Thanksgiving is a festive holiday. It’s a time for friends and family; it’s a chance to enjoy the finer things in life — like turkey and more turkey. And for many folks, it’s about putting their feet up, lounging around the old television, and celebrating the love of the game of football. After all, what would Thanksgiving be without one NFL game after another?
Over the years, this holiday has played host to some of the most incredible individual performances the game has ever seen. Whether it’s a quarterback throwing for six touchdowns or a running back piling up nearly 300 yards on the ground, Thanksgiving Day games in the NFL tend to leave us with enough memories to last us a lifetime. For some of the players involved, however, these memories are ones they wish they could forget.
Blunders are a part of pro sports. Individuals in the National Football League know this all too well. And, unfortunately, these truly unfortunate incidents refuse to take a backseat to the holidays. With that in mind, as we prepare ourselves for this season’s festivities, here’s a look at the three most embarrassing Thanksgiving Day moments in NFL history.
3. Heads? Tails? Make up your mind
The 1998 Thanksgiving Day game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions featured one of the most controversial moments in NFL history. With the score knotted at 16, both sides prepared to settle the score in overtime. The captains met at midfield for the coin toss, where Pittsburgh’s Jerome Bettis made the call for the visiting team. This, unfortunately, is where things took a turn for the “weird.”
Despite calling “tails,” referee Phil Luckett announced to the crowd that Bettis had, in fact, called “heads.” When the coin landed on tails, Luckett determined that the Lions won the toss. Although Bettis and the rest of the Steelers emphatically protested, the call on the field stood. Minutes later, Detroit kicker Jason Hanson drilled a 42-yard field goal, giving the Lions the 19-16 victory.
2. Oh, Leon
On November 25, 1993, the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins met for a snow-filled Thanksgiving Day showdown in Texas. With seconds left in the game and Miami trailing 14-13, the visiting team lined up for a potential game-winning 41-yard field goal. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Pete Stoyanovich’s kick was blocked.
Luckily for the ‘Fins, Dallas’s Leon Lett decided to take matters into his own hands. Instead of leaving the ball alone, Lett bulldozed into it, giving the Dolphins a chance to recover the ball (which they did). Stoyanovich, with an unlikely second-chance to play the hero, drilled a 19-yard kick for the 16-14 win. In case you wondered, this is hardly the worst gaffe of Lett’s career.
1. Two words: Butt Fumble
Contrary to popular belief, losing 49-19 at home on Thanksgiving is not the most embarrassing thing that can happen to an NFL team. If you don’t belief us, just ask the New York Jets. Well, more specifically, ask quarterback Mark Sanchez.
On November 22, 2012, with his team already trailing the New England Patriots 14-0, Sanchez, following a botched handoff, took off scrambling, only to run into teammate Brandon Moore’s backside and fumble the ball. To make matters worse, Sanchez had to watch from the ground as New England’s Steve Gregory recovered the ball and returned it for a touchdown. In one moment, Sanchez’s career suddenly became the “butt” of every joke.
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.