Ah, Thanksgiving. The day to eat, drink and ignore your weird uncle, who keeps trying to get you to invest in his robotic maid company. But the greatest Turkey Day traditions of all are the NFL games that keep us occupied all day long. Unfortunately, the best teams are not always showcased on this blessed Thursday. So in honor of the awfulness that has sometimes besmirched our televisions screens, here are five of the all-time worst NFL performances on Thanksgiving. Enjoy!
1. Mark Sanchez and the Butt Fumble (2012)
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A play so terrible, it even has its own Wikipedia page. On Thanksgiving Day in 2012, the New York Jets, slogging through a mediocre season, were on the decline after a couple of AFC Championship appearances a few years prior.
On Turkey Day, the Jets were staggering through a second quarter in which their opponent, the New England Patriots, scored 35 points.
With the Jets already down 14-0, quarterback Mark Sanchez took a snap and turned the wrong way on a handoff to the fullback. With the play broken, Sanchez immediately ran forward to salvage a few yards. Instead, he collided with the butt of his right guard, Brandon Moore, and crumpled to the ground, losing the ball in the process. Patriots defensive back Steve Gregory scooped up the loose ball and took it to the house. It may go down as the worst play in NFL history.
2. Joey Harrington Benched for Jeff Garcia (2005)
Joey Harrington had very few bright moments during his NFL career, but one of his dimmest came on Thanksgiving in 2005. Harrington was so bad, going 6-of-13 for 61 yards and an interception in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons, that he was pulled for an aging Jeff Garcia. Jeff Garcia, you guys! The Lions ended up losing 27-7, so no quarterback could have saved them. But when you get replaced by an over-the-hill quarterback before halftime, that’s as close to rock bottom as you can get.
3. Leon Lett Loses the Game (1993)
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Oh, Leon. You sweet, innocent child. When the Dallas Cowboys took on the Miami Dolphins on Turkey Day in 1993, the Cowboys defensive lineman was involved in one of the biggest football fails of the modern era. With Lett’s ‘Boys leading 14-13 with 15 seconds left in the game, the Dolphins set up to kick a 40-yard field to sneak out of Dallas with the win. The field was covered in a mixture of sleet and snow, as Dallas had been hit by a rare winter storm.
The Cowboys blocked the field goal attempt, and the ball rolled toward their end zone. Dallas defenders near the ball waved away anyone who made a move to touch the ball, since the clock would expire and the game would end if the ball were left alone. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dallas players began to celebrate on the sidelines. Even the cameraman thought it was in the bag, as he aimed his camera toward the sidelines to capture the celebration.
But here came Leon Lett—out of nowhere—barreling through a few Dolphins players and attempting to pounce on the football. But like an elephant on ice skates, he slipped, hitting the football with his body and sending it to the 1-yard line, where it was recovered by the Dolphins. Miami set up for another field goal, nailed it and won the game. Perhaps Lett should stay home on Thanksgiving from now on.
4. Kellen Clemens Has a Rough Day at the Office (2007)
The New York Jets didn’t even cross midfield until the waning moments of the second quarter against the Cowboys. Jets QB Kellen Clemens completed just 12 passes, threw a pick-6 and got sacked three times. His quarterback rating for the game was a robust 2.6 (yes, that period is in the correct spot). Things got so bad that while Clemens was being dragged by a defender for what looked like another sack, he switched the ball to his left, non-throwing hand and attempted to throw it. Go Jets Go!
5. Bad News Chicago Bears (2004)
Two quarterbacks combined for less than 100 yards passing. They threw for zero touchdowns. Their leading rusher ran for 46 yards. They lost to the Dallas Cowboys, led by old man Vinnie Testaverde, 21-7. That’s really all that needs to be said here.
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