By Will Martin
Don’t look now but the onslaught of the holidays are about to reach your doorstep and as soon as you come to grips with it the new year has begun and you’re bowled over with great and not so great games.
Of course once upon a time there was a Thursday where you actually did a sit down dinner with the family and you made sure to play some touch football if you were living somewhere that the weather wasn’t too bad in between the featured game in Detroit and Dallas.
It was in 1934 that the city of Detroit began the tradition of featuring football on Turkey Day. The same thing began in Dallas in 1966.
With the exception of 1975 and 1977 in St. Louis (two losses to AFC East teams with the Bills 32-14 and Dolphins 55-14) Dallas has featured the 3:30 game.
Every other year Dallas will host an AFC team while Detroit will play an NFC team and vice versa.
In my household the memories of watching football games on Thanksgiving Day go as far back as 1974. I recall the Broncos playing at Tiger Stadium in a 20-0 shutout in the snow before going indoors the following year ( losing to the Rams).
Yes, I remember the 50-24 pasting Barry Sanders placed on the Broncos in 1990. In 1978 there was a Broncos loss to Detroit 17-14. For many years it seemed the Lions would get up for that Turkey Day matchup. The best game I can recall in Detroit was the opponent they’ll face this Thursday back in 1986. 86 points scored in that 1986 game, I believe won by Detroit 45-41.
With the Cowboys, it seems their best games happened against the Redskins. 38-10 in 1978, 27-17 in Emmitt Smith’s rookie year of 1990. The 51-7 blowout of the Seahawks in 1980 after a 30-0 halftime lead. Bounty Bowl 1989 when the Eagles pasted a 20-0 shutout and fights were everywhere.
Oilers fans will be quick to mention the 30-24 victory Earl Campbell placed on Texas Stadium in 1979. Seems the Denver Broncos was quick to provide heartache to the Cowboys fans in 2001 and 2005 by a total of five points. That 2001 game I remember for featuring Creed at halftime and Ryan Leaf almost doing the unthinkable in a 26-24 loss my first year in the South.
Without question the day of pigsking watching gets amplified by the food you get to enjoy. The restaurant industry is such that you tend to get well fed on that given day. Back in 1980 finding a restaurant that was open was nil. Now you have places open on the big day.
Yet I digress. We all have memories that stay with us from childhood about a game we still remember like it was yesterday. For me it will always be that Turkey day game played 39 years ago to the day as this week. Cowboys versus Redskins. A game where I saw Roger Staubach get taken out a game in a hard but clean hit by Harold McClinton.
The Redskins had jumped out to a 23-10 lead. Enter Clint Longley, the guy who liked to hunt rattle snakes in the offseason. The kid would engineer two dramatic drives-the winner being a 50-yard strike to Billy Joe Dupree that resulted in a 24-23 Cowboys victory.
The Cowboys of 1974 finished 8-6 but failed to make the playoffs. What I remember more about that day was seeing Tom Brookshier and Pat Summerall dressed up as Cowboy and Indian. Knowing what I know now about those two CBS gents is that they let the nightlife sometimes carry into the booth. Another story for another time.
As you get ready for Thanksgiving this Thursday and the Cowboys opt to wear the Blue and not the White I had a chance to visit Valley Ranch for some holiday insights on what Dallas wants to accomplish before the ten day layoff, or put a different way, two games to be played in 29 days with a bye and all.
If Oakland decides to push their running game look for the Cowboys to get tested without Sean Lee, Morris Claiborne and a depleted secondary. You can also expect Ernie Sims to see some valuable playing time.
On the heels of a dramatic 24-21 victory against the Giants, I don’t think it’s asking too much for the Cowboys to put forth an equally strong effort on Turkey Day. All three home teams should flourish nicely at home. That’s Detroit, Dallas, and Baltimore if you weren’t aware.
Enjoy the holidays, enjoy the pomp and circumstance. Enjoy the fellowship and enjoy the football!
Clint Longley-you made Thanksgiving a welcome day in my household all those years ago!