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2022 NFL season, Week 12: What We Learned from Thanksgiving Day games 

Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Thursday's action in Week 12 of the 2022 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:

Minnesota Vikings
2022 · 9-2-0

Takeaways:

  1. Justin Jefferson torches Patriots' previously stingy D. Bill Belichick famously takes away the opposing offense's best player, forcing second and third options to beat him. Jefferson flipped the script. The Pats D had no answer for the star receiver. Jefferson hauled in nine of 11 targets for 139 yards and the game's first TD. Seemingly every time Kirk Cousins needed a big play, he looked Jefferson's way. It wasn't against some rag-tag group, either. The Patriots entered the contest allowing the league's fourth-fewest passing yards per game and rated No. 1 in pass DVOA by Football Outsiders. Still, they couldn't slow Jefferson. The wideout got open underneath, over the middle, on the outside, deep. You name it. Jefferson was there with sticky hands. The 23-year-old is so tough on contested catches he makes Cousins look good even when the ball isn't perfect. Vice-grip hands, crisp routes, acceleration mid-route, there isn't a hole in Jefferson's game. With the massive night, Jefferson passed Randy Moss for the most receiving yards through a player's first three seasons in NFL history. Jefferson has 4,248 yards. He still has six games left.
  2. Patriots waste Mac Jones' best day as offense fizzles. Jones got off to a hot start, tossing completions of 26 and 34 yards on a quick TD drive to open the game. The second-year QB threw some gorgeous balls early, getting the pigskin out quickly, peppering the defense and spreading the love. Jones threw for a career-high 382 yards with two touchdowns for a season-best 119.8 passer rating. However, New England again struggled in the red zone (0-for-3) and, with no run game to lean on, puttered in the fourth quarter, including two three-and-outs. Late in the game, the stretch throws and gashes over the middle disappeared, rendering the Pats offense to a bevy of quick screens. Jones' pocket presence waned in the final few drives, and he took two bad sacks to kill a chance at a comeback.
  3. Special teams turns the tide. Following a Patriots TD drive to open the third quarter, Vikings kick returner Kene Nwangwu dashed for a 97-yard TD that evened the score. The play was a turning point on special teams that went Minnesota's way. Later the Pats were flagged for running into the punter on a fourth-and-4, giving the Vikes drive new life. Minnesota responded by driving for what wound up being the game-winning TD. New England's nightmare second half on special teams continued with a 31-yard punt the next drive. After winning with a punt return on Sunday, the Patriots' special teams failed miserably Thursday.

NFL Research: Since joining the Vikings, Kirk Cousins has had two prime-time wins with at least pass TDs: Thursday vs. New England and Thanksgiving Day in 2018 vs. Green Bay.

Next Gen stat of the game: All three of Kirk Cousins' TD passes targeted a receiver running a crossing route (11 of 12, 93 yards, 3 TDs, INT). No QB has thrown more completions targeting crossing routes than Cousins this season (50).

Dallas Cowboys
2022 · 8-3-0
New York Giants
2022 · 7-4-0

Takeaways:

  1. Cowboys explode in the second half to run away from Giants. Dallas woke up from a tryptophan coma in the first half, burning through an injury-depleted Giants defense for three consecutive TD drives in the final two quarters to bury their division rivals. Dak Prescott threw two first-half interceptions, which allowed Big Blue to take a 13-9 halftime lead. But the Cowboys showed their firepower in the final two quarters. Prescott fired darts, CeeDee Lamb made acrobatic catches, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard gashed on the ground, and Dalton Schultz caught two TDs. It wasn't always pretty for Mike McCarthy's squad, which put itself in tight spots with 13 penalties for 86 yards, but Dallas proved it has the horses to overcome the mental errors. Now imagine if they can add Odell Beckham Jr.
  2. Daniel Jones' misses kills Giants chances. Down 14-13 deep in the third quarter, the Giants faced a fourth-and-1 on their own 45-yard-line. Saquon Barkley released open in the flat, but Jones threw behind the running back, who couldn't adjust to make the catch. Not only was the bad ball incomplete, but had Jones led the RB, it could have been a huge gain. The miscue epitomized the Giants' offensive struggles. Close, yet so far away. Jones missed a bevy of makeable short throws that killed New York drives. Big Blue, clearly afraid of the ferocious Cowboys pass rush, settled for an amalgam of short throws and ineffective runs. For the second straight week, Barkley was shut down, rushing 11 times for 39 yards and a 1-yard TD plunge. Jones hit Darius Slayton for a nice 44-yard bomb in the first half, but the Giants never went back downfield. With a decimated receiver corps, New York doesn't have the firepower to keep up with upper-echelon teams, particularly when Barkley doesn't explode for big plays.
  3. Micah Parsons is inevitable. The Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner continues to menace opponents. Parsons netted two sacks for the sixth time this season, upping his total to 12. Parsons became the third player to have 12-plus sacks in each of his first two seasons, joining Aldon Smith and Hall of Famer Reggie White. In addition, Parsons tied Smith for the most games with at least two sacks in a player's first two seasons (9). The linebacker also netted four QB pressures Thursday. It's not just the drive-snuffing sacks Parsons brings to the table but how his presence forces offenses to stack game plans to avoid him and the Cowboys' pass rush.

NFL Research: Dak Prescott has now won 10 straight games versus the Giants (lost first two career games vs. NYG), joining Hall of Famer Roger Staubach (11) and Billy Kilmer (10) as the only QBs since 1950 to win 10+ consecutive starts vs. New York.

Next Gen stat of the game: Ezekiel Elliott gained a season-high 91 rushing yards despite facing a stacked box (8+ defenders) on half of his 16 carries. Elliott gained +12 rushing yards over expected, his second-most in a game this season.

Buffalo Bills
2022 · 8-3-0
Detroit Lions
2022 · 4-7-0

Takeaways:

  1. Bills survive upstart Lions with late-game heroics. Buffalo's return to Detroit wasn't pretty, but Josh Allen rifled a laser to Stefon Diggs for 36 yards to set up Tyler Bass' 45-yard game-winning field goal to eke out a victory. Allen looked off much of the day due to his hampering elbow injury, missing short throws he usually makes routinely. Until the final two drives, the Bills' best plays were Allen runs as the passing game couldn't get on track for stretches. Given Buffalo was facing the NFL's worst pass defense, it was stunning to see the Bills unable to move the ball consistently. Allen struggled under pressure, going 5-of-11 for 36 yards versus the blitz. Following Allen's fourth red zone interception in his last five games, the Bills offense hit Strugglesville, punting on three consecutive possessions to allow the pesky Lions to hang around. But when he needed to, Allen made plays to win. The Bills marched 90 yards on 14 plays to take the lead late. After a Lions field goal looked to force overtime, it took just one dart from Allen to wipe out an extra frame. Good teams find a way to win when they're banged up and not playing well. Sean McDermott's team did so on Thanksgiving Day.
  2. Lions battle, but too many errors inevitably sink Dan Campbell's squad. Entering on a three-game winning streak, Detroit hung tough with the AFC-power Bills. Amon-Ra St. Brown (nine receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown) continues to see his star shine, as he repeatedly spun Bills defensive backs into the turf with fantastic routes. Jamaal Williams is a red-zone hammer, scoring his 13th TD of the season. And the defense played well for stretches, holding Buffalo to just two third-quarter points. Playing with a razor-thin margin for error, however, Campbell's team will be kicking itself for not closing the deal. The Lions moved the ball at will for stretches, but a Williams fumble in plus-territory killed a promising first-half drive. Jared Goff took a dumb sack in the end zone for a safety. Mike Badgley missed a chip-shot 29-yard field goal. Austin Bryant committed a boneheaded roughing call. And Campbell struggled with clock management down the stretch. Couple those errors with a defense that couldn't get stops on third down and a QB who missed makeable throws, and it was another Thanksgiving disappointment in Detroit. The Lions are on the rise, but Thursday showed they're still too talent-deprived to hang with the big boys consistently.
  3. Ed Oliver eats on Thanksgiving. Boy, did the Bills get a big game from the monster defensive tackle. Oliver essentially pitched a tent in the Lions' backfield, smothering plays and destroying the entire operation. Facing Lions backup guards, Oliver was too much to handle. The defensive tackle gobbled up a sack -- which went for a safety -- six tackles, two tackles for loss, four QB pressures, two QB hits, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Already missing key edge rushers and watching Von Miller leave with a serious knee injury, the Bills needed Oliver to make plays. He came through. Oliver has generated 19 pressures over his last three games, seven more than any other player in the NFL since Week 10, per Next Gen Stats. The 24-year-old's play doubly stings Lions fans on Turkey Day, as Detroit passed over drafting Oliver in 2019 in favor of tight end T.J. Hockenson.

NFL Research: Jamaal Williams now has 13 rushing touchdowns this season. Only HOFer Barry Sanders (16 in 1991 and 14 in 1989) has had more rushing touchdowns in a full season in Lions history. Williams had 13 career rushing TDs entering the 2022 season.

Next Gen stat of the game: In his first game back following last season's ACL tear, Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White played 15 of 67 defensive snaps.