Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day Throwback 1998 (VIDEO)


One of my earliest Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day, football memories, 11/26/1998. The Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers in the Pontiac Silverdome. With the game tied at 16 all at the end of regulation, the Lions and Steelers met at mid-field for the routine coin toss to determine possession at the beginning of overtime.

The coin toss however would prove to be anything but routine.

Referee Phil Luckett met with the captains of each team at mid field. Steelers running back, (and Detroit native) Jerome Bettis calls tails while the coin is in mid-air, but Luckett tells the crowd in the Silverdome that the call was heads.

The coin was of course was showing tails.

Bettis and teammate Carnell Lake pleaded their case to the officials, and even 11-year-old me watching from in front of my parents television knew that Bettis had called tails. Despite the displeasure from the Pittsburgh sideline, the officials awarded Detroit with the opportunity to receive the ball to start overtime.

Jason Hanson would go on to kick the game winner from 42 yards out giving the Lions the 19-16 win. I was just a kid, but I recognized what had just taken place. I was estatic!

Bill Cowher was of course the Steelers head hancho back then, and he didn’t hesitate to let everyone know exactly how he felt at the time.

"“What makes me mad is when you fight and scratch for 60 minutes out there, and the game is decided by guys who wear striped shirts,” Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. “There’s something wrong about that.”"

“That is a lie. That’s a baldfaced lie.” – Jerome Bettis

He was by no means alone in his thinking. The general consensus was that the Steelers had been robbed by an incompetent official, (though most Lions fans were ok with the outcome).

Luckett told reporters following the game that Bettis actually called “heads-tails,” and that he honored the first declaration. Pittsburgh television station KDKA eventually enhanced the audio and found that Bettis had given two separate commands.

Luckett was never able to escape the branding from the incident and would go on to become one of the most heavily-scrutinized official in the leauge.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue would also announce a change to the coin flip format. From then on, players would announce heads or tails before the toss and not while it was in the air.

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving Day football memories? Share it with us in the comments section below!

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