Thanksgiving football is synonymous with the Dallas Cowboys. There aren’t a whole lot of Thanksgiving-Day football conversations involving the Dallas Cowboys where Leon Lett isn’t mentioned. Lett’s blunder in the snow proved costly during the 1993 holiday game against the Miami Dolphins. It was a play that allowed the Dolphins to pull out a 16-14 win, but it’s not a play that should define Lett as a player or a person.
Leon Lett’s costly mistake on Thanksgiving
It has to go down as the wildest and weirdest finish in Thanksgiving-Day football or maybe any football game, for that matter. The Dallas Cowboys were hosting the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 25, 1993 and seemingly had the victory after Dolphins kicked missed a 40-yard field goal with 15 seconds and the Cowboys leading 14-13.
The field conditions were brutal. Snow and ice were all over the field. Traction was awful and Pete Stoyanovich’s missed field goal was clearly no gimme in those conditions. Stoyanovich’s kick was actually blocked by Jimmie Jones and the ball spun wildly on the turf. Several Cowboys ran from the ball, knowing the game was over if nothing else happened. Leon Lett, however, ran past some Dolphins players surrounding the ball, slipped, and kicked the ball which was recovered by the Dolphins, giving them possession with three seconds left.
Stoyanovich then made a 19-yard field goal, giving the Dolphins an improbable 16-14 victory. “I just made a mistake,” Lett told ESPN in 2018. “I was hustling. I know I was coached (not to do that), so I never wanted to put it on the coach himself. I know that the coach went over it. It was just a big mistake and at the wrong time.”
Leon Lett’s Super Bowl blunder
Leon Lett’s costly mistake on Thanksgiving Day against the Miami Dolphins wasn’t his only blunder in front of a national television audience. In fact, The Thanksgiving Day error happened just 10 months after another one. Lett’s earlier mistake wasn’t nearly as costly but was almost just as embarrassing.
It all happened against the Buffalo Bills during Super Bowl XXVII. With Frank Reich in for the injured Jim Kelly as quarterback of the Bills, Lett scooped up a Reich fumble with the Cowboys already well ahead in the game. Lett picked up the ball at the Dallas 44-yard line and scampered nearly 56 yards for the touchdown that would’ve given the Cowboys a record for points in a Super Bowl.
Midway through the fourth quarter and the Cowboys up 52-17, Lett was racing toward the end zone. As he approached the goal line, he had his arms out in celebration not knowing Bills speedy wide receiver Don Beebe had been sprinting 90 yards behind him. Beebe caught Lett around the 2-yard line and slapped the ball out of his hands, preventing the Cowboys touchdown.
Lett was a very solid football player
Leon Lett wasn’t supposed to have an 11-year football career. He was selected in the seventh round by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1991 NFL draft out of Emporia State. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound defensive end/tackle went on to become a two-time Pro Bowler and a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys.
To this day, Lett still hears about the Super Bowl fumble or the miscue against the Miami Dolphins. He has gone on to become a defensive coach for the Cowboys. He also was determined to get his college degree. No matter where he goes, however, he still reminded of those two plays and he’s one heck of a sport about it.
“There’s still people that throw it out to me, but it’s fun,” Lett said to ESPN. “The No. 1 thing for me is moving on from it. You know, (the Dolphins game) was a bad play, happened at a bad time, but I think at the end of the day, at the end of the season I had the last laugh. We won the Super Bowl. I had a part in us winning that Super Bowl and one of the big plays in that game, so for me that was my redemption.”