Sports

The Best Individual NFL Performances on Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day and football go together like freshly cut turkey and dough. Thanksgiving soccer is a timeless tradition that is celebrated by many. As Americans across the country prepare for their next Turkey Bowl, take a look at the best Thanksgiving Day solo performances in NFL history.

No, you won’t find your Uncle’s 5-touch game from last year’s Turkey Tournament on this list. But since the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions play every Thanksgiving, expect to see them a lot on this list.

1 out of 20

Peyton Manning (2004)

Peyton Manning (2004)

Matthew Emmons-USA Sports TODAY

One of the greatest defenders of all time, Peyton Manning, overwhelmed the makeshift Detroit Lions defense as his Colts crushed them, 41-9. Always a statistical feat, Manning hit 236 yards and six touchdowns in a raging victory.

2 out of 20

Calvin Johnson (2015)

Calvin Johnson (2015)

Johnson scored a Thanksgiving goal despite the doubles team (2015).
Tim Fuller-USA Sports TODAY

Calvin “Megatron” Johnson won three touchdowns, 93 yards, and three touchdowns in a 45-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He cut off the Eagles defender for the whole game. After a long list of great performances by the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, Johnson’s hat trick may be the best of them all. They don’t call him Megatron for nothing.

3 out of 20

Randy Moss (1998)

Randy Moss (1998)

Image of PAUL BUCK-Contributor-Getty

NFL legend Randy Moss dreamed of joining the Dallas Cowboys as a child. When they moved him in the draft because off-field worries disappeared the minute Moss joined the NFL, he was devastated. Moss got the last laugh, winning three 163 catches and three touchdowns on Thanksgiving. Yup, you read that right, every time he catches Moss against the Cowboys comes the house. Moss’ hat trick helped the Vikings win over the Cowboys in an exciting shootout, 46-36.

Tom Brady (2010)

Andrew Weber-USA Sports TODAY

Tom Brady rarely disappoints in prime time. His 2010 Thanksgiving performance was no exception. GOAT celebrated with 341 yards and 4 touches as the New England Patriots defeated the Detroit Lions 45-24.

5 out of 20

Barry Sanders (1997)

Barry Sanders (1997)

JULIAN H. GONZALEZ / DETROIT FREE PRESS

Among the many great games the lion legend Barry Sanders had on Thanksgiving, this one took home the cheesecake. Sanders galloped 167 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-20 loss to NFC North’s Chicago Bears. The Lions need this win as they’re in the midst of their end-of-season playoff push.

A Thanksgiving legend, Sanders gives families a well-deserved standout performance every turkey day.

6 out of 20

Emmitt Smith (1996)

Emmitt Smith (1996)

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

In 1996, Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith celebrated with 29 make, 155 yards and three touchdowns. With Thanksgiving dinner in mind, the NFL’s all-time top racer led his team to a 21-10 defeat of the Lowly Washington Commanders.

90s kids are grateful to watch Barry Sanders’ Lions and Emmitt Smith’s Cowboys every Thanksgiving. I’m sure there was some argument at the dinner table about who was the better runner.

7 of 20

Bob Griese (1977)

Bob Griese (1977)

Malcolm Emmons-USA Sports TODAY

Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame winger Bob Griese performed a game against St. Louis Cardinals, hitting 207 yards and six touchdowns in a 55-14 game. Often forgotten among Thanksgiving performances, the Miami shooter’s six touchdowns have been tied with Peyton Manning for the Thanksgiving record. These statistics were unprecedented in Griese’s day.

8 out of 20

Jason Garrett (1994)

Jason Garrett (1994)

Michael C. Hebert-USA Sports TODAY

Before Jason Garrett became head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for much of the 2010s, he was the reserve quarterback of Cowboys legend Troy Aikman. In a 1994 Thanksgiving duel against NFC teammate the Green Bay Packers, Garrett led the ‘Boys in Blue’ team to victory. Having gone 17-6 at halftime, Garrett led the Cowboys to an unexpected comeback win over the Packers, winning 42-32. Garrett hit 311 yards and two touchdowns while eating lots of celebratory turkeys.

9 of 20

Ernie Nevers (1929)

Ernie Nevers (1929)

Bettmann-Contributor-Getty . image

I know what you’re thinking, “why bring in the performance of a player from a century ago?” Well, you’re about to find out very soon. Chicago Cardinals winger Ernie Nevers scored an NFL record 40 points in a game! He scored six touchdowns and scored four more. No one can match the good record of Ernie Nevers. The Stanford alumnus also served as a relief campaigner for St. Louis Browns and was a member of the 1963 NFL Hall of Fame Inaugural Class.

10 of 20

LeSean McCoy (2014)

LeSean McCoy (2014)

Matthew Emmons-USA Sports TODAY

The Philadelphia Eagles ran back to LeSean McCoy’s incredible game against arch-rivals the Dallas Cowboys that pushed Chip Kelly’s Eagles (remember him?) past the Boys, 33-10. In this first NFC East fight, McCoy advanced 159 yards and a touchdown. McCoy ran across the field thanks to wide openings thanks to the Eagles’ formidable offensive line.

11 of 20

Tony Romo (2006)

Tony Romo (2006)

Tim Heitman-USA Sports TODAY

Cowboy legend Tony Romo had a breakout season in 2006. In front of a live audience on Thanksgiving, the no-good boy from Eastern Illinois University performed an aerial attack on Tampa. Fly Buccaneers, toss 306 yards and hit the ground 5 times a day. The Cowboys left with a convincing 38-10 victory. This was the beginning of nearly a decade of Romo under the Cowboys heartland. He ended up becoming their all-time top passer.

12 of 20

Sterling Sharpe (1994)

Sterling Sharpe (1994)

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay Packers star Sterling Sharpe is the rare loser on this list. Sharpe made nine catches from 122 yards and four colossal touchdowns as the Packers suffered a heartbreaking defeat to the Cowboys. Sharpe’s great effort was not enough to keep up with W.

Sharpe’s career with the Hall of Fame was cut short due to injury. If he stays fit, he will rival his brother, Shannon, as one of the best catchers of the ’90s.

13 of 20

Earl Campbell (1979)

Earl Campbell (1979)

Manny Rubio-USA Sports TODAY

Houston Oilers legend Earl Campbell is the one who returned in several playoffs deep in the Love Ya Blue era. During the Texas game against the Dallas Cowboys, Campbell was an all-round juggler, finishing with 33 make, 195 yards and two touchdowns. Talk about great production from a race! Campbell won the NFL MVP award that year and gave the Oilers a post-Super Bowl victory.

14 of 20

Robert Griffin III (2012)

Robert Griffin III (2012)

Matthew Emmons-USA Sports TODAY

This Thanksgiving, rookie feeling Robert Griffin III hit 304 yards and four touchdowns in the Washington Commanders’ 38-31 win over bitter rivals the Dallas Cowboys. RG3 led the Commanders to their first championship since 1999 and won the 2012 Rookie of the Year award, before Commanders head coach Mike Shanahan ruined his career with a reading error. Heavy options, RG3 has had the nation’s capital filled with success.

15 of 20

Luke Keuchly (2015)

Luke Keuchly (2015)

Jerome Miron-USA Sports TODAY

The first defensive player on the list, Carolina Panthers legend Luke Kuechly, was the anchor of the defense in the 2015 Panthers top 10, before amassing a 15-1 record and losing to Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos. at Super Bowl 50, Keuchly led the Panthers to a 33-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The all-around midfielder made seven tackles and saved two interceptions in his 49-yard return. His 32-yard pick-six changed the momentum in this Turkey affair.

16 out of 20

Walter Stanley (1986)

Walter Stanley (1986)

Image of Ronald C. Modra-Contributor-Getty

Green Bay Packers’ wide receiver Walter Stanley is simply against the Detroit Lions. In an absolute shootout where the Packers walked away with a 44-40 win over the Lions, the offensive weapon turned all in four 124 yard catches and two touchdowns. A swift threat as a returner, Stanley returned three kicks in 50 yards and two free kicks in 113 yards and a touchdown. His 83-yard home comeback helped turn the tide in this legendary Thanksgiving game.

17 out of 20

Defensive Philadelphia Eagles (1989)

Defensive Philadelphia Eagles (1989)

Lou Capozzola-USA Sports TODAY

While most Americans are boxing Thanksgiving leftovers, the Philadelphia Eagles are celebrating the Dallas Cowboys’ offense. They crammed the Cowboys on their way to a 27-0 win in prime time. A young offensive led by Troy Aikman was wheelless against the Eagles in his “welcome to the NFL” moment. The Eagles D skipped a total of 191 yards, forced to make five turns (three interceptions, two defeats) and eliminated Aikman twice.

18 out of 20

Clint Longley (1974)

Clint Longley (1974)

beautiful pictures

Dallas Cowboys reserve quarterback Clint Longley became an unlikely hero when he replaced Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach on Thanksgiving. Down 16-3, the Thanksgiving legend bounced back, throwing 203 yards and two touchdowns as the Cowboys overcame the Washington Commanders, 24-23. This match is a big win for the boys as it has important implications for the playoffs.

19 of 20

Jim Benton (1945)

Jim Benton (1945)

Bettmann-Contributor-Getty . image

The Cleveland Rams’ wide receiver Jim Benton is the definition of a stud in this old-fashioned Thanksgiving game against the Lions. Of all the glories of playing in a leather helmet, Benton scored 10 catches from 303 yards. This broke the record books. This was the first 300-yard receiving game in NFL history.

Remember this for your Turkey Bowl, if you play great on Thanksgiving, people will remember it forever. His stats look like they’re from the local Turkish league, not an NFL game.

20 of 20

Antonio Brown (2016)

Antonio Brown (2016)

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA Sports TODAY

Pittsburgh Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown scored 91 yards and three touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts. His hat trick lifted the Steelers past the Colts, beating them 28-7. Elemental AB is simply unstoppable.

David J. Hunt is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. He ran cross-country at Penn State, became a volunteer firefighter during COVID-19, and is a self-taught journalist. He is a huge fan of the sport of Philly. When not watching sports, he enjoys exercising, fishing and traveling. You can find more of his writing at The Chestnut Hill Local and The Temple News. You can follow him on Twitter at @dave_hunt44.




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