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Cowboys, Lions nice fit with Thanksgiving

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Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009

Virtually every year since the AFL/NFL merger in 1966, Dallas and Detroit have played on Thanksgiving.

It's become an American tradition to watch the Lions and Cowboys that day.

With the familiarity of playing on the holiday at home and of the short week following a game the previous Sunday, the popular notion exists that beating either team that day is a tall order.

The records indicate otherwise, especially over the past decade.

The Lions and Cowboys have a combined 7-11 record since 2000 on Thanksgiving and haven't swept the turkey-day doubleheader since 1999.

The lack of quality games is now promoting rumblings about the league spreading the Thanksgiving game around rather than putting it in Dallas and Detroit every year.

A recent poll said 63 percent of voters want the games to be moved.

There are good reasons. Dallas has routed its last three opponents on Thanksgiving by an average of 28 points, while Detroit has been slammed in their past five games by an average of 24 points.

But not everybody feels that way.

"There's comfort in the sight of the Lions on the tube," wrote's Dan Shaughnessy recently. "From Greg Landry to Earl Morrall to Joey Harrington to Matthew Stafford. It's just not Turkey Day unless the Lions are on television."

Still, Detroit, the innovator of the Thanksgiving Day game, hasn't held up its part since then-owner George Richards thought of hosting a game on the day to drum up some interest in his newly relocated football team back in 1934.

The Lions, originally from Portsmouth, Ohio, played Chicago at University of Detroit Stadium in 1934, and the game was the league's first national radio broadcast.

Chicago, a city that took part in a Thanksgiving Day game nearly every year from 1920-1952, beat the Lions in that game, 19-16.

The Lions have gone on to play nearly every Thanksgiving Day since (they didn't play from 1939-44 because of World War II) and have been nothing but average.

Going into Thursday's game against Green Bay, the Lions are 33-34-2 all-time on Thanksgiving Day. Detroit has lost seven of its last eight on the holiday.

Tomorrow, the Lions will play the Packers on Thanksgiving for the fourth time since 2001. For 13 consecutive years from 1951-63, the Lions and Packers met on Thanksgiving, with the Lions owning a 9-3-1 record during that span.

In 1966, the NFL wanted to add a second team to the Thanksgiving Day menu, and Dallas owner Tex Schramm stepped up to the plate in every year except 1975 and 1977 when St. Louis hosted the game.

The Cowboys have been more successful than Detroit, compiling a 27-14 record on Thanksgiving. Dallas has won the past three but has lost four of its other six games in the decade.

The Lions and Cowboys have both won on the same Thanksgiving just 13 times in 43 tries; both teams have lost on the same holiday seven times.

The past three years, the NFL has added a third game aired on its own NFL Network with lukewarm response and progressively worse results. The three games have been decided by nine, 18 and 28 points.



Colts (10-0): Combined record of their last six opponents is 28-32.

Saints (10-0): If they beat the Patriots Monday night, they could run the table.

Vikings (9-1): Peter Pan has nothing on the ageless Brett Favre

Chargers (7-3): Starting to look like Super Bowl contenders.

Cardinals (7-3): They are better than the other team that played in last season's Super Bowl.


Bills (3-7): Question isn't who will be the next head coach, but rather, who wants the job?

Lions (2-8): There is hope in Detroit if Matthew Stafford is indeed the answer at QB.

Buccaneers (1-9): They are looking like the Yuckaneers of yesteryear.

Rams (1-9): Their best hope for a second win may come Sunday when Seattle visits.

Browns (1-9): They desperately need Brady Quinn to be the answer at QB.

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