The Dallas Cowboys played the Washington Redskins on November 24, keeping the long-running tradition of “America’s Team” playing on Thanksgiving alive. The Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game was one of three games on the NFL schedule, sandwiched between the Detroit Lions-Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers-Indianapolis Colts games.
The Cowboys have played on Turkey Day every year since 1978, but the tradition began in the 1960s, shortly after the franchise was established in 1960. This year, the team played their NFC East rivals, the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys were 9-1 heading into the game, but since the Redskins were 6-3-1, this was still an important game in the division. Kickoff was at 4:30 p.m. ET on Fox.
The Cowboys won, 31-26, extending their winning streak to 10 games. They are now 10-1 and the Redskins are 6-4-1.
Here’s a look at the history of the Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving.
1. The NFL Started Thanksgiving Day Games in 1920, but the Cowboys Didn’t Play Their First on the Holiday Until 1966
Pro football on Thanksgiving is as old as the NFL itself. As the Pro Football Hall of Fame notes, the first Thanksgiving Day games were held on November 25, 1920, which was the same year that the NFL started. There were six games that day.
Of course, since the Dallas Cowboys didn’t exist since 1960, the franchise didn’t play their first Thanksgiving Day game until 1966. However, they weren’t the first team from Dallas to play on the holiday. On November 27, 1952, the now-defunct Dallas Texans beat the Chicago Bears in a game in Akron, Ohio. On November 24, 1960, the second Dallas Texans franchise lost to the New York Titans, 41-35. Those Texans are now the Kansas City Chiefs. (The Titans, by the way, are the Jets now.)
The Cowboys were a struggling franchise when they played the Cleveland Browns on November 24, 1966. They won, 26-14. According to Cowboy Chronicles, general manager Tex Schramm came up with the idea of having the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving to promote the franchise and build a national fanbase.
2. The Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day Game Streak Ended in 1975 & the NFL had the Cardinals Play Instead
In 1975, the Cowboys did not host a Thanksgiving Day Game. Fox Sports notes that this was because other teams complained that the annual game gave the ‘Boys an unfair advantage. So, the NFL decided to give the St. Louis Cardinals a Thanksgiving Day game instead.
The Cardinals played on Thanksgiving Day in 1975, 1976 and 1977. In 1976, they played the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving. However, the NFL decided that the Cardinals weren’t drawing the same audience that the Cowboys did and the universe righted itself in 1978. The Cowboys have played on Turkey Day every year since.
By the way, the Cowboys and Lions have never faced each other on Thanksgiving.
3. The Team Typically Wears Special Uniforms on Thanksgiving
The Cowboys have had an interesting uniform history on Thanksgiving Day. Until 2000, they wore their typical white home jerseys, but in 2001, they wore an older blue jersey. Even though they lost that game, they still wore blue in 2002 and won that game. They continued wearing blue at home until 2006.
In 2007 and 2008, they went back to white jerseys, but returned to blue for 2009. In 2013, they introduced new blue jerseys. They had to ditch their throwback helmet design because new safety guidelines prevent teams from using two different helmets during the season. The idea is that it a player wears one helmet throughout the season, it will fit him better and will be better at preventing concussions.
In 2015, they wore the double star jersey, inspired by the 1990s design, as part of the “Color Rush” program. The Cowboys’ “Color Rush” game is technically on December 1 against the Minnesota Vikings.
4. The Redskins Have an Awful Record Against the Cowboys on Turkey Day
As the Cowboys’ website pointed out this week, the Redskins have a terrible record in Dallas in Thanksgiving Day games. The only time the Redskins have beaten the Cowboys on Turkey Day was in 2012, when Robert Griffin III led Washington to a 38-28 victory.
Before 2012, the Redskins lost six consecutive times. The most exciting game was 1974, when the Cowboys won 24-23. Roger Staubach missed the second half of the fame, but his backup, Clint Longley, threw two touchdowns in the second half, leading the Cowboys to a comback win.
5. The Cowboys Won Their First Thanksgiving Day Game Since 2013
Since the Cowboys entered today’s game with a great record, they were expected to beat the Redskins. (The Cowboys started their current 10-game winning streak in a week 2 win over the Redskins, 27-23.) The win put an end to a two-year losing streak on Thanksgiving.
The Cowboys were demolished last year by the eventual NFC Conference champion Carolina Panthers, 33-14 in 2015. During the 2014 game, the Philadelphia Eagles also put up 33 points, and the Cowboys managed to score just 10.
The Cowboys previously won on Thanksgiving on November 27, 2013, when they beat the Oakland Raiders 31-24.