Everyone thinks about food and family on Thanksgiving, and then many of us follow those thoughts with football.
The NFL has wanted to make itself a Thanksgiving tradition ever since they first started playing these games in 1920.
While we have grown accustomed to seeing the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions play on this day, Thanksgiving continues to get bigger in the NFL and five games are being played this year.
One of the best parts of the Thanksgiving games is when they bring the player of the game to the sideline to eat some turkey after the game.
There have been many great turkey eating performances on Thanksgiving, and here are my 10 best of all-time.
NFL Thanksgiving Heroes
NFL Thanksgiving Heroes
10.) Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota Vikings
Aikman’s Cowboys got into a shootout with the Vikings in 1998, but his team would be the one to go down to the score of 46-36.
There were tons of impressive stat lines on this Thanksgiving day – one of which will be later mentioned on this list – and Aikman himself completed 34-57 passes for 455 yards and one touchdown. It’s a shame he couldn’t have added a touchdown or two more, because that would have put him higher up. However, the 455 yards is still an impressive feat and still stands as the Thanksgiving passing record.
(AP Photo/Tim Sharp)
9.) Sterling Sharpe vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Green Bay Packers got bested 42-31 by the Cowboys in 1994, but it was a person on the losing team that stole the show.
Packers wide receiver Sterling Sharpe dominated the game to the tune of nine catches for 122 yards and four touchdowns.
As if his day wasn’t impressive enough, the Packers as a team had only 277 yards of total offense, so Sharpe himself accounted for nearly half their offense.
It’s a shame his effort wasn’t good enough for a win.
(Photo by James V. Biever/Getty Images)
8.) Earl Campbell vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Houston Oilers and the Cowboys had the battle of Texas on Thanksgiving in 1979, and the two teams were both powerhouses at the time.
Campbell was the backbone for the Oilers, and on this day he turned 33 carries into 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Houston went on to beat Dallas 30-24 in one of the more exciting Thanksgiving games.
(AP Photo/Wally Fong)
7.) Barry Sanders vs. Chicago Bears
It probably speaks to Sanders’ greatness that this performance isn’t higher up on the list.
In 1977, Sanders’ Detroit Lions annihilated the Bears 55-20.
While the game itself didn’t look that entertaining, Sanders put on a side show on his own when he rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns.
It was just another day at the office for one of the game’s greats.
(MATT CAMPBELL/AFP/Getty Images)
6.) Walter Stanley vs. Detroit Lions
I hope you’re not tired of seeing the Packers and Lions already.
In 1986, Stanley’s Packers and the Lions had an amazing battle that went down to the very end.
Stanley finished for four grabs for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and while that would have been a good day on its own, it was what he did on special teams that has him on this list.
With just 41 seconds left, Stanley returned a punt 83 yards for the go-ahead score and the Packers would go on to win 44-40.
(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
5.) Bob Griese vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Griese only had 16 touchdown passes in his other 13 starts in 1977, so I’m not sure if even he was expecting this type of performance from himself.
On this day, Griese’s Miami Dolphins scored a Thanksgiving record of 55 points in their blowout win over the Cardinals.
The game might have been a bit boring if it wasn’t for Griese’s six touchdown passes, which set the Thanksgiving record for touchdown passes thrown. He also had 207 yards and one interception.
That record is now shared with someone else, and I think he might be coming up soon.
4.) Tony Romo vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2006 was the year the world got introduced to Romo, and he made sure everyone knew who his name was after his first, of many, Thanksgiving performances.
The Cowboys beat the Buccaneers 38-10, but it was Romo’s performance that everyone was talking about.
In just his fifth career start, Romo completed 22-29 passes for 306 yards and five touchdowns.
It was an incredible performance and remains to be one of Romo’s best games.
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
3.) Peyton Manning vs. Detroit Lions
Before 2013 happened, 2004 was the huge statistical season for Mr. Manning – and this game might have been his best performance of the year.
Manning’s Colts beat the Lions 41-9, and if it looks like a really easy win, it’s because Manning made it that way.
The future Hall of Fame quarterback completed 23-28 passes for 236 yards and six touchdowns.
The six touchdowns is tied with Griese’s for the most thrown on Thanksgiving, and it was a career-best for Manning until he threw for seven in 2013.
(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
2.) Randy Moss vs. Dallas Cowboys
Remember the Aikman game that started off the list? Here’s the other performance that I foreshadowed.
1998 was Moss’ rookie season, but he wasn’t paying like a rookie.
Wait, maybe he was – I mean the Cowboys held him to only three catches.
Oh,but all three of those catches went for touchdowns, huh?
AND they combined for 163 yards?!?
That’s right, Moss had an insane day with 163 yards and three touchdowns on three catches, and he appeared to be the difference in the 46-36 win for the Vikings.
It was said that Moss was mad that the Cowboys had passed on him, and he wanted to make them regret that decision.
At least on that day, I’d say mission accomplished.
(AP Photo/Tim Sharp)
1.) O.J. Simpson vs. Detroit Lions
In 1976, O.J. Simpson put on one of the greatest rushing performances of all-time against the Lions.
Simpson had 29 carries for 273 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-14 loss.
The 273 yards was the most Simpson ever ran for in his career, and it is still the sixth-best rushing game of all-time.
It’s a shame it had to come in a loss, but I’m not going to fault Simpson on this once since he did everything he could have done.