The Winners and Losers of NFL Thanksgiving Day Football

Every week of the 2022 NFL season, we are going to have fun the electrical performs, examine the colossal blunders, and clarify the inexplicable moments of the most up-to-date slate. Welcome to Winners and Losers—Thanksgiving version. Which one are you?

Winner: The Backdoor Double Cover

I’m grateful that New York legalized sports activities playing this yr, in order that I used to be in a position to brazenly point out that I wager on sports activities on the Thanksgiving desk with out my mother and father reacting like I used to be dealing black tar heroin on the darkish internet. And this yr’s Cowboys Thanksgiving sport—historically essentially the most watched sport of the NFL common season—ended with a spectacular instance of the brilliance and stupidity of playing: a totally pointless Backdoor Double Cover.

The Cowboys demolished the Giants within the second half, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back-to-back drives to show a 13-7 deficit right into a 28-13 lead. The Giants have been cooked like a turkey, and the Cowboys have been effectively on their option to their first Thanksgiving win since 2018…however the sport wasn’t over but to everyone. With eight seconds left, Giants QB Daniel Jones threw this seemingly meaningless landing move to Richie James:

The Giants not solely coated the 10-point unfold, but additionally ensured that the sport went over a complete of 45 factors. As far as I can inform, it is the primary play to flip each the unfold and the entire within the closing 15 seconds of a sport since Aaron Rodgers threw a Hail Mary to beat the Lions in 2015 … however, like, that additionally gained the Packers the sport. The Giants’ TD meant nothing except you had cash on the sport.

Loser: Near-Touchdowns

In Thursday’s Cowboys-Giants sport, CeeDee Lamb made a catch which we should always nonetheless be speaking about—a one-handed, toe-tapping work of magic that required superhuman coordination along with his eyes, arms, and ft all performing independently of each other to drag off the seemingly unimaginable. Instead, the NFL mentioned it did not rely:

There’s a second right here when it seems to be sure that Lamb has scored an all-time landing. After securing the ball with one hand and tapping his proper foot down, his left toe comes down whereas his proper foot hovers above the out-of-bounds line. It’s a second you may seize in a seemingly revealing screenshot:

Unfortunately, because of NFL semantics, this isn’t a landing. Lamb did get two ft down inbounds—however after touching his left toe down inbounds, his left heel comes down out of bounds. Had Lamb eliminated his foot from the bottom after the toe got here down inbounds and then touched his heel down out of bounds, it might be a rating, however because the heel and toe have been half of the identical step, it is not a catch. I get it—it might be actually arduous for refs to parse the precise moments when sure feet-parts come down inbounds. Referee Scott Novak gave a protracted, convoluted announcement which defined all of the methods this was nearly a landing earlier than saying “toe then heel, out-of-bounds.” What a tease, ref! You did not have to say something apart from the “out-of-bounds” half!

The Lamb catch may’ve been a legendary second, however no matter. The Cowboys scored one other landing on actually the following play, and gained comfortably. But the ultimate sport of the Thanksgiving slate could be selected one other obvious landing which officers decided utilizing slow-motion replay to be not-a-catch—and this one was essential to the result. At first, officers awarded Patriots TE Hunter Henry a landing on this play, giving New England a 7-point lead over the Vikings. But it was finally overturned, forcing the Patriots to accept a area purpose in a sport the place they wanted 4 factors.

The ruling, made by the league’s prime officers in New York, is that as a result of Henry was “going to the bottom,” Henry needed to management the ball by any contact with the bottom. On replay, officers decided {that a}) the ball hit the bottom and b) Henry misplaced management of the ball. But, like… did both of these issues occur? How certain are we that the ball really touched the turf between Henry’s fingers, which have been cradling the ball? And does Henry really lose management of the ball after it hits the bottom? It looks like he controls it by contact with the bottom, then momentarily loses the ball as he rolls onto his again, then regains it.

It seems to be particularly dangerous once you put it side-by-side with comparable performs the league has dominated as touchdowns:

If the Patriots had 4 extra factors, they may have kicked a area purpose to tie the sport with 2 minutes remaining. Instead, they wanted to attain a landing, and tried a doomed 4th-and-15 conversion, finally shedding by seven.

There’s nothing extra gorgeous in soccer than watching a spectacular catch just like the one Justin Jefferson made two weeks in the past, or the one Lamb nearly made tonight. And there’s nothing much less extra attention-grabbing about soccer than parsing the league’s catch guidelines, attempting to determine why they exist, or how they apply to excessive slow-motion replays. A world the place each of these catches are catches is rather more enjoyable than one the place they’re each incompletions.

Winner: James Houston IV

James Houston IV was constructed by Prime Time for prime time: He’s the primary Jackson State participant to make the NFL since Deion Sanders took over as the college’s head coach in 2020. Thursday, he made his NFL debut for the Lions and began making performs instantly. . The participant nicknamed “the Problem” (as in “Houston, we’ve an issue”) recovered a fumbled punt return on his very first NFL snap:

On his first defensive snap, he wrangled and wrestled Bills QB Josh Allen to the bottom for a sack:

And later, Houston obtained previous a decent finish and a left deal with to chase Allen down from behind:

Houston is the primary participant to document two sacks in his NFL debut since 2017, when Myles Garrett did it. Before Garrett, the final man to do it was TJ Watt. Before Watt, the final man to do it was Joey Bosa. That’s three first-round picks turned All-Pros … and James Houston, the Day 3 decide from an HBCU. And he did it in mainly no taking part in time: Houston performed solely 4 defensive snaps. Now, the Lions have been solely taking part in Houston in very apparent passing conditions—third-and-10, third-and-7, third-and-10, and third-and-10, actual pin-your-ears-back-and- find-the-QB-type eventualities—however regardless, two sacks in 4 snaps! Searching TruMedia’s database way back to snap rely knowledge goes, no one has ever had a four-snap, two-sack sport. The closest is Frank Zombo, who had two sacks on six snaps in 2015; no one this yr has had a number of sacks on fewer than 13 snaps.

It appears like all this man wanted was a shot. Houston performed three seasons at Florida with out registering a single begin earlier than heading to Jackson State to play for Sanders as a grad switch in 2021. Simply put, he dominated there: He had 24.5 TFLs, 16.5 sacks, and led the FCS with seven pressured fumbles because the Tigers went 11-0 in opposition to FCS competitors within the common season. But it wasn’t sufficient to earn a lot consideration from draft scouts, and even an invitation to the NFL scouting mix. The Lions took a flier on him with the 217th decide, however reduce him out of coaching camp and put him on the follow squad. He did not get an opportunity to play till this week, when edge rushers Josh Paschal and Charles Harris have been dominated out with accidents on the brief week, and he solely obtained to play situationally.

The world has now seen what James Houston IV can do. Now the Lions have to let him attempt to do it extra usually.

Loser: Celebratory Turkey

It’s change into a convention for Thanksgiving postgame interviews to function a bunch of turkey legs for the victorious gamers. The gamers usually associate with the gag, as a result of it is at all times good to get a trophy, even when it is an edible one.

But let’s be trustworthy: How unappealing is a postgame turkey leg? Normally, you may attempt to get a bit of bit of mashed potatoes or gravy or stuffing or cranberry sauce in each chew, to attempt to moisten it up a bit and add a bit of bit of taste. But that is not an choice for these gamers. They’re simply getting leg. And as Josh Allen revealed final yr, the legs are served chilly. These males have simply performed 60 minutes of soccer, and they’re getting plain room temperature roasted meat with no sauces or sides. Adam Thielen took an enormous chew, however needed to spit it out as a result of it was so dry:

Justin Jefferson politely declined the turkey, citing the truth that he was carrying a grill and did not wish to get turkey throughout it. Kirk Cousins ​​did not complain in any respect, however he famously has questionable style in celebratory meats. Next yr, NBC must let the gamers chug a gravy boat or dunk their face into mashed potatoes as a substitute.

Winner: The Announcer Jinx

The dumbest factor we as sports activities followers genuinely consider is that one thing an announcer says throughout a sport has any impact on the sport itself. I feel it is hypothetically potential in basketball, because the announcers are actually sitting subsequent to the court docket, and the gamers may hear in a quiet area. (See Steph Curry instantly pointing on the announcers after a uncommon free throw miss.) But in soccer, the announcers are in a tiny enclosed sales space tons of of ft away from the sector. Unless the gamers have a radio feed of their helmet—which might break NFL guidelines—they don’t know what’s being mentioned on the printed.

But how else can we clarify what occurred throughout Thursday’s Lions-Bills sport? Not solely did CBS play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz focus on Lions kicker Michael Badgley’s excellent document on the season, he went to nice lengths to low cost the likelihood of the announcer’s jinx even present. The comedian timing is spectacular.

As Nantz famous, Badgley hadn’t missed any kicks this season: He was 10-for-10 on area targets and 12-for-12 on additional factors. But greater than that, Badgley was 26-for-26 on kicks from beneath 30 years over the course of his 5-year NFL profession. If we take all area targets and additional factors, Badgley was 180-for-186 on kicks under 40 yards, a 96.7 p.c success charge. So even when we embody some considerably longer kicks, the chances of him lacking have been solely about 3 p.c. What have been the chances of that 3 p.c occurring proper when Nantz was speaking about it?

There is just one clarification. Jim Nantz is immensely highly effective, a god-like determine with the ability to form existence by his phrases. He doesn’t use this energy for good. He doesn’t use this energy for evil. He makes use of it solely to result in unlikely outcomes on in any other case unexciting sports activities performs.

In this case, the Lions ended up shedding by three factors. Why, Nantz? Why, in your almighty energy, do you enable dangerous issues to occur to dangerous soccer groups?

Loser: Detroit’s Halftime Performer

Getting booked because the Lions’ halftime performer on Thanksgiving is a fairly candy deal for a recording artist. I imply, it is not pretty much as good a deal as performing the Super Bowl halftime present. And, effectively, the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving halftime present tends to ebook extra well-known performers than the Lions’ one. But nonetheless: Last yr’s Lions-Bears Thanksgiving sport was the fourth-most watched sport of the common season, and the Lions have been 0-9-1 and had Tim Boyle taking part in QB. If you ebook the Lions halftime gig, you may be beamed into the houses of thousands and thousands of Americans.

There’s only one drawback: Lions followers are just about assured to boo whoever comes out. From Nickelback to Mike Posner, (Big Sean broke the streak final yr, however the crowd was nonetheless visibly bored by his act.) So, sure, thousands and thousands of Americans will see you carry out, however they’re going to additionally see that the primary response to your efficiency is “vicious disappointment.”

So the Lions developed a workaround this yr. Bebe Rexha carried out a set that includes… that tune that has the identical refrain as “Blue Da Ba Di Da Ba Di” however has completely different lyrics. But for some motive, the Lions made the efficiency completely unwatchable to followers within the stadium. Instead of acting on a set at midfield, Rexha carried out beneath some kind of coated tent within the nook of the stadium.

Rexha was solely seen to followers within the very nook of the sector, and even these followers did not appear significantly or excited. Maybe the concept was to keep away from having to construct a set on the sector in the course of the 15-minute halftime, however groups appear to try this on a regular basis with out problem. Of course, on the finish of the set, followers booed—maybe as a result of they have been mad that Rexha’s efficiency was invisible. It’s an actual lose-lose state of affairs: Either Lions followers will boo you as a result of they’re mad they needed to see you carry out or they’re going to boo you as a result of they have been mad they weren’t in a position to see you carry out.

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