America’s Team has been a part of many family traditions for nearly five decades, playing 45 games on Thanksgiving Day since 1966.
Whether it’s the pageantry of the event, the national TV coverage or a combination of everything, many of the greatest games in franchise history have occurred on Thanksgiving.
In this week’s issue of Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine, we count down the top-20 memorable games played by the team on Thanksgiving Day. Here, we give you a little taste …
No. 17: 1995 – Cowboys 24, Chiefs 12
This one was billed as two of the better teams in the NFL and perhaps a Super Bowl preview. The Cowboys were able to do their part and not only advance to Super Bowl XXX that year, but also win it all. The Chiefs finished 13-3, but lost in the divisional round of the playoffs at home to the Colts.
But with the world watching, these two heavyweights went at it all game. Michael Irvin had one of the better catches of his career, hauling in a deep ball from Troy Aikman. Irvin beat cornerback Dale Carter, tipped the ball up to himself twice before getting his feet in bounds in the back of the end zone. Another highlight featured tight end Jay Novacek hurdling a defender en route to a 33-yard touchdown that gave Dallas a 21-6 lead. The Cowboys would hold on in the fourth quarter for the convincing win.
No. 14: 1999 – Cowboys 20, Dolphins 0
Certainly not the most memorable Thanksgiving Day game between these two teams, but this contest had drama, too. Jimmy Johnson returned to the Texas Stadium sidelines for the first time since he had left as head coach, and brought with him veteran Miami quarterback Dan Marino, who had a day to forget.
The Cowboys picked off Marino five times, including two by linebacker Dexter Coakley, who broke a scoreless tie in the third quarter with a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown. Deion Sanders also had two interceptions in the contest as the Cowboys recorded their only Thanksgiving Day shutout.
When Aikman threw deep to Rocket Ismail for a 65-yard touchdown, giving Dallas a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, the game was put completely out of reach for the visitors. Ismail had five catches for 125 yards, while Emmitt Smith added 103 rushing yards.
No. 10: 2010 – New Orleans 30, Cowboys 27
The defending Super Bowl champion Saints, the only titleholders to ever play Dallas the next season on Thanksgiving, came into the game with tons of offensive firepower, led by Drew Brees. And while he was stymied at times in the game, the quarterback came through in the end for New Orleans, thanks to a last-minute drive and touchdown toss that proved to be the game-winner.
Although the Saints led 17-0 after the first quarter and 20-6 at halftime, the Cowboys mounted a second-half comeback, the big blow coming when
And it appeared the Cowboys were in a position to put the game away after a 47-yard pass from Jon Kitna to Roy Williams, but just before being tackled, Williams was stripped of the ball by Malcom Jenkins, giving the Saints possession at their own 11 with 3:31 to play. Brees promptly marched down the field and won the game with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore. Cowboys kicker David Buehler just missed a 59-yard field goal attempt with 30 seconds remaining that would’ve tied the game.
No. 6: 2006 – Cowboys 38, Buccaneers 10
Romo-mentum. The Cowboys had it and without a doubt the struggling Buccaneers weren’t going to take it away on this Thanksgiving Day.
About a month after being named the starter,
Although the Buccaneers reached the end zone first, the Cowboys responded with two touchdown passes to Terry Glenn. Romo found Barber for two short touchdown throws as well before a final scoring strike to Terrell Owens.
No. 3: 1994 – Cowboys 42, Packers 31
As a head coach, Jason Garrett has been associated with several games that have had his stamp on the final outcome. But ask any fan to pinpoint a game with him as a player, and just one will come to mind.
The “Jason Garrett Game” in 1994 is not only one of the best Thanksgiving Day memories of all time, but one of the best overall games in team history as well.
With the Cowboys down to their third quarterback because of injuries to Aikman and Rodney Peete, Garrett made his second career start against Brett Favre and the Packers. And for a half, it looked like it was going to be a long Thanksgiving Day for the Cowboys. Green Bay led 17-6 at the break, as the offense couldn't find a rhythm with Garrett under center.
But things changed in the second half. The Cowboys exploded for 36 points over the final two quarters. Garrett went up top for a 45-yard touchdown to Alvin Harper, which was then followed by a 36-yarder to Irvin. In addition, the quarterback also hooked up with Smith on a 63-yard reception that led to another touchdown.
While Favre passed for 257 yards and four touchdowns, the story belonged to Garrett, who completed just 15-of-26 passes, but totaled 311 yards and hit paydirt twice. He engineered scoring drives on the Cowboys' first five possessions of the second half.
No. 2: 1993 – Dolphins 16, Cowboys 14
Snow. Ice. Drama. Controversy. Confusion.
This game had it all and might go down as the strangest game in Cowboys history – not just on Thanksgiving but maybe of any game.
For starters, a rare winter storm hit the Dallas area, covering the Texas Stadium field with a layer of ice. The players were slipping and sliding all over the place. Cowboys rookie Kevin Williams had an impromptu slide into the end zone on a punt return score while Dolphins running back Keith Byars made a snow angel on the ground after a 77-yard touchdown.
In the final seconds, however, the Cowboys led 14-13 and appeared to have won the game on a blocked field goal attempt. But with the ball rolling toward the end zone, Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett attempted to pick up the ball around the 10-yard line. Instead, he slipped before he could recover it, and kicked the ball forward, even closer to the goal line. The Dolphins were then able to recover it at the 1 with just 15 seconds remaining.
Amidst the confusion of why Lett would try to touch the ball when leaving it alone would give the Cowboys the win, the Dolphins brought kicker Pete Stoyanovich out again and this time he made the 19-yarder – his third of the second half.
Despite the defeat, the Cowboys would not lose another game that season, as they rallied to repeat as champions in Super Bowl XXVIII. It also proved to be Jimmy Johnson’s final loss as the head coach of the team.
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