The NFL added a third Thanksgiving game in 2006, as part of the effort to boost NFL Network with a series of exclusive Thursday night games. From 2006 through 2011, the prime-time Thanksgiving game aired only on NFL Network, until the 2011 Harbaugh Bowl between the 49ers and Ravens prompted the league to conclude that it made much more sense moving forward to put the final game of Thanksgiving on a three-letter network.
And so the Thanksgiving night game moved to NBC. For the debut in 2012, the the Jets hosted the Patriots.
The game itself, played five years ago tonight, wasn’t memorable; the Pats dismantled the Jets, 49-19. But the game included a play that will live on, for decades.
With the Patriots leading 14-0 in the second quarter, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez dropped back and held the ball out for a running back who wasn’t there to take it. So Sanchez, realizing the play had been busted, decided to take off with the ball. And he did.
And then Sanchez ran straight in to the ass of Jets offensive lineman Brandon Moore. Flattened instantly by the contact, Sanchez dropped the ball. Patriots defensive back Steve Gregory picked it up and ran it in, stretching the lead to 21-0.
In early 2014, a Jets fan purchased the jersey Sanchez wore that night at auction. Sanchez has since worn the jersey of multiple different teams, playing for the Eagles, Broncos (through the 2016 offseason), the Cowboys, and now the Bears. But no matter what he does over the rest of his career, Sanchez always will be known first and foremost for the Butt Fumble.