In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
For the second time in three years, the St. Louis Cardinals replace the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Thanksgiving Day game. Facing the Miami Dolphins at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals are shredded by Bob Griese, who has a career day passing for 207 yards with six touchdowns as Miami mauls the Cardinals 55-14. It would be the last time that NFL played on Thanksgiving without the Cowboys hosting the second game.
Football on Thanksgiving is a big of a tradition as the turkey itself. Over the years, there have been many big college games on Thanksgiving, but the day has belonged to the NFL for the most part. Even in the league’s infancy, games on Thanksgiving were a big part of the schedule, with multiple games every year. In 1934, the Detroit Lions struck a deal with NBC to air their Thanksgiving game against the Chicago Bears nationally on the radio. This would help the Lions become the traditional host for the NFL’s Thanksgiving festivities. Except for 1939-1944, the Lions have hosted a game on Thanksgiving every year, with many of those games against the Green Bay Packers.
When the AFL began to play in 1960, it too got in the act for Thanksgiving, rotating the teams that would play on Turkey Day. In 1966 as the NFL and AFL inched closer to a merger, the NFL wanted to add a second Thanksgiving Day game. With games on Thanksgiving not a guaranteed success, Dallas Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm volunteered to host the second game for the NFL, beginning a new tradition. For the reason that has never been clear, the NFL decided to change things up in 1975, having the St. Louis Cardinals host the Buffalo Bills. A game won by Buffalo 32-14. Thanksgiving was back in Dallas the following year, with the Cowboys beating the Cardinals 19-14 at Texas Stadium. In 1977, the game returned to Busch Stadium, with the Cardinals taking on the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins, coached by Don Shula, jumped in front early as Nat Moore caught a four-yard pass from Bob Griese and Duriel Harris caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from Griese to take an early 14-0 lead. Terry Metcalf put St. Louis on the board with a one-yard run at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Dolphins added two more scores, as Moore caught a pair of touchdown passes, one for nine yards and the other for 28 yards, to make the score 28-7 in favor of the Dolphins at halftime. The Miami onslaught continued in the third quarter as Bob Griese added more touchdown passes. The first to Gary Davis 17 yards, and the second to Andre Tillman for 37 yards. Leroy Harris later added a four-yard touchdown run, making the score 48-7 in favor of the Dolphins. Ike Davis caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Jim Hart in the fourth quarter. Later Benny Malone capped the scoring with a four-yard touchdown run for the final 55-14 victory for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins total 503 yards totaled offense, with the bespectacled Bob Griese completing 15-of-23 passes for 207 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. Gary Davis led Miami in rushing with 104 yards, while Leroy Harris had 76 yards with a touchdown, while Benny Malone ran for 64 yards with a touchdown. Nat Moore had seven catches for 68 yards with three touchdowns. Davis meanwhile had three catches for 62 yards with a touchdown to total 166 yards from scrimmage.
The Dolphins would improve to 8-3 with the win; they would finish the season with a record of 10-4. Despite their record, they would miss the playoffs as it was the final season before the NFL added a second Wild Card team. The Cardinals, meanwhile, dropped to 7-4; it would be the first of four straight losses and finished the year at 7-7. This would lead to the dismissal of Coach Don Coryell. The NFL returned to Dallas following the season, with the Cowboys to permanently host the second game on Thanksgiving.