For the first time since 2000, the Minnesota Vikings will be taking to the field on Thanksgiving when they travel to Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions. We haven’t seen the purple and gold on Thanksgiving for a while, but if history is any indication, there’s reason for optimism when it comes to the Vikings’ chances on this holiday.
Minnesota has appeared in six Thanksgiving contest, facing the Lions and the Dallas Cowboys three times each. In those six games, they’ve compiled a 5-1 record and put together some pretty memorable performances.
The first Thanksgiving game for the Vikings took place back in 1969, when they traveled to take on the Lions at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. It wasn’t a pretty game, by any means. The teams could only muster nine first downs a piece and combined. . .combined. . .for 329 yards of total offense. In the end, however, it looked pretty good for the Vikings, as they walked away with a 27-0 victory to move their record to 10-1 on the season.
It was nearly two decades before the Vikings got another Thanksgiving opportunity, but it came again with their first Thanksgiving trip to Dallas in 1987. This one featured both teams lighting up the scoreboard, as the two teams combined for 82 points. Mike Renfro’s third touchdown catch of the afternoon (and second of the fourth quarter) ended a furious Cowboys’ comeback that saw them force overtime with the game tied at 38-38. Minnesota eventually prevailed, 44-38, on a Darrin Nelson touchdown run in overtime.
Minnesota didn’t have to wait long for their next Thanksgiving appearance, as they were back again the next year, this time taking on the Lions again. The Lions probably wished that the Vikings had stayed at home, though. Two touchdown runs by Alfred Anderson, three Chuck Nelson field goals, and a suffocating performance by the Vikings’ defense led to another shutout, this time by a score of 23-0 at the Silverdome. How dominant was Minnesota’s defense? For the entire game, Detroit had three first downs and sixty. . .that’s six-zero. . .yards of offense.
The Vikings got another crack at the Lions on Thanksgiving Day in 1995, and this time the Lions got a measure of revenge, handing the Vikings their only Thanksgiving loss. It was a shootout at the Silverdome, with Scott Mitchell and Warren Moon taking turns marching their respective offenses down the field. Mitchell would throw for 410 yards and four touchdowns, while Moon put up 384 yards and three scoring passes. Barry Sanders carried the ball 24 times for 138 yards, including a big 50-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put Detroit in the lead for good. Detroit would go on to win by a final score of 44-38.
Minnesota’s next Thanksgiving appearance is one we all remember, as they made the trek to Dallas in 1998 to take on the Cowboys. If you don’t remember it, you can always watch it on YouTube.
The good news for Cowboys fans was that they limited star rookie receiver Randy Moss to three catches on the afternoon. The bad news for Cowboys fans was that those catches were a 51-yard touchdown, a 56-yard touchdown, and another 56-yard touchdown. Three catches, 163 yards, and three scores for Moss on the afternoon were the big highlight of another Thanksgiving shootout, as Minnesota came out on top by a score of 46-36.
Minnesota’s most recent Thanksgiving appearance took place in Dallas two seasons later. While it wasn’t quite as memorable as the game two years earlier, it did have its moments. In particular. . .and I’ve said this in this space before. . .it featured what to this day I swear is the most ridiculous catch I’ve ever seen on a football field.
You can have your Odell Beckham catches and whatever else. I still have no idea how the heck Moss caught this ball and got his feet down. That catch put the Vikings ahead 27-9, and they wound up winning it 27-15.
Can the Vikings extend their overwhelmingly positive history on Thanksgiving a few days from now? If they can, they’ll jump back into first place in the NFC North and have some pretty serious momentum going into their matchup on 1 December with the Cowboys.