Pages Navigation Menu

The Ten Best NFL Thanksgiving Day Performances Since 2000

The Ten Best NFL Thanksgiving Day Performances Since 2000

Thanksgiving, in my estimation, is the greatest day of the year and there is no close second.

Name for me one other day where you can drink, eat tons of fantastic food, lay down, watch football all friggin day, pass out, and possibly eat again…and this is all considered a-ok! You don’t have to feel bad for being a slovenly person. You owe no one any explanations.  It’s just what you do.  It’s truly glorious.

American Football has been a part of Thanksgiving since 1892 (crazy, right?)  There’s nothing like a few great NFL matchups while your body deals with the horrifying gastronomic assault it just endured moments ago.  There have been many great performances in years past, so let’s stroll down memory lane and talk turkey. In no particular order, here’s the ten best performances on Thanksgiving since the turn of the millennium.

1. Tom Brady -2010 @ Detroit Lions – 21/27, 341 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT, 94.7 QBR, 158.3 passer rating.

I hate this man.

The poor Lions.  They’ve played on Thanksgiving every year since 1945.  They’re only 33-37-2 all-time, and in recent years have been subject to some major beatdowns.  They’ve suffered so many indignities.  This Tom Brady performance spearheaded one of the more memorable ones.  Facing the Shaun Hill-led Lions, the Patriots were down 24-17 with just over 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Then, Tom Brady unleashed hell. Brady launched a 79-yard bomb to Deion Branch to tie it up, and then hit Branch and Wes Welker for one TD each to pull ahead by two scores.  The only reason Brady didn’t have a rushing TD as well is that he got stuffed twice at the goal line.  Another uber-efficient Brady performance and another Lions letdown, as the Pats rolled 45-21.

2. Brian Westbrook – 2010 vs Arizona Cardinals – 22 carries, 110 yards, 3 receptions, 20 yards, 4 total TDs

Brian Westbrook, at his peak, was an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses.  He could do it all, and the only thing that was ever able to stop him was his health.  This game exemplifies what Westbrook was able to do on the field.  He was nearly impossible to stop near the goal line, scoring on a 5 yards catch, 1 yard run, 2 yard catch, and 9 yard run.  This game, a 48-20 blowout for the Eagles, was (shockingly) a preview of the NFC Championship game that year.  The Cardinals won 32-25 on their way to the Super Bowl, and it was no small part to bottling up the mercurial Westbrook.

3. Chris Johnson and LenDale White – 2008 @ Detroit Lions – 39 carries, 231 yards, 4 TDs

You have not seen this happen with Shonne Greene. Only one chubby running back works well with CJ2K.

Yes, I’m counting Johnson and White as one person.  In 2008, the Titans had a stout defense and punishing “Smash and Dash” rushing attack led by rookie Chris Johnson and 3rd year USC star LenDale White.  They combined for 2001 yards to go with 24 TDs as the Titans marched to a division title.  This game was a great example of what the duo was capable of doing with their version of thunder and lightning (one of the few incarnations that actually worked well).  Johnson had 16 carries for 123 yards and 2 TDs (one an electrifying 58 yard scamper), while White had 23 carries for 106 yards and 2 TDs.  The Lions took a 47-10 pounding in this one, on the way to their ignominious 0-16 season.

4. Brad Smith – 2010 vs Cincinnati Bengals – 201 total yards, 2 TDs

Brad Smith was a great offensive and special teams weapon for the Jets.  This game was a great example of how someone like that can carry a team when the offense struggles mightily.  Smith scored on a 53 yard run and an 89 yard kickoff return in a game where the rest of the team had serious trouble moving the ball against a 2-win team.  Here’s the fantastic kickoff return, most notable for the fact that his shoe fell off less than halfway through.  I miss you, Brad.

5. Tony Romo – 2006 vs Tampa Bay Bucs – 22/29, 306 yards,  5 TDs

I wanna throw this many like Peyton!

I remember this game vividly.  I was watching this game with my cousin, who is a big Cowboys fan.  On a whim, I started Romo on my fantasy team during a crucial late season playoff run.  We now refer to this game as “The Day Tony Romo Became A Man.”  In only his 5th NFL start, Romo eviscerated the Bucs defense after a slow start to the game.  He badly missed Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens on wide-open long passes, prompting a “here we go” from my cousin, fearing disaster was striking.  But instead, Romo took over, igniting his love-hate relationship with Cowboys fans the world over.

6. Terrell Suggs – 2011 vs San Francisco 49ers – 3 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 TFL

Seconds later, they beat the shit out of each other.

This goes to Suggs as a representative of the Baltimore Ravens defense, which beat up on the 49ers like John Harbaugh probably did to his little brother Jim when they were in grade school.  In the first Harbaugh Bowl, Suggs led the defense by hitting QB Alex Smith 3 times in addition to his 3 sacks.  The Ravens D as a whole was an immovable object.  They allowed only 170 yards of offense, tallied 9 sacks and 9 TFL, picked off Smith once, and hit him 12 times.  They basically spent as much time in the Niners backfield as I did at the dining room table that day.

7. Robert Griffin III – 2012 @ Dallas Cowboys – 19/27, 304 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 29 rushing yards

This year, RGIII looks hobbled, his team is awful, and he seems to have a penchant for throwing his teammates under the bus and displaying questionable leadership qualities.  One short year ago, all he did was make play after play, leading the Redskins to a surprise division title while showing his incredible skill set and poise right from week 1 against the Saints.  This game was no different.  After building a 28-3 lead after tossing 68 and 59 yard scores in the second quarter, RGIII helped withstand a furious Cowboys comeback attempt in the second half.  Big time performance on the big stage for a rookie.

8. Brett Favre – 2007 @ Detroit Lions 31/41, 381 yards, 3 TDs, 91.5 QBR

Not shown: obscene photos sent to this turkey prior to eating.

We all know Brett Favre is a gunslinger, taking risks that often win games but sometimes lose them.  However, when Favre was efficient, he was impossible to stop.  This game, yet another disappointing loss for the Lions, showed off how good Favre could be.  Completing 75% of his passes to 8 different receivers, Favre carved up the defense like a succulent Turducken.  I wonder which John Madden raved about more that day?

9. Peyton Manning – 2004 @ Detroit Lions – 23/28, 236 yards, 6 TDs

Manning joined the fun in beating the Lions on Thanksgiving this year while he was on his way to breaking the passing touchdown record in 2004. He got 6 of his 49 TDs here.  This game was a complete laugher, and Manning got to sit after 3 quarters.  Which means he threw 6 TDs.  In 3 quarters.  The fact that Manning sat out the last quarter is all you need to know about the differences between Tony Dungy and Bill Belichick as human beings.  Old Bill would have run up that score to 10 TDs if he was coaching that game.  I realize as I write this that the Lions are on the wrong end of so many of these big games.

10.  Brandon Moore’s Ass – 2012 vs New England Patriots – 1 Buttfumble Forced

What can I say about this as a Jets fan.  This play will live on forever in infamy.  I am definitely not thankful for it.  But, in a strange way, this play was great.  Great for mockery, but still great.  Listen to Chris Collinsworth and his remarkably awful account of how this play happened.

Honorable Mention: Matthew Stafford – 2012 vs Houston Texans – 31/61, 441 yards, 2 TDs

Ok, so this is not the greatest performance.  Stafford barely completed 50% of his passes.  But I’ll be damned if anyone else has come close to leading the Lions to a win on Thanksgiving in the last 9 years.  Stafford got the Lions to OT, only to have a Jason Hanson 47 yard field goal attempt hit the right upright.  Six plays later, the Texans won.  Even I felt bad.

Will any one else add to Thanksgiving folklore this year? Megatron? Eddie Lacy? Big Ben? The Irish QBs Named Matt – McGloin and Flynn?

Only time will tell.  Whatever happens, enjoy the greatest day on earth.

Steve Caronia is a New York City based physical therapist. He has fantasy rooting interest in every game tomorrow. So much for relaxing on the couch.