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The 49ers on Thanksgiving



While their appearance in the annual holiday tradition is rare, the 49ers have had a recent spate of bad fortune on Thanksgiving. But while today's fans may look at the holiday with bad memories, there was a time when the 49ers actually did very well on that holiday. On the eve of their sixth appearance, let's take a look at their history in the game before they battle the hated Seattle Seahawks.


November 27, 1947- Brooklyn, New York


It was just a few years before the 49ers joined the NFL but they were already making a name for themselves in the AAFC. Going into the season's penultimate game, they boasted a 7-4-1 record, just behind the league-leading Cleveland Browns. In front of a crowd just shy of 10,000 at Ebbets Field, the 49ers set out to end their season on a high note.



Norm Standlee started things off right for San Francisco, running it in from the nine-yard line. Early in the second, Len Eshmont caught a bomb from Frankie Albert, flying past the Dodgers for a 60-yard back-breaker. By the time Johnny Strzkalski plunged from the one late in the first half, the game was all but over. The 49ers ultimately won 21-7.


The 49ers performed quite well that day. Frankie Albert completed eight of his 17 passes for 120 yards and that incredible touchdown pass to Len Eshmont. Johnny Strzkalski ran for 114 yards and his team's final touchdown. Arguably the best player of the game was Eshmont, who ran for 95 yards and caught four passes for 91 yards.


November 24, 1966- Detroit, Michigan


Two decades after their first excursion in on of our nation's favorite Thanksgiving traditions, the 49ers set out for Detroit to take on the Lions. Neither team was very good that year, struggling to stay above .500 for much of the year. This game was not about standings and championships. This game was about pride.


Staring up the nose of a pregame line of -13, the 49ers were undaunted in Detroit's Tiger Stadium. Tommy Davis got the party started in Detroit by kicking a 14-yard field goal to give the 49ers an early lead which Mike Dowdle extended with a 27-yard interception return on the following drive. Suddenly, the team that no one thought would win was ahead by 10-points with time still left in the first quarter.

But Detroit was favored for a reason and they came roaring back late in the first quarter and early in the second. First, Johnnie Robinson electrified the crowd with a sensational 79-yard punt return to end the first quarter. Then, Tom Nowatzke plunged into the end zone from the one-yard line to begin the second.


And that is when the Lions' roar became a whimper as they ceased to score the rest of the afternoon. Meanwhile, the 49ers began to light up the smoggy Detroit sky. After Davis connected on a 10-yard field goal to narrow the deficit to one, John Brodie zipped a pass to Dave Kopay for a 24-yard touchdown to take the lead. Brodie continued to roast the Lions with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Dave Parks to begin the second half. Touchdown runs by Kopay (32 yards) and Gary Lewis (1 yard) extended the 49ers lead further in the third. By the end of the day, the 49ers won the game 41-14.


It was a total team effort, but some 49ers stood out more than others. John Brodie had an up-and-down game, completing 14 of 26 passes for 254 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. The unsung hero of the game was Ken Willard, who helped his team consistently move the ball down the field with 20 rushes for 114 yards.



November 27, 1969- Dallas, Texas


Both teams were on the cusp. After a decade of turmoil, the 49ers were a year away from making it back to the playoffs while the Cowboys were just a couple years away from finally becoming Super Bowl champions. While they were not yet rivals, many of the players on the field this day would wage war against one another to open up the new decade.


Ken Willard dominated the game from th start, plunging into the end zone from the one-yard line and catching a 19-yard touchdown pass from John Brodie in the first quarter. The Cowboys answered right back with a short touchdown run by Dan Reeves to cut the deficit in half going into halftime. Mike Clark kicked a 24-yard field goal and Bob Hayes caught a31-yard touchdown pass from Craig Morton to give the Cowboys a 17-14 lead in the middle of the third quarter.


Gene Washington answered the call by catching a 19-yard pass from John Brodie and Momcilo Gavric kicked a 21-yard field goal late in the third quarter to give the 49ers a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth. Alas, the 49ers couldn't hold on and saw their lead vanish when Morton connected with Lance Rentzel for a 19-yard touchdown in the waning minutes of the game. the game ended in a disappointing 24-24 tie.


Both quarterbacks played well, with Brodie connecting on 18 of his 33 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns while Morton connected on 16 of his 37 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns while coughing up three interceptions.


November 23, 1972- Dallas, Texas



Three years after their last Thanksgiving bout, the 49ers and the Cowboys were officially rivals, having met in the past two NFC Championship Games. Of course, its not a real rivalry if one team wins all the time and at this point, the Cowboys had dominated the past two years while the 49ers fell flat on their faces. The 49ers were not craving turkey that day, they were craving vengeance.


The game started off slow with Walt Garrison's seven-yard scamper providing the games only points in the first quarter. It looked like the game would be a snooze-fest until Skip Vanderbundt recovered a Dallas fumble and returned it 73 yards for a game changing touchdown.


the floodgates were opened on that fumble recovery and the 49ers never looked back. It seemed like everyone scored that day. Players such as Ken Willard (one-yard rush), Ted Kwalick (12-yard reception from Steve Spurrier) and Bruce Gossett (18-yard field goal) all scored, frustrating Cowboys coach Tom Landry to no end.


Meanwhile, the 49ers Gold Rush pass rush became a living nightmare for Craig Morton and Roger Staubach, combining to sack them nine times. the pass rush got so bad that Skip Vanderbundt was able to record his second defensive touchdown of the day, picking off Morton and returning the interception 21 yards for the game's final points. The 49ers won decisively 31-10.


November 24, 2011- Baltimore, Maryland


After years of mediocrity, the 49ers were suddenly true contenders in the NFL, coming into the game riding an eight game winning streak. Making this game extra special were the coaches. John and Jim Harbaugh became the first pair of brothers to coach against one another in the NFL that Thanksgiving night.


The game itself was a defensive slugfest. While both teams featured more than capable offenses, it was their defenses that truly shined on this night. Baltimore's Dennis Pitta's eight yard touchdown snag from Joe Flacco was the game's only touchdown. Meanwhile, the Ravens' pass rush became too much for Alex Smith, sacking him nine times with the eventual NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs recording three. The Ravens won the game 16-6.



November 27, 2014- Santa Clara, California


At the time, the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry was one of the juiciest in the NFL. The previous January, the Seahawks had broken the hearts of the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game and went on to win the Super Bowl. Like Dallas in 1972, the 49ers hungered for vengeance this Thanksgiving.


The Seahawks started off well, finishing off a.drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Robert Turbin in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the 49ers started off slow and never recovered as the Seahawks built their lead one field goal at a time. Things only got worse for the 49ers when the most hated player on the Seahawks' roster, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, picked off two of Colin Kaepernick's passes. The Seahawks won 19-3 and feasted on the 49ers logo after the game, the ultimate slight.










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