Thanksgiving Classics


The Holiday Has Seen its Share of Sporting Drama in Dallas Over the Years

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? Mom & dad, Uncle Fred, turkey, cranberry sauce, Black Friday shopping and… sports! Mainly football.

The holidays just give more reasons to enjoy the games. Can you imagine Thanksgiving without the Cowboys playing at home? Or the Stars playing on Thanksgiving Friday? And the Mavs are busy doing their thing as well. It’s a potpourri of family, food and fans. And drama.

With that, here’s a look at some of the more memorable Thanksgiving weekend classics for Dallas teams over the years:


Dallas Cowboys, 24, Washington Redskins 23 — Nov. 1974

605989e7708Any top holiday games list in Dallas begins with two words: Clint Longley. In 1974, Longley was a rookie quarterback for the Cowboys, who was nicknamed the “Mad Bomber” by his teammates when one of his wayward passes hit Coach Landry’s tower in training camp. Oh, and he also hunted rattlesnakes in his spare time.

Entering the 1974 Thanksgiving game vs. the Redskins, the Cowboys were struggling. Sporting a 6-5 record and facing division-leading Washington, Dallas was hurting even more when Roger Staubach was knocked out of the game with 9:57 left in the third quarter (an action the Skins boasted they would do prior to the game).

The Cowboys were trailing, 16-3, and Longley was inserted into the game. The Mad Bomber began to, well, bomb away. Longley completed 12-of-21 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. The game-winner came on a 50-yard strike to Drew Pearson with less than 30 seconds left. The Redskins fell, 24-23, to the rookie and a new hero in Big D.

Unfortunately for Longley, he faded into the background and totally disappeared when the Cowboys signed Danny White in 1976. It appeared that Longley’s 15 minutes were up. But the 1974 Thanksgiving game will forever cement his legacy into Cowboys lore.

Joe Dumars
Joe Dumars


Dallas Mavericks 113, Detroit Pistons 107 — Nov. 25, 1987

On Thanksgiving eve, 1987, the Mavs and Pistons showed while they were both top-five teams in the NBA that season, playing a slugfest to the final whistle in front of a sellout crowd at Reunion Arena. Detroit finished with six players in double-figures, led by Joe Dumars’ 19. Rolando Blackman led the Mavericks with 30 while Sam Perkins and Roy Tarpley would each earn double-doubles. Many believed it might be a NBA Finals preview, and it almost was. Both teams would eventually fall in the 1988 playoffs to the Los Angeles Lakers – the Mavs in the Western Conference Finals and the Pistons in the Finals.


Dallas Cowboys 10, Chicago Bears 9 — Thanksgiving, 1981

Walter Payton had a big day for Chicago with 179 yards rushing on 38 carries, but it was not enough to carry the Bears to a win.

Danny White was knocked out of the game and relieved by Glenn Carano. A 3-3 game into the fourth quarter, Chicago took the lead after a 16-play, 80-yard TD drive, but Ed Jones blocked the extra point with 13:39 left.

Cowboys Landry 1980Carano then drove the Cowboys 83 yards to the Bears’ two-yard line. Facing fourth-and-goal, Tom Landry decided to go for it, but Carano’s pass to tight end Billy Joe DuPree was broken up.

The Dallas D stepped up and forced a three-and-out, and once again Carano and the Cowboys had life. They drove down the field and this time got into the end zone, thanks to Ron Springs’ sideline run to the corner pylon. The extra point gave Dallas the win.



Miami Dolphins 16, Dallas Cowboys 14 — Thanksgiving, 1993

The Leon Lett game. The Dolphins entered at 8-2 while Dallas was 7-3. The Cowboys would go on to win the Super Bowl but had this speed bump along the way.

A cold front dumped sleet and ice across the Metroplex, and Texas Stadium turned into an ice rink. Dallas led, 14-7, at halftime, but Miami would win on three field goals in the second half, the last of which was a gift from Lett.

With Miami trailing, 14-13, with 13 seconds left, the Cowboys blocked the game-winning field goal and it was loose on the turf. While most Cowboys on the field motioned to get away from the ball, but Lett decided to make it his, diving and sliding into it, creating a live football once again. Miami pounced on it and got a second chance at the game-winner, which was true.

Lett’s a three-time Super Bowl champion, but he is more remembered from this Thanksgiving gaffe and his early TD celebration gone wrong in Super Bowl XXVII.


Dallas Stars 3, LA Kings 2 OT — Nov. 23, 2011

Willie Desjardins

One of the more dramatic holiday games came just two years ago on Thanksgiving eve. Of all people, it was Stars associate coach Willie Desjardins who saved the day vs. the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

Trailing, 2-1, with just seconds remaining in regulation, the Stars were on a late power play and had a faceoff at the attacking blue line. Dallas called timeout and Willie pulled out his trusty dry-erase board.

Desjardins wanted Steve Ott to win the faceoff forward and to the right, where Jamie Benn would get the puck and move in while Loui Eriksson crashed the net. The play worked to perfection, and Eriksson took a pass and scored with 20.3 seconds left to tie the game. Desjardins was mobbed on the bench after the play. Ott went on to score the game-winner in overtime to cap off Willie’s heroics.


Dallas Cowboys 42, Green Bay Packers 31 — Thanksgiving, 1994

f785f0393cff79358fadbf0e230f9b955f3f5603Before he was head coach for the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett made a living as one of the longest-tenured third-string quarterbacks in the league. And when Troy Aikman and Rodney Peete each went down with thumb injuries, Garrett was thrust into the starting lineup against the up-and-coming Green Bay Packers and some guy named Brett Favre.

The game didn’t start well for Dallas. Garrett’s first pass was intercepted and the Cowboys trailed, 17-6, at the half. But led by Garrett, Dallas scored touchdowns on the first five drives after halftime, scoring a team-record 36 points in the second half. Garrett finished the game with 311 passing yards. It’s a good thing he didn’t have to worry about clock management that afternoon or the result may have been different.

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Rob Scichili (shick-lee) has worked in professional sports for over 24 years in PR and communications, including time with the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks,, Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks. A journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he is co-owner and editor at ScoreboardTx, principal at Shick Communications and VP at Franchise Sports & Entertainment while serving on the board of the Mike Modano Foundation.