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Thanksgiving and the New England Patriots: A Look Back

Five times the New England Patriots have played a football game on Thanksgiving. Let's take a look at them.

Tom Brady tasting Thanksgiving Classic success.
Tom Brady tasting Thanksgiving Classic success.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Note: This article was originally published in November 2014.

Thanksgiving, the one holiday that combines three of the best things in life: family, food and football. The latter, unfortunately, will take place without the Patriots this year, as they are currently preparing to face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. While the team is looking into the not too distant future, we take our time to look into the past.

The Patriots have played the Thanksgiving Classic five times, and have won three of those games. Interestingly enough, they have played in only one Turkey Bowl before a certain Tom Brady was drafted in the year 2000. The more success the Patriots have, the more commonly they are featured on Thanksgiving. With Brady as quarterback, the Patriots have had a lot of success on the fourth Thursday of November, going 3-0.

1984: New England Patriots at Dallas Cowboys

Date: November 22, 1984.

Place: Texas Stadium, Irving TX.

Score: Patriots 17 - 20 Cowboys.

The Patriots made their Thanksgiving debut in 1984 against the Cowboys. Who could forget the classic battle between Tony Eason and Danny White? Well, it was not that classic of a battle. However, it was a close game in which the Patriots came back from a 14-point 4th quarter deficit to tie the contest at 17. Craig James rushed for 112 yards, Andre Tippett had 1.5 sacks and Eason scored once through the air and once on the ground (Eason and the ground seemed to attract each other that day, as he was sacked a whooping 10 times). In the end, though, those individual accomplishment were not enough, and the Pats lost on a 23-yard field goal.

2000: New England Patriots at Detroit Lions

Date: November 23, 2000.

Place: Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac MI.

Score: Patriots 9 - 34 Detroit Lions.

The day Tom Brady threw his first NFL pass was also the day of the Patriots' second Thanksgiving appearance. Thanks to Adam Vinatieri and the defense, the game was fairly competitive for the first three quarters. The Lions, however, would eventually pull away; aided by two Drew Bledsoe interceptions (one of which was returned 101 yards for a touchdown). Therefore, with four minutes to go and the game already out of hand, a sixth round rookie out of Michigan entered the contest. His success was kept within limits: 3 attempts, 1 completion, 6 yards, 3-and-out. About 14 months later, Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP.

2002: New England Patriots at Detroit Lions

Date: November 28, 2002.

Place: Ford Field, Detroit MI.

Score: Patriots 20 - 12 Detroit Lions.

Two years after their last Thanksgiving game, the Patriots would again travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. This time, however, the result, as well as the starting quarterback, would be different. While Tom Brady was rather unspectacular, throwing for 201 yards and an interception, it was the defense which carried the team that day. Willie McGinest, Bobby Hamilton and Tedy Bruschi recorded one interception apiece, with Bruschi returning his pick 27 yards for the score. The Patriots did not allow a touchdown and recorded their first Thanksgiving win.

2010: New England Patriots at Detroit Lions

Date: November 25, 2010.

Place: Ford Field, Detroit MI.

Score: Patriots 45 - 24 Detroit Lions.

Once again, the Patriots faced the Lions on Thanksgiving day. And just like eight years before, they would leave Detroit victoriously. As opposed to the last match up, though, Tom Brady was on fire that day, annihilating the Lions' secondary (Alphonso Smith probably still has nightmares of this game) to the tune of 341 passing yards, four touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Wes Welker caught two touchdown passes. Deion Branch caught two touchdown passes. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for two touchdowns, and Devin McCourty recorded two interceptions. The Patriots looked great that day; not only due to their jerseys.

2012: New England Patriots at New York Jets

Date: November 22, 2012.

Place: New Meadowlands, East Rutherford NJ.

Score: Patriots 49 - 19 Jets.

The Patriots' most recent Thanksgiving game is also probably their most memorable one, thanks to one play: the Buttfumble (Alec Shane wrote about it in great detail here). This one play overshadows the rest of the contest and the fact that the Patriots played nearly flawless football that day, scoring on offense, defense and special teams (all within 54 seconds). New England was firing on all cylinders: Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and rushed for another score, Julian Edelman scored two touchdowns (one on offense, one on special teams), and Steve Gregory secured himself a place in NFL lore, due to recovering and subsequently returning a Mark Sanchez fumble, which was caused by the Jets' quarterback running into the backside of offensive lineman Brandon Moore.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! In the words of our very own Richard Hill: we are on to delicious stuffing.