There was plenty to feast on in the NFL this Thanksgiving. The Detroit Lions took the Buffalo Bills down to the wire before losing, 28-25, the Dallas Cowboys came back to defeat the rival New York Giants, 28-20, and the Vikings outlasted the Patriots en route to a 33-26 win.
With every Thanksgiving feast comes the good, the bad, and the ugly. For me, the stuffing this year was incredible, but the corn pudding was a little burnt. As for grandma’s peanut butter soup, that was the ugly part of Thanksgiving. Not sure what she was thinking there, but I appreciate the attempt to shake things up.
Below, we will break down the good, the bad, and the ugly from the three NFL games we digested on Thursday.
Bills 28, Lions 25
The good: Lions offense
It was the Lions offense that showed more consistency on Thursday compared to the Bills’ high-powered attack. Detroit came into this matchup on a three-game winning streak and the main reason why was because of the offense. Detroit scored the first touchdown of this matchup and even held a 25-22 lead with just 23 seconds remaining. Unfortunately, the defense let the offense down, as a 36-yard Stefon Diggs catch got Buffalo into position for the game-winning field goal.
Jared Goff completed 23-of-37 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns, while Jamaal Williams rushed for 66 yards and a score. Amon-Ra St. Brown dominated from the wide receiver spot, as he recorded nine catches for 122 yards and one touchdown. While Detroit went 6 of 15 on third downs, it went a perfect 3 of 3 on fourth downs. The Lions didn’t do everything right this holiday, but the offense almost out-scored the Super Bowl favorites on a national stage.
The bad: Kicking
There were some pretty costly missed kicks in this matchup. Michael Badgley came into Thursday a perfect 3 for 3 on field goals in five games played for the Lions, but he missed a 29-yard field goal late in the third quarter which would have cut the Bills’ lead to just two points. If he converted that chip shot, things may have gone very differently. Even worse, Tyler Bass missed an extra point with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter that would have given Buffalo a four-point lead. Instead, the Lions were able to tie the game with 23 seconds remaining. Bass did get a chance at redemption, however, and came through with the 45-yard game-winner. However, his first extra point miss since 2020 is something I’m sure stuck in his mind.
The ugly: Lions clock management
As we mentioned earlier, the Lions offense was very good, but not perfect. Head coach Dan Campbell struggled with some late-game clock issues that might have kept the Lions in the win column.
Detroit got possession down three points with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter and had all three timeouts remaining. Campbell decided not to take a timeout right away after a 15-yard pass to St. Brown with 37 seconds left — allowing the clock to run before a review was made by the officials to determine if the Lions got a first down. Detroit did not get a first down, and on the next play, Goff decided to attempt a deep pass to DJ Chark on third-and-1 from the Bills’ 33-yard line with 32 seconds left. After that fell incomplete, the Lions virtually had no choice but to kick the game-tying field goal on fourth down.
If Campbell could do it all over again, he probably would have run on that third and short, gotten the first down, called a timeout, and then would have had another set of downs to take a couple shots at the end zone. Even if the Lions didn’t score a game-winning touchdown in this hypothetical, they would have run more time off the clock — virtually guaranteeing overtime. Instead, the Lions’ incompletion on third down forced them to kick the game-tying field goal after using just one of the three timeouts they had at their disposal. With 23 seconds left on the clock, the Bills were able to put together a game-winning drive.
Cowboys 28, Giants 20
The good: Dallas tight ends
One of the biggest reasons the Cowboys were able to leave the Giants in the dust in the second half was their utilization of the tight ends. The entire depth chart seemed to get involved as all three of their second-half touchdowns came through the tight end position. Dalton Schultz was on the receiving end of two of those scores, including a 15-yard touchdown reception that capped off a 14-play, 75-yard opening drive to begin the third quarter and retake the lead.
Meanwhile, you had Jake Ferguson hurdle a defender on a 30-yard catch and run. Six plays later, Peyton Hendershot rushed for a 2-yard touchdown, which led the entire tight end unit to play Whac-A-Mole in the end zone.
The bad: Giants’ fourth down attempt
The turning point in this game came on New York’s first possession of the second half. With the ball at midfield, Brian Daboll left his offense on the field. Daniel Jones took a shotgun snap and had a wide-open Saquon Barkley in the flat, but threw the ball a bit behind him and it dropped incomplete. Had Jones put it in front of Barkley or simply hit him in stride on what should have been a layup throw, New York would have easily moved the chains. To make matters worse, the Giants had only 10 players on the field on that attempt.
From there, it took Dallas just over two minutes to find the end zone again and go up, 21-13.
The ugly: Bettors hit with late-game bad beat
While the game was already decided by the time the Giants gained possession at the 1:13 mark of the fourth quarter after a missed Cowboys field goal, that final minute had a substantial amount of money changing hands. At the time New York got the ball, the Cowboys held a 15-point lead, but Daniel Jones constructed a 64-yard touchdown drive that would completely swing who’d come out on top at the betting window.
The Cowboys had been favorites of between 9 and 10 points most of the week, with the line closing at Dallas -10 at Caesars Sportsbook. But instead of Cowboys -10 bettors cashing, Richie James’ 1-yard touchdown pass from Jones and subsequent extra-point brought the Giants within the number and covered the spread. That score also allowed the Over 44.5 total to cash. Before that score, the Under was sitting pretty at 41. So, while that TD in the final ticks may have been inconsequential to this game, there are a lot of Cowboys -10 and Under 44.5 bettors that are not having the best Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are now 1-11 ATS in their last 12 Thanksgiving games.
Vikings 33, Patriots 26
The good: Justin Jefferson
The Vikings star receiver continues to be a cheat code for Kirk Cousins as he finished with 139 yards and a touchdown on nine catches. Not only was Jefferson piling up the stats, but he was also making timely catches. While his opening drive touchdown allowed Minnesota to gain an early lead, arguably his most important catch of the night came in the early stages of the fourth quarter. After a run into the kicker penalty gave the Vikings offense new life, Cousins uncorked a 36-yard pass to Jefferson at midfield and the receiver brought the club all the way into the red zone. That reception set up what would prove to be the go-ahead touchdown, caught by Adam Thielen.
Jefferson has recorded 21 games with 100-plus yards, which ties Thielen for the fourth-most in franchise history. He also set a new NFL record for most receiving yards through a player’s first three seasons. The previous record we held by Randy Moss, who had 4,163 yards. Jefferson and the Vikings still have six more regular season games to extend his record.
The bad: Patriots red zone execution
New England has been a bad red-zone team this season. Coming into Week 12, they ranked 31st in red zone touchdown rate, only sitting above the Denver Broncos. That issue sprouted up again against the Vikings as they went 0-3 in the red area on Thursday night. While Hunter Henry’s non-touchdown at the goal line is very much debatable and looked like a score to the naked eye, New England had a separate red zone drive that went all the way to the Vikings 5-yard line and they were still unable to punch it in. If the Patriots want to be looked at as a serious playoff threat, that aspect of their game needs drastic improvement.
The ugly: Patriots special teams
It was a rare poor showing for Bill Belichick’s special teams unit. There were several mistakes made and two that specifically resulted in points being scored for Minnesota. After an impressive 75-yard touchdown drive by the offense to take the lead to begin the second half, the special teams unit allowed the Vikings to run back a 97-yard kickoff for a touchdown to even back up the game at 23.
Then, rookie running back Pierre Strong ran into punter Ryan Wright on a fourth-and-3 punt that gave Minnesota a first down. Three plays after that penalty, they’d go on the score which would be the game-winning touchdown.