Here’s Why the Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving, Explained

If it seems like the Dallas Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving, that’s because they do.

The tradition of the Cowboys having an annual fun on the American holiday, dating back to 1966, originated as a publicity stunt for Team America. Following the Lion’s lead decades ago, the idea became an instant success, and the Cowboys have been a Turkey Day fixture ever since, with a few exceptions. .

Here’s a brief history lesson, along with a full list of past games and how to watch the 2021 version while stuffing your face with turkey and cake.

Why do the Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving?

The Cowboys’ tradition of playing on Thanksgiving day began when then-general manager Tex Schramm signed up for the game during the holiday in 1966.

Schramm sought wider publicity nationally and saw Thanksgiving as a way to boost national attention from football fans in and out of Dallas. The NFL was nervous about getting into the game because the Cowboys had struggled under head coach Tom Landry. In case no one showed up, the NFL guaranteed the Cowboys a certain amount of revenue.

Turns out the NFL has nothing to worry about. The Cowboys broke their franchise attendance record as 80,259 fans watched the team beat the Browns at the Cotton Bowl.

The Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving every year since minus two. In 1975 and 1977, the NFL gave the Thanksgiving games to St. Louis Cardinals instead an attempt to promote the nationwide presence of that franchise. The Cowboys have been constant Super Bowl contenders, so the NFL wanted to give another team a chance to get it on the national level. The Cardinals lost both games and the Cowboys regained the tradition in 1978, sharing the game day with the Lions.

Detroit has its first opening game with an early opening every year at 12:30 p.m. ET, so it’s customary for the Cowboys to play the game later in the afternoon.

In 2006, the NFL decided to add a third game to prime time, so why stop at just two holiday games?

Who do the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving 2021?

This year the Cowboys play the Raiders. This is the third time in history that these two brands go head-to-head on Thanksgiving. Dallas has won both times, including most recently in 2013, 31-24. Las Vegas is 3-3 all the time in Thanksgiving games.

Game Cowboys vs. What channel is Raiders broadcast on?

Fox will broadcast Cowboys vs. Raiders this year. The kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET — the second match of the day, traditionally.

Cowboys All-Time Record on Thanksgiving

The Cowboys 31-21-1 premieres on Thanksgiving in franchise history.

Year Protest Result
1966 Cleveland Browns W, 26-14
1967 The Cardinals of St. Louis W, 46-21
1968 Washington Redskins W, 29-20
1969 San Francisco 49ers T, 24-24
1970 Green Bay Packers W, 16-3
1971 Los Angeles Rams W, 28-21
1972 San Francisco 49ers L, 31-10
1973 Miami Dolphins L, 14-7
1974 Washington Redskins W, 24-23
1976 The Cardinals of St. Louis W, 19-14
1978 Washington Redskins W, 37-10
1979 Houston Oilers L, 30-24
1980 Seattle Seahawks Football Team W, 51-7
1981 Chicago Bears W, 10-9
1982 Cleveland Browns W, 31-14
1983 The Cardinals of St. Louis W, 35-17
1984 New England Patriots W, 20-17
1985 The Cardinals of St. Louis W, 35-17
1986 Seattle Seahawks Football Team W, 31-14
1987 Minnesota Vikings L, 44-38 (Old Testament)
1988 Houston Oilers L, 25-17
1989 Philadelphia Eagles L, 27-0
1990 Washington Redskins W, 27-17
1991 Pittsburgh Steelers W, 20-10
1992 Giants in New York W, 30-3
1993 Miami Dolphins L, 16-14
1994 Green Bay Packers W, 42-31
1995 Chief of Kansas City W, 24-12
1996 Washington Redskins W, 21-10
1997 Tennessee Titans L, 27-14
1998 Minnesota Vikings L, 46-36
1999 Miami Dolphins W, 20-0
2000 Minnesota Vikings L, 27-15
2001 Dancer broncos L, 26-24
2002 Washington Redskins W, 27-20
2003 Miami Dolphins L, 40-21
2004 Chicago Bears W, 21-7
2005 Dancer broncos L, 24-21 (Old Testament)
2006 Tampa Bay Buccaneers W, 38-10
2007 New York Jets W, 34-3
2008 Seattle Seahawks Football Team W, 34-9
2009 Oakland Raiders W, 24-7
2010 New Orleans Saints L, 30-27
2011 Miami Dolphins W, 20-19
2012 Washington Redskins L, 38-31
two thousand and thirteen Oakland Raiders W, 31-24
2014 Philadelphia Eagles L, 33-10
2015 Carolina Panthers L, 33-14
2016 Washington Redskins W, 31-26
2017 Los Angeles charger L, 28-6
2018 Washington Redskins W, 31-23
2019 Buffalo Bills L, 26-15
Year 2020 Washington football team L, 41-16

Notable games:

1989 – The Eagles beat the Cowboys 27-0, but the story of the game is that there are many allegations that the Eagles set bonuses to the Cowboys’ kickers.

1993 – In a rare snowball game in Texas, the Cowboys lead the Dolphins 14-13 with seconds remaining. Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich tries to make a winning game on 40 yards but is saved by Cowboys Jimmie Jones. Once the ball stops moving, the game will be over and the Cowboys will get the ball back, ready to line up to win. But Cowboys manager Leon Lett made a foul, and he fell trying to catch the ball, knocking it forward and creating a chance for the Dolphins to regain it on the 2-yard line. The Dolphins kicked on target on the chip pitch and won the match 16-14.

1994 – Troy Aikman is injured, and third-place quarterback Jason Garrett (now head coach of the Cowboys) is fielded for Dallas against the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys won in a 42–31 shootout against Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

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