Christmas Day Football Games

IMG_4227 Merry Christmas!

When we think of Christmas, we think of family, presents (Duh!), awesome Christmas music and carols, homemade cookies, decorated trees in houses, houses so illuminated with vibrant lights that aliens could probably see them from Mars, and have I mentioned presents yet? What we don’t think about is football, and although there are no games this season, there have been 17 Christmas Day contests in NFL history. Notably, there have been 10 games since 2000. Since most of you Juicers probably do not remember these games, I am going to recount the three most memorable Christmas Day football games in NFL history.

3) December 25, 2010: Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys: 

2010 was a big year for me. It was the year I finally graduated high school, won my first Rec. basketball championship after finishing in second place in five of my previous six career seasons (yeah, it is a big deal), and I became a Kentucky Wildcat. Putting an NFL game on Christmas was just the cherry to my ice cream sundae of a year. This game was fantastic for many reasons, but the main one is because I thoroughly enjoy when two stiffs go head-to-head at the quarterback position. This matchup featured the likes of John Skelton and Dallas’ third stringer at the time, Stephen McGee. Tony Romo was injured and the Cowboys went into the game starting maybe the best backup of all time in Jon Kitna. Kitna also went down with an injury in the game, making McGee the quarterback for the ‘Boys. With mediocre quarterbacks comes fantastic defensive plays. And that is exactly what we saw, as the Cardinals had two pick-sixes in the first quarter. You can’t tell me that would not be fun to watch. This game also featured a missed extra point from the Cowboys, which ended up being the difference in the game. Larry Fitzgerald was beginning to become a non-factor because the Cardinals did not have a competent quarterback at this point in his career and only caught one pass in the game. Skelton did come up big with a 74-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts, and he also led his team down the field in the final moments of the game to set Jay Feely up for a game winning 48-yard field goal. The Cardinals snuck out with a 27-26 win.

2) December 25, 2004: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders: 

I don’t want to make you guys feel old, but 2004 was a really long time ago. Larry Johnson was introduced to the league and became one of the best pickups in fantasy football history. Dante Hall was still the best returner ever before we knew of some guy named Hester. And, Jerry Rice was still playing football. My God! This game was thrilling from beginning to end and it started with an interception on Trent Green (I can’t handle these throwback names right now. I need to go find Madden ’04) by Tyler Brayton. Kerry Collins capitalized on the field position, connecting on a touchdown pass with Jerry Porter. Tony Gonzalez proved to be too dominant for the Raiders’ defense, keeping the Chiefs in the game offensively. At the end of the first half, the game was tied at 21. Both defenses stepped up in the second half, as the Raiders only allowed 10 more points, while the Chiefs allowed nine more points. Sebastian Janikowski hit two key field goals in the fourth quarter and the latter put Oakland up 30-28. You can’t tell me that Janikowski was not hammered off of rum and egg nog at this point in the game. Actually, I am 100 percent positive that Janikowski takes a few swigs every game. They do say there’s nothing stronger than a drunk man! Maybe that’s his secret. Back to the game. So, the Chiefs had one last chance to win the game and they needed their man, Dante Hall, to give them sufficient yardage. He did just that, returning the kickoff 49 yards, and setting up Lawrence Tynes for the game-winning 38-yard field goal. The Chiefs finished off the Christmas miracle with a 31-30 win.

1) December 25, 1971: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins: 

Not only was this game on Christmas and a playoff game, but it is the longest game in NFL history. The match went into 7:40 of double overtime when Miami kicker Garo Yepremian kicked the winning 37-yard field goal. He was the same man to do this. I thought I would share that awesome video to you guys as my Christmas present. Both teams were stacked with Hall of Famers. Kansas City rode their HOF quarterback in the first quarter, as Len Dawson had the Chiefs up 10-0 in the early part. Larry Csonka tied the game at 10 for the Dolphins to end the second half with a 1-yard run. The two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, but the Chiefs took the lead in the fourth quarter. Bob Griese answered right back, throwing a 5-yard touchdown to tight end Marc Fleming, tying up the score and giving the Chiefs a minute to win the game. Ed Podolak did everything he could to give the Chiefs a shot, returning the kickoff 78-yards. This set up Jan Stenerud for a game winning 22-yard field goal, but somehow he Cundiff-ed it. Both teams had field goal opportunities in the first overtime period, but Stenerud’s attempt was blocked, while Yepremian missed his. When Yepremian got another shot at winning the game in the second overtime period, he capitalized, closing out the longest game in NFL history by the score of 27-24. Podolak’s 350 all-purpose yards remains an NFL playoff record. Although this game must have been so much fun to watch, it caused fans to complain to the NFL about putting games on Christmas because it interfered with Christmas dinners. So, there were no games on Christmas until 1989. How absurd is that? If Christmas dinner is such a big deal to you, then just shut the T.V. off. There’s no need to punish us normal people who enjoy watching football with our families. Good thing they changed that.

By: Matt Levine
Twitter: @Matt_TFJ

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