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Since their inception back in the year of 1920, the National Football League (NFL) has played football games on Thanksgiving Day, which were actually based upon the historic playing of college football games on and around the great American holiday. The NFL’s Thanksgiving Day games have traditionally included one game hosted by the Detroit Lions since 1934, as well as one game hosted by the Dallas Cowboys since 1966 (with 2 – exceptions in 1975 and 1977).

Since 2006, a 3rd – prime time American football game has also been played on Thanksgiving Day. Unlike the classic and traditional afternoon games hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, the Thanksgiving Day night game has no specific designated teams each and every year.

In 2022, the NFL branded the Thanksgiving Day games as the John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration in order to honor the great late head coach and NFL broadcaster in John Madden, who had tragically passed away back in December of 2021.

1945 – Jim Benton pulls in 303 – Receiving Yards:

Playing for the Cleveland Rams, Benton became the very first pro football player to surpass 300 – receiving yards in a Thanksgiving Day game in his 28 – 21 victory over the Lions. Benton managed to catch 10 – passes from his Hall of Fame quarterback, Bob Waterfield, including a 70 – yard touchdown pass, and for good measure he had an interception while playing defense too. His yardage record stood strong for a total of 40 – years and it remains one of only 6 – 300 – yard receiving games in the history of the National Football League, a notable achievement given how the game was played up until the modern era of pro ball.

Jim Benton’s Football Career Achievements, Honors, & Awards

  • 2 – Time NFL First – Team All – Pro Selection (1945, 1946)
  • NFL Receiving Touchdowns Leader (1939)
  • 2 – Time NFL Receiving Yards Leader (1945, 1946)
  • NFL Receptions Leader (1946)
  • NFL 1940’s All – Decade Team Selection
  • Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame Selection
  • PRFA Hall of Very Good Hands Selection (2005)
  • Arkansas Razorbacks All – Century Team Selection
  • Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Selection
  • University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor Selection

1976 – O. J. Simpson racks up 273 – Yards

 During O. J.’s 7th – NFL season with the Buffalo Bills, and just 3 – years removed from his 2,003 – yard NFL season, Simpson broke his own NFL record when he rushed for 273 – yards in a Thanksgiving Day football game. Simpson’s longest rush on that turkey day was good a 48 – yard touchdown during the 3rd – quarter of the Buffalo Bills’ 27 – 14 eventual and unfortunate loss to the Detroit Lions on that day.

The NFL record stood for a year, until the Chicago Bears’ Walter Payton rushed for 275 – yards in a single NFL game against the Minnesota Vikings, and it now stands at the number – 6 spot on the all – time NFL list for rushing yards in a single game.

J. Simpson’s Football Career Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • NFL Most Valuable Player Award Winner (1973)
  • NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award Winner (1973)
  • 5 – Time NFL First – Team All – Pro Selection (1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976)
  • 5 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976)
  • Bert Bell Award Winner (1973)
  • Associated Press Athlete of the Year Award Winner (1973)
  • 3 – Time UPI AFC Offensive Player of the Year Award Winner (1972, 1973, 1975)
  • 4 – Time NFL Rushing Yards Leader (1972, 1973, 1975, 1976)
  • 2 – Time NFL Rushing Touchdowns Leader (1973, 1975)
  • NFL Scoring Leader (1975)
  • AFL All – Star Selection (1969)
  • NFL 1970’s All – Decade Team Selection
  • NFL 75th Anniversary All – Time Team Selection
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All – Time Team Selection
  • Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame Selection
  • National Champion (1967)
  • Heisman Trophy Award Winner (1968)
  • Maxwell Award Winner (1968)
  • Walter Camp Award Winner (1967)
  • 2 – Time UPI Player of the Year Award Winner (1967, 1968)
  • Sporting News Player of the Year Award Winner (1968)
  • 2 – Time Unanimous All – American Selection (1967, 1968)
  • USC Trojans Number 32 Retired

 1977 – Bob Griese Throws for 6 – Touchdown Passes:

 Griese tied a National Football League record at that time for tallying scoring throws, which included a total of 3 of them to Nat Moore, in the Miami Dolphins’ 55 – 14 demolition of the St. Louis Cardinals on that Thanksgiving Day performance. The ball game was played at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium on a 39 – degree day that would not have been very predictive of such a high – scoring game. Griese managed to make a total of 151 – NFL regular – season starts throughout his Hall of Fame career playing professional football. This Thanksgiving Day performance was one of 4 in which he tossed more than 3 – touchdown passes so it was definitely a special day for Bob.

Griese’s Football Career Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • 2 – Time Super Bowl Champion (VII, VIII)
  • 2 – Time NFL First – Team All – Pro Selection (1971, 1977)
  • 6 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978)
  • NFL Passing Touchdowns Leader (1977)
  • NFL Completion Percentage Leader (1978)
  • 2 – Time AFL All – Star Selection (1967, 1968)
  • Jim Thorpe Trophy Award Winner (1971)
  • Bert Bell Award Winner (1977)
  • Miami Dolphins Honor Roll Selection
  • Miami Dolphins Number 12 Retired
  • Dolphins Walk of Fame Selection (2011)
  • Sammy Baugh Trophy Award Winner (1966)
  • Big 10 Player of the Year Award Winner (1966)
  • Consensus All – American Selection (1965)
  • 2 – Time First – Team All – Big Ten Selection (1965, 1966)
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 1979 – Earl Campbell rumbles on the ground for 195 – Rushing Yards:

 Earl was in his 2nd – NFL season with the Houston Oilers when he made his only Thanksgiving Day playing appearance, and it was quite a memorable one for sure. Even after logging 264 -carries throughout the Houston Oilers’ initial 12 – games, Campbell ran the ball a total of 33 – times which was good for 195 – ground yards, 2nd – to only O. J. Simpson’s 273 – yards on a Thanksgiving Day NFL game. Campbell scored 2 – touchdowns in the Houston Oilerstriumphant 30 to 24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. 1 of his most memorable touchdown scores came on a 61 – yard rush to the house. This game was 1 of 20 in which Earl Campbell had at least 30 – rushes.

Campbell’s Football Career Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • NFL Most Valuable Player Award Winner (1979)
  • 3 – Time NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award Winner (1978, 1979, 1980)
  • NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award Winner (1978)
  • 3 – Time First – Team NFL All – Pro Selection (1978, 1979, 1980)
  • 5 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983)
  • Bert Bell Award Winner (1979)
  • 3 – Time NFL Rushing Yards Leader (1978, 1979, 1980)
  • 2 – Time NFL Rushing Touchdowns Leader (1979, 1980)
  • NFL 1970’s All – Decade Team Selection
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All – Time Team Selection
  • PFWA All – Rookie Team Selection (1978)
  • Tennessee Titans / Houston Oilers Ring of Honor Selection
  • Tennessee Titans Number 34 Retired
  • Heisman Trophy Award Winner (1977)
  • Davey O’Brien Memorial Trophy Award Winner (1977)
  • Sporting News Player of the Year Award Winner (1977)
  • 2 – Time First – Team All – American Selection (1975, 1977)
  • Texas Longhorns Number 20 Retired
  • Texas Sports Hall of Fame Selection
  • Houston Sports Hall of Fame Selection

 1994 – Dave Krieg’s Perfect Passer Rating Performance:

Having replaced the then injured Detroit Lions starting quarterback, Scott Mitchell, earlier in the season, Krieg completed 20 of his 25 – passes which was good for 351 – yards and 3 – touchdown passes, with 0 – interceptions too leading the Detroit Lions to a 35 to 21 win over the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving Day.

Based on the perfect 158.3 – passer rating, at least, it was the best game of his long NFL career. (There have been 80 – perfect passer ratings in NFL history with a minimum of 10 – total pass attempts.) Krieg who was 36 years old at that time, led the Detroit Lions to a 5 and 2 record as well as a spot in the NFC playoff landscape that year. Krieg would go on to play for 3 – other NFL franchises as a back – up QB before ultimately retiring after the 1998 – 1999 NFL season.

Dave Krieg’s Football Career Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • 3 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (1984, 1988, 1989)
  • NFL Completion Percentage Leader (1991)
  • Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor Selection

1998 – Randy Moss Catches 3 – (long) Touchdowns Passes:

 As he continued his breakout rookie season, Randy Moss managed to pull in his touchdown passes of 51, 56, and 56 yards in the Minnesota Vikings‘ 46 to 36 high – scoring win against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, and he made it look so easy too. They were Moss’ only catches of the game as well. That performance was 1 of 6 – times in post AFL / NFL merger history when a player surpassed a minimum of 160 – receiving yards on three or less pass catches. No other player has ever caught more than 3 – touchdown passes on Thanksgiving Day, and Moss’ 163 – receiving yards ranks him high – amongst all turkey day performances especially as a wide receiver.

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Moss’ Football Career Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award Winner (1998)
  • NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award Winner (2007)
  • 4 – Time NFL First – Team All – Pro Selection (1998, 2000, 2003, 2007)
  • 6 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007)
  • 5 – Time NFL Receiving Touchdowns Leader (1998, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009)
  • NFL 2000’s All – Decade Team Selection
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All – Time Team Selection
  • Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor Selection
  • 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings Team Selection
  • New England Patriots All – 2000’s Team Selection
  • New England Patriots All – Dynasty Team Selection
  • PFWA All – Rookie Team Selection (1998)
  • NCAA I – AA National Champion (1996)
  • Fred Biletnikoff Award Winner (1997)
  • Consensus All – American Selection (1997)
  • MAC Most Valuable Player Award Winner (1997)
  • MAC Offensive Player of the Year Award Winner (1997)

Moss’ NFL Records:

  • Most Receiving Touchdowns in a Season with 23
  • Most Receiving Touchdowns in a Rookie Season with 17

1998 – Troy Aikman Passes for 455 – Yards to Come Back 

While unfortunately down 21 to 6 to the Minnesota Vikings thanks in large part to Randy Moss’ performance, the Dallas Cowboys were in big – time catch – up mode for the majority of this ball game. That led Aikman to set a Thanksgiving Day record and establish his career high for passing yards. It was the only 400 – yard game of his amazing pro football Hall of Fame career, and it came on a personal record for attempts with 57 and completions with 34. Troy mustered only 1 – touchdown pass that day, however the Dallas Cowboys never got closer than within 10 – points following their deep 21 to 6 early deficit.

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Aikman’s Football Career Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • 3 – Time Super Bowl Champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)
  • Super Bowl MVP Award Winner (XXVII)
  • NFL Man of the Year Award Winner (1997)
  • 6 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996)
  • NFL Completion Percentage Leader (1993)
  • PFWA All – Rookie Team Selection (1989)
  • Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor Selection
  • National Champion (1985)
  • Davey O’Brien Award Winner (1988)
  • Pac – 10 Offensive Player of the Year Award Winner (1987)
  • Cotton Bowl MVP Award Winner (1989)
  • Consensus All – American Selection (1988)
  • All – Pac – 10 Selection (1987)
  • UCLA Bruins Number 8 Retired

2004 – Peyton Manning matches Griese’s Thanksgiving Day NFL Record:

Manning was also blessed to throw an astonishing 6 – touchdown passes in a Thanksgiving Day NFL game, this one during a 41 to 9 victory for the Indianapolis Colts over the Detroit Lions. Those touchdown scores accounted for more than a quarter of his 23 – completions and represented 1 of just 9 of his NFL games in which he threw at least 5 – touchdown passes (yeah, he was pretty good).

Peyton shares the current NFL record for throwing 7 – touchdown passes in a game with only Nick Foles, and Drew Brees, and P. Manning ranks 3rd – in career touchdown passes with 539, behind just “Turkey Tom Brady” who has 649 as well as Drew Brees with 571.

Manning’s Football Career Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • 2 – Time Super Bowl Champion (XLI, 50)
  • Super Bowl MVP Award Winner (XLI)
  • 5 – Time NFL Most Valuable Player Award Winner (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2013)
  • 2 – Time NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award Winner (2004, 2013)
  • NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award Winner (2012)
  • Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Winner (2005)
  • 7 – Time First – Team NFL All – Pro Selection (2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013)
  • 3 – Time NFL Second – Team All – Pro Selection (1999, 2000, 2006)
  • 14 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014)
  • 3 – Time NFL Passing Yards Leader (2000, 2003, 2013)
  • 4 – Time NFL Passing Touchdowns Leader (2000, 2004, 2006, 2013)
  • 3 – Time NFL Passer Rating Leader (2004, 2005, 2006)
  • 2 – Time NFL Completion Percentage Leader (2003, 2012)
  • NFL 2000’s All – Decade Team Selection
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All – Time Team Selection
  • Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award Winner (2013)
  • NFLPA Alan Page Community Award Winner (2005)
  • 3 – Time Bert Bell Award Winner (2003, 2004, 2013)
  • Bart Starr Award Winner (2015)
  • PFWA All – Rookie Team Selection (1998)
  • Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor Selection
  • Indianapolis Colts Number 18 Retired
  • Denver Broncos Ring of Fame Selection
  • Denver Broncos Number 18 Honored
  • Maxwell Award Winner (1997)
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Winner (1997)
  • Davey O’Brien Award Winner (1997)
  • William V. Campbell Trophy Award Winner (1997)
  • SEC Player of the Year Award Winner (1997)
  • Consensus All – American Selection (1997)
  • First – Team All – SEC Selection (1997)
  • Second – Team All – SEC Selection (1996)
  • University of Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame Selection
  • Tennessee Volunteers Number 16 Retired
  • Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame Selection (2021)
  • Indiana Sports Hall of Fame Selection (2020)
  • Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Selection (2019)
  • Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Selection (2018)
  • Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Selection (2019)
  • Tennessean of the Year Award Winner (2016)

Peyton Manning’s NFL Records:

  • Most Passing Touchdowns in a Season with 55
  • Most Passing Yards in a Season with 5,477
  • Most Touchdown Passes in a Game with 7 (tied)

2010 – Tom Brady Matches Krieg’s Perfect Passing Rating on Thanksgiving Day:

Tom completed 21 of his 27 passes which was good for 341 – passing yards and 4 – touchdowns in the New England Patriots’ 45 to 24 destruction of the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. The New England Patriots actually trailed 24 to 17 half – way through the 3rd – quarter of the game before Tom tossed 3 – touchdown passes (79 – yards and 22 – yards) to Deion Branch, and 16 yards to Wes Welker, in the span of only 13 – minutes and 30 – seconds. It is one of just 3 – games in which Tom Brady achieved a perfect passer rating throughout his greatest of all – time NFL career playing quarterback.

Brady’s Football Career Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • 7 – Time Super Bowl Champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX, LI, LIII, LV)
  • 5 – Time Super Bowl MVP Award Winner (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLIX, LI, LV)
  • 3 – Time NFL Most Valuable Player Award Winner (2007, 2010, 2017)
  • 2 – Time NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award Winner (2007, 2010)
  • NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award Winner (2009)
  • 3 – Time NFL First – Team All – Pro Selection (2007, 2010, 2017)
  • 3 – Time NFL Second – Team All – Pro Selection (2005, 2016, 2021)
  • 15 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021)
  • 5 – Time NFL Passing Touchdowns Leader (2002, 2007, 2010, 2015, 2021)
  • 4 – Time NFL Passing Yards Leader (2005, 2007, 2017, 2021)
  • 2 – Time NFL Passer Rating Leader (2007, 2010)
  • NFL Completion Percentage Leader (2007)
  • NFL 2000’s All – Decade Team Selection
  • NFL 2010’s All – Decade Team Selection
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All – Time Team Selection
  • AP Male Athlete of the Year Award Winner (2007)
  • 2 – Time Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award Winner (2005, 2021)
  • Bert Bell Award Winner (2007)
  • New England Patriots Hall of Fame Selection
  • New England Patriots All – 2000’s Team Selection
  • New England Patriots All – 2010’s Team Selection
  • New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team Selection
  • New England Patriots All – Dynasty Team Selection
  • National Champion (1997)
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Tom Brady’s NFL Records

  • Most Career Quarterback Wins with 251
  • Most Career Passing Attempts with 12,050
  • Most Career Passing Completions with 7,753
  • Most Career Passing Touchdowns with 649
  • Most Career Passing Yards with 89,214
  • Most Pass Completions in a Season with 490 (2022)
  • Most Pass Attempts in a Season with 733 (2022)
  • Longest Touchdown Pass at 99 yards (tied)

 2015 – Ziggy Ansah Records 3.5 – Sacks:

 Ziggy was a singular terror to the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, Mark Sanchez, on the Detroit Lions’ 45 to 14 Thanksgiving Day win. Ansah also exacted a measure of draft – day revenge, as he did most of his ultimate damage versus the offensive tackle Lane Johnson whom the Philadelphia Eagles just so happened to draft 1 – spot above him in the 2013 NFL Draft. Johnson, who remains one of the NFL’s best right – tackles, got the final laugh over Ziggy though, as Ansah last appeared in a National Football League regular – season game back during the 2020 – 2021 NFL season.

Ansah’s Football Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • Second – Team NFL All – Pro Selection (2015)
  • NFL Pro Bowl Selection (2015)
  • PFWA All – Rookie Team Selection (2013)
  • First – Team All – Independent Selection (2012)

 2018 – Amari Cooper Scores a 90 – Yard Touchdown:

In his 4th overall – NFL game, which just so happened to be with the Dallas Cowboys, after they acquired him from the Oakland Raiders, Cooper lined up with the offense at their own 10 – yard line. Quarterback Dak Prescott fired to him across the middle, and Cooper caught the ball at the 31 – yard line. He spun away from 3 – Washington defenders and sprinted the remaining 69 yards for the score. Cooper reached a max speed of 20.82 – miles per hour, at the time the fastest of any Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver since National Football League tracked data using Next Gen Stats.

Cooper’s Football Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • 4 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019)
  • PFWA All – Rookie Team Selection (2015)
  • BCS National Champion (2012)
  • Fred Biletnikoff Award Winner (2014)
  • Unanimous All – American Selection (2014)
  • SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award Winner (2014)
  • First – Team All – SEC Selection (2014)

 2019 – Cameron Jordan Crashes Down on 4 – Quarterback Sacks:

Jordan had a career game against his New Orleans Saints’ division rival, collecting all 4 – of his total sacks versus the Atlanta Falcons quarterback in Matt Ryan on Thanksgiving Day several years ago. Cam’s performance powered him to a career – high 15.5 – sacks on that season. Just 3 – NFL seasons later on, he broke the New Orleans Saints record for career sacks, Jordan humorously thanked Matt Ryan, whom he tackled behind the line of scrimmage a total of 23 – times throughout his illustrious NFL career.

“Lots of Matt Ryan,” the New Orleans Saints defensive end, Cameron Jordan, emphasized when he explained how he managed to set that NFL record. “He’s been good to me. Happy New Year, Matt Ryan, if you see it.”

 Jordan’s Football Achievements, Honors, & Awards:

  • First – Team NFL All – Pro Selection (2017)
  • 2 – Time NFL Second – Team All – Pro Selection (2018, 2019)
  • 8 – Time NFL Pro Bowl Selection (2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022)
  • NFL 2010’s All – Decade Team Selection
  • First – Team All – Pac – 10 Selection (2010)

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