The most appetizing NFL game wasn't the first one on Thanksgiving Day 2021, but though the level of play in Bears-Lions left much to be desired, it did give us a game that wasn't decided until the final kick. And Raiders-Cowboys went a step further, needing overtime before it too was decided on the final kick. As for Bills-Saints ... two close games out of three ain't bad.
We got out our red pens and graded all the Thanksgiving Day performances, starting with the Bears and Lions, two of the worst teams in football -- and they looked like it. We couldn't give the winner even an average mark in that one, but the Raiders showed plenty of spark in upsetting the Cowboys in a game where they were 7.5-point underdogs, per Caesars Sportsbook.
All six teams heading into Thanksgiving were coming off a loss in Week 11, so there were plenty of "get right" performances at stake on this holiday.
Here are our report cards from all three Thanksgiving games.
Bears 16-14 over Lions
|The Bears saved Matt Nagy's job for this week, but this was hardly an impressive win over the winless Lions. Credit to Chicago for making sure it didn't actually lose to Detroit -- who had the lead throughout the fourth quarter until there was no time left. The Bears held the ball for the final 8:30, as Andy Dalton made the veteran decisions needed to ensure Chicago would get the field goal for the walk-off victory. In reality, Chicago should have won this game by two scores with all the penalties and coaching blunders the Lions made -- especially since Detroit did not have its top offensive playmaker in D'Andre Swift after he hurt his shoulder in the second quarter. Despite the win, Nagy still will have to answer questions about his job in the coming days.|
|Where to begin with this 0-10-1 Lions team, which was one second away from pulling off the upset. Detroit's offensive line had six holding penalties (10 total), they faced a third-and-32 twice in the game -- and the Lions were winning with 8:30 to play! Detroit even had an opportunity to get the ball back in the final two minutes and drive to kick a winning field goal of its own, but head coach Dan Campbell called consecutive timeouts with 1:54 left on a third-and-9 -- the second timeout was on a play Chicago went short of the sticks in order to kick a field goal to take the lead. Chicago got a first down on a third-and-4 as a result of the five-yard penalty and ran the clock out for the winning field goal. The Lions have been competitive in recent weeks, but Campbell's coaching gaffes and poor penalties hurt Detroit upset a bad Chicago team. There's a reason why the Lions are winless.|
Raiders vs. Cowboys
|We wondered what Raiders team we were going to see after they were blown out by double digits in their last two games, but it was pretty clear early on they were going to put up a fight. This is a game they should have probably won in four quarters. The defense forced a three-and-out in overtime and gave the ball back to the offense. Derek Carr was impressive all game, as he completed 24 of 39 passes for 373 yards and one touchdown. Vegas had two receivers go over 100 yards as well, as Hunter Renfrow caught eight passes for 134 yards and the veteran DeSean Jackson caught three balls for 102 yards and a touchdown. Carr's wideouts made plays all game against this struggling secondary, and proved they are not a pushover in the AFC. |
|The Cowboys didn't have Amari Cooper or CeeDee Lamb, but Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson stepped up big with 106 and 104 yards receiving, respectively. While Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for just 61 yards rushing, it was the defense that really failed in this one. They couldn't come up with enough stops and the corners really struggled to cover the receivers downfield. Anthony Brown drew four pass interference flags by himself! This grade would be lower, but Dallas was without its top two receivers and the Cowboys did find a way to send this game to overtime. They gave us a thriller to enjoy this holiday, but ultimately it wasn't a great showing.|
Raiders-Cowboys grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
|They weren't perfect, with Josh Allen forcing a couple of first-half passes that would've given any team with a competent offense a chance to get back in the game. And they're still too dependent on Allen to lead the ground game. But those are nitpicks considering they felt like they were in the driver's seat from start to finish. Allen zipped the ball well (and accurately) for much of the night, Stefon Diggs and Dawson Knox had fun working the Saints' secondary in the red zone, and their defense had its way with Trevor Siemian. Talk about a confidence booster heading into a crucial showdown with the Patriots.|
|Losing by 25 at home, in prime time, on Thanksgiving? Not ideal. Many of their woes can be attributed to injuries; can you imagine if Jameis Winston and Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were healthy? But come on, at some point you've gotta use Taysom Hill if you're gonna dress him, or at least consider Ian Book, if the guy in front of them is badly misfiring throughout the night. Their ground game was dead on arrival. They never capitalized on anything. The only reason they didn't get an "F" is because their defense actually produced a few impact plays when the game was still within reach.|
Packers-Vikings grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
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