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What we learned from Thursday's Thanksgiving games

Here's what we've learned from the Thanksgiving Day tripleheader:

  1. It wasn't a perfectly cooked Thanksgiving meal for the Bears, but Mitchell Trubisky led two second-half scoring drives to burn the Lions. Trubisky feasted on short throws most of the game, willing to check down against a defense uninterested in bringing pressure, dicing up Detroit for a season-high 338 yards on 29-of-38 passing -- his first time over the 300-yard mark on the season. Trubisky saved his best throws for the game-winning drive, tossing dimes to Anthony Miller downfield on back-to-back third-and-5s that went for 35 and 32 yards, respectively. Trubisky overcame a lackluster first half and an awful throw behind Allen Robinson that Darius Slay intercepted to open the third quarter. Matt Nagy will be pleased with how his QB bounced back. Thursday's tilt epitomized the enigma of Trubisky. To close the first half, he confoundingly ran short of the stick when he could have picked up a first down leading to a field goal. The QB once again sailed several passes to open receivers. Yet, later, he made several picture-perfect tosses deep. It won't go down as a pretty win against a team starting its third string, but Nagy's squad will gladly take the holiday victory.
  1. Undrafted rookie quarterback David Blough wowed out of the gate, dive-bombing the Bears to give the Lions a 14-7 first-quarter lead. Playing in place of an injured Jeff Driskel, who was playing in place of an injured Matthew Stafford, the first completion of the third-stringer's career went for a 75-yard TD bomb to Kenny Golladay. Blough showed a willingness to push the ball downfield and surprisingly good pocket movement for a rookie, throwing for 280 yards, two TDs and one interception that came on a late desperation heave. After engineering touchdowns on the two opening drives, the Lions offense screeched to a halt, with four three-and-outs on its next five possessions, not counting the end of the half. Predictably for a quarterback who never took an NFL snap prior to Thanksgiving and didn't get full practice reps on a short week, there were some inconsistencies from Blough, who tended to throw low on several passes. Penalties and missed opportunities sunk the Lions more than the rookie QB, however. Given the circumstances, Blough fared better than anyone could have expected.
  1. Anthony Miller deserves whatever piece of turkey he desires. The Bears receiver repeatedly torched Lions slot corner Justin Coleman, going for a career-high 140 yards on nine catches. Six of Miller's receptions went for first downs, many coming in a huge second half in which he compiled 110 yards. Allen Robinson also ate well for Chicago, snagging eight passes for 86 yards and a TD, and repeatedly finding space for chain-moving catches. Tight end Jesper Horsted had perhaps the prettiest catch for the Bears, corralling an arching Trubisky throw in the third quarter for a touchdown. The Bears' pass-catching targets proved they could get open versus man coverage and make plays when Trubisky gives them a chance.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. This is it. This is the point in history in which we stop talking seriously about the 2019 Dallas Cowboys. Surprise: a team that hasn't been able to beat a single opponent with a record above .500 wasn't able to beat its Thanksgiving opponent that arrived with a record above .500. And not only did they not beat them, they watched their opponent coast to victory in the second half.

The Cowboys flirted with a win, scoring first before the Bills wrested momentum away from them before halftime. From there, they put the ball in the hands of Dak Prescott, who was forced to throw it 49 times, completing 32 of those attempts for 355 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, which is a stat line that's pretty appealing in a box score but not so much on the tape. The most glaring outcome: At the end of a 69-yard drive, the Cowboys took a shot at the end zone in a play that initially looked like it might be a touchdown. It was overturned, and on the ensuing play -- fourth-and-goal from the Buffalo 6 -- Prescott threw a swing pass to Ezekiel Elliott, who looked to have room to run into the end zone. The attempt went into the dirt.

That play was the 2019 Cowboys in a nutshell: Talented enough to get there, but not good enough to execute. Chalk up another loss to a team above .500.

  1. Thursday's result and the fashion in which it was reached brings Jason Garrett's status into serious question. An exasperated Jerry Jones was caught on camera at multiple moments in the second half as the Bills continued to widen the gap on the scoreboard and in the desire category, and he left his visible seat in the final minute as the Bills kneeled out the clock. Videos surfaced on Twitter shortly thereafter of Jones and his son, Stephen, walking with stern expressions into Dallas' locker room. Another video included the muffled sound of a player on a screaming tirade from behind the closed doors of the locker room.

Things aren't looking great in Dallas, and Garrett might not survive long enough to see how it ends. You'd never guess this team is still in first place in its (bad) division.

  1. OK, enough about the turmoil in Dallas. I'll be the first to admit that I never thought Josh Allen (and his early penchant for turnovers) would pan out in the NFL, but two seasons in, he's proving me and plenty of other doubters wrong.

Allen was excellent Thursday, leading the Bills offense on multiple scoring drives and doing it with his actions, not words. Allen's desire to win showed in a fumbled QB sneak that the QB recovered and then continued to drive his legs to fight through a defender for two yards and a first down. Allen ran in a touchdown on his own later in the game and finished with a sparkling line: 19-of-24 passing, 231 yards, one touchdown and a 120.7 passer rating.

Allen has evolved from a deep-ball chucker who was always good for a disastrous turnover or two per game to the quarterback evaluators imagined could be possible when drooling over his size and arm. He's extending plays with his feet, gradually becoming more accurate and doing so without a ton of weapons to speak of. We'll see where this road takes him, but right now, it's looking pretty good.

-- Nick Shook

  1. We're not even into December, and New Orleans has secured a playoff berth. Such was the state of the NFC South this season, as the Panthers (5-6) lost Cam Newton, the Falcons lost their way and the Buccaneers (4-7) remained lost at sea. The Saints' Turkey Day triumph over Atlanta clinched the division for New Orleans for the third consecutive season, a feat the franchise has never accomplished before. New Orleans will be assured at least one playoff game in the Superdome, where they are 6-1 in the Sean Payton era, with the one loss being, well, that loss. But the Saints are in the market for more than just one home game on the first weekend of January. At 10-2, New Orleans is 1.5 games ahead of the NFC North leader and is just a half-game back of the conference-leading 49ers. The Saints can get a leg up on San Francisco next week when they host those Niners in a Bayou matinee. A first-round bye and home field advantage is well in the Saints' sights for the second straight season.
  1. Eighteen days after New Orleans fell at home to Atlanta in arguably the upset of the season, the Saints exacted revenge by leaning, not on their bread-and-butter combo of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, but on their dominant defensive line and their Swiss Army knife in pads. Without left tackle Terron Armstead protecting his blind side, Brees (184 yards) was effective if not prolific throwing to Thomas (a season-low 48 yards) and Jared Cook (85 yards on three catches, and as many drops), but when New Orleans needed some voodoo magic on Thursday night, it turned to Taysom Hill. Hill's night began with a blocked punt on Atlanta's first possession. On the Saints' ensuing 30-yard drive, Hill, lined up as a receiver, scored the first touchdown, a 3-yard receiving score on a jet pop pass from Brees. Late in the second quarter, with New Orleans facing a short third down in Atlanta territory, the Saints took out their franchise signal-caller in favor of Hill, who took the shotgun snap and sped through the offensive line 30 yards to the house, putting New Orleans up 17-6. Hill logged 13 offensive snaps (his most since Week 8) and 35 total (his most since Week 2) in the victory. With the first two-touchdown performance of his career, Hill reminded us of the threat he can pose on any given play -- on offense or special teams -- and why he could be an X-factor for the Saints during their march into the postseason.
  1. Whereas Hill won the game for New Orleans on offense, Cameron Jordan and the front seven secured the victory on the other side of the ball. With Atlanta missing starting left guard James Carpenter (concussion), New Orleans hurried Matt Ryan (312 yards) all night long, collapsing the pocket quickly and forcing the former MVP into some poor decisions. Ryan enjoyed arguably his worst game of what has been an above-average season, losing a fumble on a scramble and throwing two picks over the middle, including one to rookie defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, who stiff-armed Ryan into the next county on the ensuing interception return. It was never going to be easy for the Falcons, who were without Julio Jones (shoulder) and Austin Hooper (knee) and were left with the likes of Christian Blake (57 yards) and Jaeden Graham (41 yards, TD) to make big plays. But matters were made worse by their offensive line play, which couldn't keep Ryan upright. The signal-caller took 13 QB hits and nine sacks, which coach Dan Quinn pointed out were "too many" sacks, in the loss. Four of those QB takedowns came courtesy of Jordan who welcomed rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary to the NFL ... 12 games into his first year. After the Saints sacked Ryan just once in Week 10, the meeting of New Orleans' D-line and Atlanta's O-line this time around was more indicative of an unstoppable force meeting a readily movable object.

-- Jeremy Bergman

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