On Thursday the National Football League presents perhaps it’s best Thanksgiving package ever.
The first portion begins with the 10-0 Green Bay Packers against the Detroit Lions (AMANDA’S PREVIEW). Dessert is the 9-1 San Francisco 49ers visiting the Baltimore Ravens. (Throw in a certain Indiana Hoosiers hoops coach and the Harbaugh clan is fast becoming the most annoying coaching dynasty in the history of Western Civilization.)
Just don’t forget the main course in the middle; because as any true elitist knows, it is just not quite Thanksgiving without the Dallas Cowboys.
Thanksgiving Football in Big D
Sure, the Packers, Bears, and Lions have their own little thing going far away from America’s vapid coasts (and some people actually notice) – but the Cowboys are still America’s team, confirmed in 1970 when the NFL wisely placed the franchise in the NFC East, instantly creating legendary rivalries with the New York Football Giants, Washington Redskins, and Philadelphia Eagles.
The NFL was also wise in the late 1960’s to make Thanksgiving football an annual event in the Metroplex, and Turkey Day has provided some of the franchise’s greatest memories.
What about Clint Longley coming off the bench replacing a concussed Roger Staubach and heaving a last-minute bomb against the Skins in 1974?
Or an even more unlikely hero when now-coach Jason Garrett got the start in 1994 victory over the Packers, who even at the apex of the Reggie White/Brett Favre/Mike Holmgren era could not buy a win in Texas Stadium.
Then there is the most surreal Thanksgiving memory of all:
Leon Lett and The Most Infamous Play in Thanksgiving Football History
1993, Cowboys, Dolphins, two sun-belt teams, playing on an ice-covered Texas Stadium turf. (TRIVIA – WHO WAS THE DOLPHINS’ QB THAT DAY?? Answer at end of post.) Hoosier alum Pete Stoyanovich attempts a 40-yard field goal. Kick is blocked, and NBC immediately cuts to a celebrating Jerry Jones on the sidelines and Troy Aikman/Michael Irvin hugging each other.
Only one problem: Stoyo was going to get another shot from point blank range.
The commentary from Bob Trumpy said it all, ‘NOT LEON LETT!!!!!’, followed by Dick Enberg exclaiming ‘OH, OH, OH, MY!!!’, and a young Ed Hochuli front and center.
Yup, getting the ball knocked from your hands in the waning minutes of a Super Bowl that kept a 52-17 win from being 59-17 was one thing; but insanely trying to recover a ball on a skating rink when the game was essentially over was quite another.
In a scene resembling something straight out of curling, Miami players spent the next several minutes clearing Stoyanovich’s eventual kicking spot while at least one Cowboys player attempted to kick snow back on the area while the officiating crew attempted to sort out the mess.
Stoyanovich would make good on his second chance and the Dolphins won. That would be Dallas’ last hiccup of the season as Troy/Emmitt/Irvin, and Jimmy Johnson would recover to win a second consecutive Super Bowl. On the other side, this would be the final Dolphins win of the year, they would lose their final five games to miss the playoffs.
Well, the lid on the new Cowboys Stadium eliminates any chance of weather being a factor this time around, but still there are plenty of storylines leading in. Can the current Tony Romo-led team win the NFC East and make the playoffs? And even more importantly, can the Cowboys of this era ever approach the level of their 1990’s predecessors?
And what is there to make of the Dolphins? Four weeks ago the team looked destined to make another run at 0-16 and coach Tony Sparano even mentioned his impending termination to a game official. Now just three weeks after being Tebowed (kind of like being Jimmered), Sparano may still be a dead coach walking, but the Dolphins have since won three straight and at least Tony and Rex Ryan can spend their coaching after-lives wondering how their defenses could let Touchdown Jesus off the hook.
Now for the analysis…
Who needed the Chad Henne anointing oil anyway?
And who needs to tank games in order to be able to draft Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley when a team can just simply pick up the undrafted Matt Moore of the scrapheap?
Moore has completed 63.6% of his passes and has had QB ratings of 147.5 and 133.3 in two of the past three weeks. Moore has also completed over 70% of his passes over those three games, only being picked off once in that span.
And then there is another player who got slightly more hype than Matt Moore coming out of the Pac-10. In recent weeks Reggie Bush is finally resembling the talent that was picked #2 overall in the draft in 2006. In the past four games Reggie has accounted for 379 combined yards, 274 of those on the ground. If Bush rushes for a mere 76 yards on Thursday, he will eclipse his previous season-rushing high of 581 yards.
Although Reggie seems to have been around forever (and probably has considering his USC days) it should be noted he is still only age 26. The Dolphins still have a few years of tread left on those tires.
ROMO IS BURNING
Earlier in the season, the criticism reached an all-time high with critics (me included) labeling Tony Romo as the latest incarnation of Brett Favre with his erratic play and penchant of falling short in the clutch. Well, in the past three weeks Romo has thrown eight TD passes v. zero picks, with QB ratings of 112.2, 148.4, and 113.8 in those games. Granted the opposition was not the greatest (Bills, Seahawks, Skins), but he did lead his team to a winning drive in OT Sunday in Washington.
Regardless of what happens v. the Phins, the real kool-aid battery acid test will come in Dallas’ two upcoming games v. the Giants, and ultimately the playoffs. But I don’t think replacing Romo as QB is a necessity at this point.
Others have helped lighten that load, including rookie DeMarco Murray (on track to be a top-ten overall fantasy pick in 2012) who has emerged as a potential franchise back; and Felix Jones is rounding back into form after his annual injury bug and can now resume the role he is more accustomed to as a change-of-pace option.
Then there is much-maligned diva/wide receiver Dez Bryant. He is not THE man, as the Cowboys offensive scheme spreads itself around, but Dez came up with two big plays in Washington, including a 26-yard reception in overtime, that led to the winning score.
Six field goals. That is all that the Dolphins defense has conceded over the past three weeks, and they kept league leading rusher Fred Jackson in check (before he got hurt) this past Sunday.
And Jason Taylor? He’s still in the league!
But the Phins impressive run has been against the likes of the downward-spiraling Bills and Chiefs, Dallas will provide a much stiffer test.
And for the Cowboys, it’s all about Demarcus Ware, approaching perhaps his best season yet with 14 sacks in ten games, which puts him on pace to best his career-high 20 sack season in 2008. He is simply the best pass-rusher in the game right now (with all apologies to Jared Allen groupies). Ex-Cowboy reject Marc Columbo has the difficult task of trying to hold Ware in check Thursday. Look for the Phins to utilize a blocking tight end in an effort to max-protect.
Both teams have two common opponents over the past two weeks. The Redskins lost in Miami 20-9 before losing to the Cowboys in OT. Meanwhile Dallas routed the Bills 44-7 while the Dolphins beat them 20-8 a week later.
Both teams have a three-game winning streak, one will make it four…
Cowboys 27 | Dolphins 16
What do you think?
TRIVIA ANSWER: STEVE DEBERG (39 AT THE TIME)
Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys Game Info
- Dolphins-Cowboys Date: Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24th
- Dolphins-Cowboys Kickoff Time: 4:15 PM EST
- Dolphins-Cowboys TV Network: CBS
- Dolphins-Cowboys Announcers: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms
- Dolphins-Cowboys Point Spread: Cowboys -6.5
- Dolphins-Cowboys Over/Under: 44