blitz that de-pantsed the Jets. Of course, the game is most famous for the Mark Sanchez “butt fumble.”

And yes, this post has been an excuse to again mention the Butt Fumble.