memorable
Football fans aren't always thankful for their team's Thanksgiving Day plays. (Robert Sabo/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
By Ariel Scotti / November 22, 2018 5:00 am

Football and Thanksgiving are a perfect pairing as American as apple pie and vanilla ice cream — a dessert that will likely grace the tables of many households on Thursday.

We have the Lions to thank for this yearly gridiron tradition. It started in 1934 when the newly minted franchise wanted to make a name for itself with its Detroit fans, a group solely devoted to the city’s MLB team, the Tigers. The Lions ended up losing the close Turkey Day matchup to their eventual division rival Chicago Bears, but did so in front of a sold-out crowd. The capacity turnout convinced football execs that fans were receptive to a yearly holiday matchup.

It’s been that way ever since. With the addition of the Dallas Cowboys to the annual special, the Lions and football have become as iconic on Thanksgiving as turkey.

This year we give thanks to this tradition that sparked some of the most memorable moments in NFL history. Here, in no particular order, are the top seven.

Peyton Manning throws six TDs

On Nov. 5, 2004, Peyton Manning led the Indianapolis Colts on an all-out assault of the Detroit Lions, tossing six touchdowns in just three quarters.

Lawrence Taylor’s pick-6

In a career full of highlights, New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor picked off Lions quarterback Gary Danielson when Detroit was on his team’s 3-yard-line — and took it 97 yards to the house on Thanksgiving Day, 1982.

The butt fumble

Not all plays in the Thanksgiving football hall of fame are remembered for their greatness or athleticism. Ask QB Mark Sanchez and the 2012 Jets. From that moment on, two words will follow Sanchez for the rest of his life: butt fumble.

Coin flip-flop

In 1998, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was tasked with choosing either heads or tails on the overtime coin flip when his team was tied with the Lions, 16-16. He watched in horror as referee Phil Luckett called heads (Bettis’ pick), quickly changed it to tails and awarded the ball to Detroit — who went on to win the game. The flip-flop had one good outcome: an NFL rule change that says players have to choose before the coin is flipped.

One-shoe Smith

A 2010 play that would make “Shoeless” Joe Jackson proud — Jets kick returner Brad Smith lost a shoe halfway through taking a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. Smith’s shoe went flying near mid-field but it didn’t slow him down as he blew away the entire Cincinnati Bengals special teams.

Rookie Moss

In 1998, a newbie named Randy Moss took the NFL by storm and scored a record 17 touchdowns with the Minnesota Vikings. The future Hall of Fame inductee pulled off a hat trick at that season’s Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Cowboys, scoring three TDs in Dallas.

T.O.’s twisting toes

Not even avid Terrell Owens critics can deny the wide receiver had next-level talent. Those skills were on full display when his Cowboys played the Seattle Seahawks in the  2008 holiday matchup. T.O. made an incredible 30-yard play along the sidelines, all while keeping his toes in-play and twisting a full 180 degrees in mid-air to make the catch.