vikes

Thanksgiving is about tradition. It’s a celebration of life that unites family, food and football. 

In the spirit of giving thanks this week and paying homage to Minnesota greats around the holiday, we’re revisiting the stats behind some of the more noteworthy Vikings performances on Thanksgiving.  

Although the franchise’s history on Turkey Day isn’t extensive, it’s been memorable. The Vikes have compiled a 6-2 record -- dating to their first appearance in 1969 and last in 2017 -- and boast several shutouts, along with a couple shootout wins.

From 100-yard rushers and receivers and 300-yard passers, to touchdowns on defense and special teams and a few guys who couldn’t wait to feast on turkey so they feasted on the quarterback instead, let’s remember some of the top statistical showings by Vikings players on the fourth Thursday of November.

We hope this rundown satisfies your craving for Norsemen content until Sunday rolls around:

100-yard rushers
PLAYER STATS YEAR OPPONENT OUTCOME
Darrin Nelson 16-118-2 1987 DAL W, 44-38
Robert Smith 21-148-1 2000 DAL W, 27-15

NOTE: Nelson delivered the dagger to Dallas’ heart with his second rushing touchdown of the evening at Texas Stadium, a 24-yard dash in overtime. The seventh overall pick of the ‘82 NFL draft added five receptions for 43 yards in the Turkey Day contest. ... His 4.9 yards per rush in 1987 paced the league.

100-yard receivers
PLAYER STATS YEAR OPPONENT OUTCOME
Anthony Carter 8-184-2 1987 DAL W, 44-38
Jake Reed 6-149-1 1995 DET L, 44-38
Randy Moss 3-163-3 1998 DAL W, 46-36
Cris Carter 7-135-1 1998 DAL W, 46-36
Randy Moss 7-144-2 2000 DAL W, 27-15

NOTE: Randy Moss’ coming out party stands above the rest for obvious reasons -- the young superstar caught three passes, all for touchdowns, and also snagged a 2-point conversion in the third quarter. Moss’ touchdowns were from 51, 56 and 56 yards away. Remember … Moss was a rookie. He remains the Vikings youngest player to record a touchdown on Thanksgiving (21 years, 286 days).

300-yard passers
PLAYER STATS YEAR OPPONENT OUTCOME
Warren Moon 30-47, 384, 3:2 1995 DET L, 44-38
Randall Cunningham 17-35, 359, 4:1 1998 DAL W, 46-36

NOTE: Cunningham’s effort on Thanksgiving was one of many highpoints during the 1998 campaign, his first full season as the leader of Minnesota’s offense. Cunningham led the Vikes to a 13-1 record in 14 starts that year, earning first-team All-Pro honors for the first and only time of his 16-year career.

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2+ touchdowns
PLAYER TD YEAR OPPONENT OUTCOME
Randy Moss 3 1998 DAL W, 46-36
Darrin Nelson 2 1987 DAL W, 44-38
Anthony Carter 2 1987 DAL W, 44-38
Alfred Anderson 2 1988 DET W, 23-0
Cris Carter 2 1995 DET L, 44-38
Leroy Hoard 2 1998 DAL W, 46-36
Randy Moss 2 2000 DAL W, 27-15
Kyle Rudolph 2 2017 DET W, 30-23

NOTE: Rudolph was on the receiving end of the two most recent Vikings touchdown passes on Thanksgiving -- both distributed by Case Keenum. … Moss is the sole player in Minnesota history to find the end zone in the Thanksgiving Classic on three instances.

Punt return TD
PLAYER DISTANCE YEAR OPPONENT OUTCOME
David Palmer 74 yards 1995 DET L, 44-38

NOTE: Palmer, a former do-it-all game wrecker at Alabama -- who lined up at receiver, running back, quarterback and kick returner in college -- played a downsized role in Minnesota. On Thanksgiving in 1995, the former second-round pick housed a punt to record his first professional touchdown. He scored three more times -- one return, one catch, one rush -- across a seven-year stretch in the NFL.

Defensive TD
PLAYER PLAY YEAR OPPONENT OUTCOME
Alan Page INT return 1969 DET W, 27-0
Orlando Thomas 17-yard FR 1995 DET L, 44-38

NOTE: Minnesota’s relentless pass rush worsened the blizzard on Thanksgiving Day in 1969, dumping Lions quarterback Greg Landry to the ground seven times. It was Page, however, with help from Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall, who made the finest play of the game. Page tipped a Landry pass that resulted in an interception by Marshall. The future Hall of Fame defensive lineman sprinted ahead, trying to escort his teammate to the end zone. Marshall made a no-look lateral to a trailing Page as he was about to be tackled. As Marshall plowed into the snowy surface, Page bobbled the pigskin, tucked it under his right arm and trotted past the goal line untouched.

2+ sacks
PLAYER SACKS YEAR OPPONENT OUTCOME
Chris Doleman 3 1987 DAL W, 44-38
John Randle 2 1995 DET L, 44-38
Everson Griffen 2 2017 DET W, 30-23

NOTE: It’s only right that “Sack Daddy” finds himself on this list. Griffen dropped Matthew Stafford twice on Thanksgiving four seasons ago and also forced a fumble that was recovered by Danielle Hunter. Keep in mind, sacks were not recognized as an official stat until 1982.