A History of the Minnesota Vikings Playing on Thanksgiving

Coming off a blowout loss to the Cowboys that the team will surely want to forget, the Minnesota Vikings are set to host the New England Patriots this Thursday. While Minnesota is looking to turn over a new leaf after last week, playing on Thanksgiving is something that a few players on the team are used to.

The Vikings last played on the holiday in 2017 in a 30-23 win over the Detroit Lions. The game featured Minnesota stars like Case Keenum, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph, who have all found new teams since. A few standout defensive players from the game remain with the team and will play this week like Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks.

Going back to the first-ever Thanksgiving game for Minnesota, in 1969 the Vikings traveled to Detroit where they dominated the division rival 27-0. Snow was falling throughout the game, heavily impacting the teams’ performances, but not enough to stop legendary Vikings lineman Alan Page from scoring a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown. First picked off by Jim Marshall, another Minnesota icon, the ball was pitched back to Page who ran into the endzone for the score.

The next game for Minnesota on Thanksgiving would not take place for another 18 years, a contest featuring the Dallas Cowboys who are no stranger to Thanksgiving football. Vikings wide receiver Anthony Carter put up 184 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings’ 44-38 overtime win.

Just the next year in 1988, Minnesota faced Detroit once again, shutting them out on yet another Thanksgiving matchup between the teams. The 23-0 victory featured just two touchdowns, both inside the 5-yard line, and three field goals.

In 1995, the Lions would finally get the upper hand, beating the Vikings 44-38 in a game that included Warren Moon at quarterback for the purple and gold, and a fourth-quarter 50-yard rushing touchdown from Detroit running back Barry Sanders. Minnesota’s Cris Carter had two receiving touchdowns on the day but did not have enough to pull out the win for the team.

The 1998 Thanksgiving game between the Vikings and Cowboys produced one of the most iconic statlines in football history, one that is shared on social media throughout every NFL season. Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss caught just three passes all game– except each one went for a touchdown of over 50 yards. Adding on to an unreal performance from Moss, Cris Carter had seven catches for 135 yards and a score. The Vikings won 46-36 in a game featuring one of the best offenses in league history.

The next game for the Vikings on Thanksgiving would be in 2000, the last one before a 17-year wait to play Detroit in 2017. The game, two years after Randy Moss did the unthinkable in Dallas, he put on a show yet again with 144 yards and two touchdowns. Vikings running back Robert Smith had 148 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota’s 27-15 win.

Going off last week, it sure seems like Minnesota needs a Moss-like performance from someone on Thursday. The first guy that comes to mind is wide receiver Justin Jefferson, but with left tackle Christian Darrisaw out, he may not be getting many throws before the play is blown up in the backfield.

The Vikings have the primetime slot, facing the Patriots at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.
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