In 1976, O.J. Simpson rushed for 273 yards and two touchdowns in the Buffalo Bills’ 27-14 loss to the Detroit Lions. Randy Moss caught three passes for 163 yards and scored on each one in his first Thanksgiving Day game for the Vikings in 1998. And you can’t overlook Peyton Manning’s six touchdown day in a 41-9 Colts win over the Lions in 2004.
Brett Favre and Walter Payton both strung together several impressive Turkey Day games during their careers, but when it comes to a sustained run of excellence on the holiday, you have to look to players from the two teams that are always playing on it. While Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin and yes, even Tony Romo have all played well on Thanksgiving, the best two players for a consistent period of time on the day are two of the best running backs ever to play the game.
But how do Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders’ Thanksgiving resumes compare?
Total career Thanksgiving games: 13
Win/loss record: 8-5
Total stats: 270 carries for 1178 yards, 4.37 yards per carry, 13 touchdowns
Best performances: In 1996, Smith ran 29 times for 155 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-10 win over the Redskins. In 2002, his final season with the Cowboys, Smith had his highest rushing total in two seasons when he ran for 144 yards on 23 carries in a 27-20 win over Washington.
Total career Thanksgiving games: 10
Win/loss record: 7-3
Total stats: 210 carries for 931 yards, 4.43 yards per carry, 8 touchdowns
Best performances: Sanders ran for nearly six yards per carry, amassing 138 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ 44-38 win over the Vikings in 1995. In his second to last Thanksgiving game, Sanders showed his Hall of Fame skills by taking 19 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns in 55-20 beatdown of the Bears in 1997.
Tough call, but we’re going to give the crown of Thanksgiving MVP to Sanders by a slight edge. Disagree? Let us know on Twitter at @forthewin