first_imgIt seems like every Thanksgiving, America is forced to digest butt fumbles, bad coin tosses and bonehead blocked field-goal recoveries, not to mention Lions games.But over the decades, plenty of players have achieved brilliance instead of infamy. 2. O.J. Simpson, RB, Bills (vs. Lions, 1976)Simpson kept the national TV audience tuned in long after his Bills were out of it against the Lions. Detroit cruised to a 27-14 win, but O.J. rushed for a then-single-game record 273 yards, breaking his own record of 250 set three years earlier during his 2,000-yard season.Walter Payton surpassed that a year later, but no one topped either of them until 2000.3. Randy Moss, WR, Vikings (vs. Cowboys, 1998)One of the all-time best revenge games, Moss got back at the Cowboys for passing him over in that year’s draft. The rookie caught three passes — all touchdowns of 50-plus yards, including a flea-flicker two minutes into the game and one bomb while he was being interfered with.The Vikings won 46-36 and wound up one missed field goal away from the Super Bowl.4. Barry Sanders, RB, Lions (vs. Bears, 1997)The annual Thanksgiving appetizer for a decade, Sanders’ best show was this one: 167 yards and three touchdowns, including a 40-yarder, and humiliation of Bears defenders on virtually every carry.The Lions won 55-20, Sanders moved into second on the all-time rushing list … and retired after the next season, still No. 2.5. Tom Brady, QB Patriots (vs. Lions, 2010)You knew Brady would make this list. He turned Detroit’s defense into hopeless turkeys in a matchup of two teams going in completely different directions. In New England’s 45-24 victory, Brady posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating by completing 21 of 27 pass attempts for 341 yards and 4 TDs, a pair each to Wes Welker and Deion Branch.MORE: Most embarrassing Thanksgiving moments6. Emmitt Smith, RB, Cowboys (vs. Redskins, 2002)Smith, a Thanksgiving staple like Sanders for more than a decade, was coming to the end of his days in Dallas; the Cowboys would cut him at the end of the season. It was his last game against their rival, Chad Hutchinson was the quarterback and the opposing coach was Steve Spurrier, in his first year.Smith rushed for 144 yards, only his second 100-yard game all season, tied for second in all-time 100-yard games behind Walter Payton, and the Cowboys won 27-20.7. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys (vs. Buccaneers, 2006)The Cowboys knew they had something special in the undrafted Romo pretty quickly in his first half-season as a starter. In only his sixth career start, Romo ripped Tampa Bay’s defense in a 38-10 rout.Romo had the first of two five-TD games in his career, going 22-of-29 for 306 yards. Two went to the late Terry Glenn, two to Marion Barber III and the last one, of course, to Terrell Owens. He threw three touchdown passes, including the 50-yarder to Drew Pearson with 28 seconds left that won it for the Cowboys, 24-23.15. Jason Garrett, QB, Cowboys (vs. Packers, 1994)The third-stringer and future head coach replaced injured starter Troy Aikman and backup Rodney Peete, fell behind 17-3 in the first half, endured Brett Favre throwing four touchdown passes to Sterling Sharpe … and won, 42-31.The Cowboys scored 36 second-half points, and Garrett was 15-for-26 for 311 yards and two touchdowns. Before that, he had thrown 24 career NFL passes. 8. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins (vs. Cowboys, 2012)Just two weeks before this game, Mike Shanahan had all but called Washington’s season over at 3-6. The rookie Griffin was making a virtual homecoming while trying to keep hope alive.It sprang to life unexpectedly. Griffin threw three of his four touchdown passes in a 28-0 stampede in the second quarter and helped hold off a furious Cowboys comeback. Washington won 38-31, the second win in the season-ending, seven-game streak that got them the NFC East title.9-10. Matthew Stafford, QB, and Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions (vs. Eagles, 2015)This would mark the last time Staff and Megatron would celebrate Thanksgiving in Ford Field together, and they ended with a bang in Detroit’s 45-14 rout of Philadelphia.Stafford ripped the Eagles for 337 yards and 5 TDs, with Johnson accounting for 93 receiving yards and 3 of those TDs. With it, Johnson set the record for most receiving TDs (10) in Thanksgiving history.11. Bob Griese, QB Dolphins (vs. Cardinals, 1977)How can a six-touchdown day on Thanksgiving be so forgotten over time? It was a rare holiday game in St. Louis, back when there was a move to stop Dallas from monopolizing the day. Griese threw all six in three quarters, on just 23 attempts, and the Dolphins blew the Cards out, 55-14.Dallas has hosted a Thanksgiving game every year since; only Manning has thrown for as many touchdowns on the day.12. Roger Brown, DE, Lions (vs. Packers, 1962)Not so much the historically overlooked Brown, but the entire line, the “Fearsome Foursome” before the Rams bogarted the nickname. Brown, Alex Karras, Sam Williams and Darris McCord led a Lions defense that sacked Bart Starr 11 times, including once for a safety, as Detroit whipped Vince Lombardi’s 10-0 defending-champion Packers, 26-14. Brown was in on seven of the sacks.13. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers (vs. Colts, 2016)Brown was the latest entry here with his explosion in Pittsburgh’s 28-7 romp in Indianapolis on Thanksgiving night. The Colts had no answers for him in scoring position, as his 5 catches for 91 yards included touchdowns of 25, 33 and 22 yards.14. Clint Longley, QB, Cowboys (vs. Redskins, 1974)Even after 43 years, no Thanksgiving performance has packed more shock value. At the height of the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry, Washington knocked Roger Staubach out of the game with a third-quarter concussion, forcing Dallas to go to the rookie Longley, trailing 16-3. (Getty Images) (Getty Images) Here are the 15 greatest NFL Thanksgiving game performances ever.MORE: 2019 NFL Thanksgiving game viewing guide1. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts (vs. Lions, 2004)This game all but assured he’d break Dan Marino’s single-season touchdown pass record of 48; he finished the game with 41, with five games left, and ended up with 49. Manning did it in three quarters, too, throwing his first three to Brandon Stokley and the last three to Marvin Harrison.It was as lopsided a Thanksgiving game as there’s ever been, 41-9 — and on the day Barry Sanders received his Hall of Fame ring.last_img read more