Who won Thanksgiving football
An in depth look at all three Thanksgiving day NFL games with results and mini summaries of each game played over the course of the holiday.
Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
The Turkey Day festivities got underway in the Motor City as the traditional early game hosts were looking for their first win of the season against the visiting Chicago Bears. Detroit desperately wanted to avoid becoming the first NFL team to suffer the ignominy of three winless seasons on their record. Chicago also desperate for the win, but with their reasons entirely corporal, since Matt Nagy has his head firmly on the chopping block, and rumors swirl that he would be dismissed if Chicago lost.
The opening drive looked promising for the Lions as Jared Goff hits Josh Reynolds for a beautiful 38 yard touchdown pass to open the scoring. The Detroit offense would not muster anything to match it for the rest of the game.
Their often flabby defense proved to be stout when needed and kept the Bears off the scoreboard for the first quarter, but with a second quarter field goal in hand, just before the end of the first half, the Bears offense seemed to shrug off its torpor. Andy Dalton hit Darnell Mooney for 52 yards and on the next play found Jimmy Graham in the end zone. With the half winding down, Chicago hit a 43 yard field goal to take a 13-7 lead into the locker room.
How on earth the same team that had so much success, bringing the NCAA’s run and shoot offense into the NFL with Rodney Peete and Barry Sanders could sink to the staggering lack of production that they offer today boggles the mind. Three straight penalties and a play for lost yardage brought them to a 3rd and 32, not once, but twice! In the same game! And what is their response? A draw play for no gain and a wide receiver screen for a seven yard gain. Granted, neither of these moments was particularly critical to the game, but when your best play call on a 3rd and 32 is a draw, you might need to re-evaluate your desire to compete.
And yet, somehow, despite Goff refusing to look deep, and with running back Jamaal Williams breaking a few isolated runs, the Lions manage to find themselves in the lead at the end of the third quarter. Both teams relied heavily on the pass underneath to their tight ends, and Goff managed to pick out TJ Hockenson in the corner of the end zone to take a 13-14 lead.
Through Chicago’s offense sputtering and the Detroit defense performing very credibly the fourth quarter stayed scoreless until, with time expiring, the Bears put up the inevitable 27 yard field goal to win the game 16-14. Nagy’s job may be safe for the moment, and Detroit edges ever closer to a record that they would prefer not to have, but this forgettable match leaves a bitter taste in the mouth from simply having to watch it. But hey, it’s Thanksgiving, so be thankful, have another slice of turkey and get ready for the Cowboys.
FINAL SCORE: CHICAGO BEARS 16-14 DETROIT LIONS
Las Vegas Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys
Everything that the Detroit game lacked, this game promises. Both of these teams come into this game trying to stem the flow of recent losses, Las Vegas perhaps having the most to lose between the two.
The once-hot Cowboy offense struggled to get going and went three and out to open the game. This was an advantage taken by the Raiders in emphatic style when DeSean Jackson gets on the end of a 56 yard Derek Carr pass to open the scoring. The Dallas offense begins to have success in their next possession, and pound away with old fashioned plays, runs and bootlegs, scoring with a flick to McKeon. The missed extra point was an omen of things to come.
Dallas’ defense was superb all day, and it was only a few questionable pass interference calls that kept Las Vegas drives from faltering, one especially in the dying minutes of the first quarter that gave them first and goal from the one yard line. The Raiders responded by pounding it in to extend their lead to 14-6.
What Dak Prescott seemed unable to do through the air, Tony Pollard continued to do on the ground, racking up some impressive yardage. On the other end of the ball, Carr and the Raiders could do very little wrong and marched down the field to a first and goal where the Dallas defense, who were excellent as ever, forced them to settle for the field goal. The Cowboy offense spluttered to a halt, Greg Zuerlein tries his luck at 59 yards and hits the upright to miss the field goal. As the half closes out, the Cowboys get the ball back and march it down the field 86 yards for a touchdown to keep the game within reach, going into the locker room 17-13.
The third quarter started with a fracas as Cowboys cornerback Kelvin Joseph and Raiders safety Roderic Teamer decided that a punt going out of bounds was no reason to stop fighting in a bench-clearer that saw both players ejected and a referee bloodied.
Las Vegas extends their lead to eleven with a tricky little double quarterback set that saw Carr lined up out wide and backup quarterback Marcus Mariota in the shotgun. Taking a page from Sean Payton’s playbook, Mariota keeps the ball on a dive to the right for the score. That lead lasted exactly one play however as the resulting kickoff was run back 100 yards for the score by Tony Pollard, the one bright spark in this lacklustre Dallas attack. The Cowboys decide to try for two and are stopped keeping the score 24-19.
The only thing keeping Dallas even within reach of this game is their defense. They have been outstanding. The one cloud in their day, however has been the penalties that have time and again kept dead drives resuscitated. The Raiders finish off the third quarter with a field goal to extend the lead to eight.
In the fourth quarter, Dak Prescott suddenly wakes up and breathes life into this Cowboys offense. They start it off with a Greg Zuerlein field goal. The Raiders respond in kind and keeps the lead at eight. With the Dallas engine finally firing, Prescott hits Dalton Schultz with back to back passes for a touchdown and two point conversion, levelling the score at 30-30. Daniel Carlson, the Southeastern Conference’s all time scoring leader, shows off that leg and hits a 56 yard field goal for Las Vegas just inside the two minute warning. The Cowboy offense, now fully awake, respond with a drive ending in a Greg Zuerlein field goal to level it at 33 and send the game to overtime.
Overtime follows the mould set out with the Dallas defense holding strong and then the secondary giving up the long pass interference penalty to keep the Raiders alive. Also in keeping with the days formula, the pass interference appeared non-existent, or if anything, to have been the other way around, with Raiders receiver Zay Jones grabbing cornerback Anthony Brown’s helmet with both hands and somehow still being given the call. Daniel Carlson is duly called upon and kicks the winning field goal to end 36-33. With 28 penalties called, this game set season highs for both teams.
FINAL SCORE: LAS VEGAS RAIDERS 36-33 DALLAS COWBOYS
Buffalo Bills vs. New Orleans Saints
The injury-depleted New Orleans Saints are desperately clinging on to Wild Card hopes by their fingernails as they receive the Buffalo Bills in a raucous Superdome. Drew Brees is calling the game in the broadcast booth and at halftime the New Orleans crowd welcome him in an almost worshipful manner. The crowd calls, no begs, him to come back out of retirement and lead the team again, a suggestion that he laughs off. Buffalo come into this game as the team in better shape on both sides of the ball and quickly impose their will on the Saints.
Josh Allen is able to rush and pass almost at will and he hits Dawson Knox to open the scoring halfway through the first quarter. The Saints offense shows some good qualities, with Trevor Siemien making a few good completions, but the lack of Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Taysom Hill, and Ryan Ramczyk really cut into any effectiveness that they might have. You can replace your quarterback if the rest of your offense is intact, but to replace every single weapon you have? No team can absorb that kind of loss.
The few remaining starters on the Saints defense provide some bright moments for the local crowd with David Onyemata and Cam Jordan applying pressure on Josh Allen, but they can’t be everywhere and the Bills are able to shake off the Saints and kick a field goal to take the lead to 10-0.
Coach Sean Payton is up to his usual tricks, going for it on fourth down, fake punts, but with his magic makers unavailable to him, it looks as if the old lustre is not there. Going into the dressing room only ten down is almost a victory in the circumstances.
But it doesn’t hold for long, with the Bills taking 14 more unanswered points in the third quarter. New Orleans prevent the shutout by scoring a touchdown to start the fourth quarter but it is far too little to staunch the flow of Bills points as Buffalo score another to end the game 31-6. This leaves the Bills sitting on top of the AFC East and really puts the pressure on the Saints, who slip to third in the NFC South. It is definitely a very long road back for them in the Wild Card race and may just be the end of the road for New Orleans 2021 hopes.
FINAL SCORE: BUFFALO BILLS 31-6 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS