Falling into first-place…
Thanksgiving was something to behold around the NFL. It sure looks like the Redskins got their fill of the division rival Dallas Cowboys, falling into a first-place tie in the NFC East in the process.
Earlier in the day, the Detroit Lions couldn’t take advantage of Bears backup quarterback Chase Daniel. And for the late game, the New Orleans Saints extended their winning streak to 10 games over the Atlanta Falcons.
Here are the studs and duds from NFL’s Thanksgiving action.
Stud: Dak Prescott, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
It sure helped that Amari Cooper was able to rack up the yards after the catch Thursday against Washington. In no way does that mean we can discount what Prescott did as he continues to improve this season.
The third-year quarterback completed 22-of-31 passes for 289 yards with two touchdowns (both to Cooper) and zero interceptions. He also put up one heck of a touchdown run in the third quarter to continue Dallas’ second half momentum. For as much flack as Prescott has received since the start of last season, he’s played extremely well during the Cowboys’ three-game winning streak.
Dud: Jordan Howard, running back, Chicago Bears
It’s more apparent now than ever before that Howard is not a fit in Matt Nagy’s offense. After combining for nearly 2,900 total yards in his first two NFL seasons, Howard entered Week 12 having put up 524 rushing yards at a clip of 3.4 yards per attempt. Sadly, this continued Thursday against a Lions run defense that has yielded 4.8 yards per rush this season and ranks 24th in the league against the run.
Howard finished Thursday’s matchup having recorded 13 yards on seven attempts. He was taken completely out of the game — forcing Chase Daniel to beat Detroit in the passing game. And while it ultimately worked for the Bears, this certainly isn’t a good sign for Howard.
Stud: Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans Saints
Brees might have thrown his second interception of the season, but he did add four more touchdowns in Thanksgiving night’s lopsided win over the division-rival Atlanta Falcons. That included touchdown strikes to unknown players such as Dan Arnold and Keith Kirkwood. Really. Those players exist.
Brees might now have put up huge numbers Thursday night. He did, however, do what was needed to take advantage of a lackluster Falcons defense. That included 15-of-21 passing for 171 yards with those four touchdowns and one pick in a 31-17 win over Atlanta. Brees now has 29 touchdown passes compared to two interceptions on the season. That’s insane.
Dud: Tevin Coleman, running back, Atlanta Falcons
With Devonta Freeman now out for the remainder of the season, Atlanta needed Coleman to respond big time. Unfortunately for the impending free agent, he didn’t do what was needed Thursday against the first-place Saints.
Coleman recorded just six yards on eight attempts. He also provided very little in terms of catching the ball out of the backfield. Atlanta needed more balance against the NFC’s best team. It didn’t get that in Coleman Thursday. Instead, he became one of the biggest turkeys of the day.
Stud: Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys
Owner Jerry Jones fully recognizes it. Cooper has made a major difference in Dallas since being trade by Oakland back in October. It’s much more than the average numbers he put up over his first three games in the Big D. Rather, it’s all about how much he’s helped Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Co.
Well, Cooper’s difference-making ability came out in full force Thanksgiving evening. He put up eight catches for 180 yards on nine targets, including touchdowns of 40 and 90 yards in the second half. That’s what made the difference as Dallas earned its third consecutive victory and claimed first place in the NFC East with a 31-20 win over Washington.
Dud: Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Detroit Lions
With his team on the brink of irrelevance in the NFC, Stafford came up small Thursday against the first-place Bears. The first half saw him dink-and-dunk his way down the field, leading to less than 90 passing yards before intermission. His inability to get the ball to Kenny Golladay during that span was a major issue.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Stafford showed the mistake proneness that has been missing from his game in recent seasons. It started with a pick-six midway through the fourth quarter. Detroit was tied with Chicago and had an opportunity to take the lead. Instead, throwing late and to the outside proved to be Stafford’s undoing. In Detroit’s very next possession, he tossed an interception to pretty much end the game. That came with the Lions driving for the potential game-tying touchdown. Ouch.
Stud: Ezekiel Elliott, running back, Dallas Cowboys
Elliott might have been overshadowed some by what we saw from Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper in Big D on Thanksgiving. In no way does this mean the Pro Bowl back was not performing at his absolute best.
Heading into this turkey day divisional outing, Elliott had put up 288 total yards over the past two games. Taking advantage of Washington’s defense focusing a bit more on Amari Cooper, Zeke added 143 total yards and a score on 31 touches. It was another downright brilliant performance from a player that’s picked up a head of steam in the second half of the season.
Dud: Colt McCoy, quarterback, Washington Redskins
At least one player in D.C. was excited to see “Gunslinger McCoy” replace the injured Alex Smith under center Thursday. We’re not too sure what the unnamed player was looking at here, but McCoy has proven himself to be nothing more than a mid-tier backup during a largely unassuming nine-year NFL career.
That continued in more ways than one against Dallas on Thanksgiving. McCoy threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball in his first start since back in 2014. Two of those interceptions came in Dallas’ side of the field. The other led indirectly to a touchdown in the final stanza that gave the Cowboys a 31-13 lead. Ouch.
Stud: Chicago Bears secondary
Whether it was Eddie Jackson or Kyle Fuller coming up big here, Chicago’s secondary confused and forced Matthew Stafford into multiple turnovers in this one. Jackson’s ball-hawking ability as a sophomore is by now well known. But Fuller’s game-ending pick late in the fourth quarter is what should be talked about more here.
It came with a non-existent pass rush from Khalil Mack, who did not record a single sack or quarterback hit in the game. It’s the ability of this unit to step up when other areas of the defense fails. That’s a testament to just how well-rounded Chicago’s defense is.
Dud: Adrian Peterson, running back, Washington Redskins
It’s really been a tale of different games for Peterson this season. More inconsistent than previous seasons, the future Hall of Fame running back was still on pace for north of 1,400 total yards. Despite this, Peterson had also put up 20 yards or less three times through 10 games.
While Peterson was a tad more successful Thursday, it wasn’t enough to help backup quarterback Colt McCoy on offense. Peterson tallied all of 35 yards on 12 attempts while catching two passes for nine yards. With Alex Smith out for the season, that’s not going to cut it. AD needs to step up big time moving forward if the Skins want to win the NFC East.