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The greatest performance in NFL Thanksgiving history, 25 years ago

Yeah, it’s been that long

Vikings at Dallas Cowboys — Randy Moss hauls down a Randal Cunningham pass to score a TD on the Vikings first drive of the game.(Photo By JUDY GRIESEDIECK/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

This Thanksgiving, while we spend time with family and loved ones and stuff ourselves silly with delicious food, we fans of the Minnesota Vikings can take the time to look back and remember what might be the single greatest performance in a Thanksgiving game in league history.

It took place 25 years ago when the Minnesota Vikings traveled to Texas Stadium to face one of the league’s traditional Thanksgiving hosts, the Dallas Cowboys. Rookie wide receiver Randy Moss had taken the league by storm, but nobody was quite prepared to see what we saw in that ball game.

The Cowboys’ defense actually held Moss to just three catches in that contest. On the surface, that sounds pretty good. . .until you look at the box score and see that Moss averaged a mind-blowing 54.3 yards/reception on those catches and all three of those catches found him in the end zone by the time they were over.

You can see the highlights of that game in the video below. The entire game, should you wish to watch it, is also available on YouTube.

The first catch for Moss came less than two minutes into the contest, as Randall Cunningham gave the ball to Robert Smith, who turned around and pitched it back to Cunningham on a flea flicker. Cunningham then launched one for Moss, who was wide open and bounced into the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 early.

Moss found the end zone again in the opening quarter with the Vikings already up 14-6. This one was more of a “Randy’s down there somewhere” throw from Cunningham as Moss blew past Cowboys’ defensive back Kevin Smith (despite interference that Smith was flagged for) and dragged him the last couple of yards into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown catch to make it 21-6. Moss had two catches for 107 yards and two scores before the first quarter was even in the books.

It took Moss a while to get his hands on the football again, but he did so with time winding down in the third quarter. Cunningham dropped back and fired a short pass to Moss along the left sideline. After one Cowboys defender whiffed on a tackle attempt, Moss just turned on the jets and showed another reason why he’s one of the all-time greats. He basically outran the entire Dallas defense down the sideline and evaporated any angle that any defender might have had on him en route to another 56-yard score to put the Vikings ahead 39-22 heading into the fourth quarter.

Three catches, 163 yards, three touchdowns. I’m not sure if we’ve seen anything close to a performance like that in a Thanksgiving Day game, and it’s a performance that we still talk about to this day. Looking at the highlights and listening to the legendary John Madden praise Moss’ abilities is still awesome to listen to as well.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since rookie Randy Moss made the Dallas Cowboys pay for passing on him in the 1998 NFL Draft after promising that they’d take him (if the stories are to be believed). But it has been, and we’ll probably be talking about this performance 25 years from now, too.