The Los Angeles Chargers will do something on Thursday they haven’t done in 48 years, play a game on Thanksgiving Day.
Football has become synonymous with the holiday and the NFL has taken advantage, adding a primetime game to the slate in 2006.
It will be unfamiliar territory for a Chargers franchise that hasn’t had to play on that particular Thursday since the 1960s, but its an opportunity the team is not shying away from.
Back in the days of the AFL, the Chargers actually played on Thanksgiving four times, first in 1965, again in 1967 and finally in 1969.
The met the Buffalo Bills in back-to-back seasons, starting with a battle in 1964. This gets back to that old Chargers-Bills rivalry I detailed last week.
In that game, the Bills kicked a last-second field goal to beat the Chargers 27-24 in a come-from-behind win. The teams met one year later on Thanksgiving, with the game ending in a 20-20 tie. Though the Chargers beat the Bills 34-3 in the first meeting that season, the Bills were able to earn a tie with a field goal as time expired. The two teams met at the end of that season for the AFL Championship, a game won by the Bills 23-0.
In 1967, the Chargers outlasted the Denver Broncos, winning 24-20 after a blocked field goal was returned 72 yards for a touchdown by Speedy Duncan. Dickie Post also had two rushing touchdowns for the Chargers, including the game winner.
Two years later, the Chargers went into the Astrodome to battle the Houston Oilers, winning 21-17 to get to 6-6 on the season. That would be part of a four-game winning streak for the Chargers to close out the season.
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Now, 48 years later, the Chargers play on Thanksgiving for the first time since that day in Houston. Their opponent will be one of two NFL teams that plays every year on Thanksgiving. But don’t read too much into that. The Dallas Cowboys are just 6-5 on Thanksgiving since 2006.
They’ll come into this game hurting. The Cowboys have been outscored 64-16 in their last two games, each without Ezekiel Elliott. The suspended running back won’t be on the field on Thursday either. In addition, linebacker Sean Lee likely won’t suit up and left tackle Tyron Smith has been dealing with an injury.
When the schedule was released, this certainly looked like a tough game for the Chargers to win. But with the recent fortunes of each of these teams, the Chargers could make a serious statement on the road on Thursday.