Since 1976, the Dallas Cowboys playing a home football game on Thanksgiving Day has been as common as turkey on the dinner table — It’s just not the same without it. There have been some epic clashes, too, but none will likely ever touch the chaos of the 1993 showdown with the Miami Dolphins.
It’s been 26 years since that crazy game the Dolphins somehow won 16-14 at Texas Stadium, where the series started in 1966 before America’s Team missed games in 1973 and 1975. Most everyone remembers the epic blunder of Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett (the blocked field goal, not the goal line fumble) that led to a Pete Stoyanovich 19-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds, too.
It was the defining, and perhaps a very fitting, moment in a wild game on November 25, 1993, but there are some other factors and fun facts that made it arguably the most memorable Thanksgiving Day game in NFL history.
So sit back, relax, put on that famous Leon Lett Jersey, and let’s go back in time:
The Weather Was Terrible
This is rather obvious, but still relevant. Anyone who watched the Thanksgiving game, remembers the game, or simply looks up highlights on YouTube, can understand the playing conditions were nothing short of awful. It was 33 degrees outside with 15 mile per hour winds, sleet and snow. It would have made sense if the game were in Buffalo, but it was in Texas, and against a team from Florida. There couldn’t have been many people prepared for these conditions, no matter how hard they tried, including the groundskeepers. Whoever took the under of 37 points definitely made their wallet fatter that day.
Dan Marino Didn’t Even Play
A showdown between future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Dan Marino is exactly what everyone was expecting for this Thursday afternoon clash before the season, but a torn Achilles’ the month before sidelined Marino for the big game. Steve DeBerg dueled with Aikman instead, going 24-for-41 for 287 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. The Dolphins got the win, though, and that’s the only stat that matters.
Lincoln Coleman Led the Cowboys in Rushing Yards
Wait, who? Did Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith not play, either? No, he did, but he got injured and it was Dallas native and former Baylor standout Lincoln Coleman who led the Cowboys in rushing that day with 10 carries for 57 yards in his NFL debut after Smith racked up 51 yards on 16 carries. What’s crazy is the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Coleman only rushed for 312 yards in his short career, leaving this fun fact as a great bar trivia question for Cowboys fans.
Only Pete Stoyanovich Scored in the Second Half
After Dallas took a 14-7 lead into halftime, thanks Kevin Williams’ four-yard touchdown grab from Troy Aikman and a 64-yard punt return touchdown, the Dolphins took control of the game in the second half with Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich making field goals from 20, 31, and 19 yards to win the game. The last one, of course, happened after his initial 41-yard field goal was blocked and defensive lineman Leon Lett inexplicably touched the ball to give the Dolphins another chance to win the game. Nobody can still believe that happened or that Aikman, Smith, Michael Irvin and the Cowboys offense would be shut down like that.
The Last Loss of Jimmy Johnson’s Tenure in Dallas
The bizarre sequence of events that led to a Dolphins victory happened to spark a series of lasts. Miami, although 9-2 at the time under head coach Don Shula, never won another game the rest of the 1993 season, and Dallas never lost again. The Cowboys went on to win their final five regular season games — winning the NFC East — and three playoff games, including Super Bowl XXVIII against the Buffalo Bills, before Johnson and owner Jerry Jones decided to part ways. Ironically, Johnson’s next coaching stop happened to be in Miami.
At the time, it was a game for the ages, and still holds true today.