NFL Thanksgiving Recap: 49ers and Dallas Dominate, Packers top Lions
With memories clouded by the alcohol-and-tryptophan-induced fog of our collective Thanksgiving, it may be necessary to rehash some of the details of yesterday’s key NFL holiday matchups.
Generally speaking, all three games featured NFC powerhouses in hot pursuit of Philadelphia for the conference’s best record. Two of those teams and their fans came away feeling good about their team's late-season prospects. The third played poorly enough to make their supports wonder what the hell they had to be thankful for.
With turduckens and patches of his likeness all over the place it felt like John Madden never left us. Which is a good thing. Here’s a recap of the three Thanksgiving games.
Note: This article will be updated with the results of the Black Friday game between the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.
Green Bay 29, Detroit 22
Quarterback Jordan Love threw three touchdown passes, while mistakes and questionable coaching decisions sunk Detroit and ruined the celebratory pregame mood at Forbes Field.
Love and WR Christian Watson set the tone with a 53-yard hookup on the Pack’s first possession, which Love finished off with a 10-yard TD pass to rookie wideout Jayden Reed. One trend established on that opening drive was the outstanding play of Green Bay’s maligned offensive line, which did not allow a sack all day.
Two Jared Goff fumbles also keyed Green Bay’s outburst in the opening period. One set up a Packers TD, and Jonathan Owens returned the other 27 yards to put Green Bay up by two scores. Goff added a third fumble later in what was the quarterback’s second poor game within four days. The difference between this performance and Sunday’s against the Bears was that there would be no comeback win on Thanksgiving.
Detroit head coach Dan Campbell helped make sure of that.
After Detroit scored in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 23-14, Campbell later in the period ordered a fake punt on 4th-and-3 from Detroit’s own 23-yard line. “Campbell’s Gamble” backfired, and Green Bay converted the very short field into Love’s third TD pass, this one to Watson, who finished with five catches for 94 yards. (In a twist of ancient history, Christian killed the Lions.) The failed fourth-down conversion attempt was Detroit’s fourth of the day.
Watson’s catch made it 29-14. The Lions scored a late TD to cut the deficit to seven points, but Reed recovered an onside kick with 41 seconds remaining to lock up the Green Bay win.
For the Packers, they join the Vikings as NFC North teams surging into the postseason picture a few weeks after their 2023s seemed dead in the water. Detroit, meanwhile, appears to be hitting a wall. The loss cuts their division lead to two games, and they also fall two games behind the Eagles for the conference’s best record.
Dallas 45, Washington 10
Dak Prescott threw four touchdowns and DaRon Bland returned an interception for a place in NFL history as Dallas ran away from the Commanders late.
Curiously enough, the final statistics do little to support such a lopsided score. Washington recorded more first downs (23 to 21) than Dallas and held more than a 13-minute advantage in time of possession. The Commanders turned the ball over just once and committed fewer penalties.
But a huge fourth quarter for Dallas was the difference, as the Cowboys turned a 10-point lead into a rout by scoring 25 unanswered points. Prescott threw touchdown passes to KaVontae Turpin and CeeDee Lamb to put the game away. The Dallas QB continues to his recent pattern of distributing the ball exceedingly well, throwing his TDs to four different receivers, including a second-quarter strike to Brandon Cooks, who led Dallas with 72 receiving yards.
With the game out of reach, Dallas’ Bland gave fans a reason to keep watching. Anything but bland with the ball in his hands, the Cowboys corner returned a Sam Howell interception 63 yards for a TD late in the fourth quarter, weaving around defenders the last 10 yards of the return. The pick-six was Bland’s fifth of his remarkable 2023 and set a record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a single season.
Howell threw for 300 yards but did not get Washington into the end zone. He again was pressed for time behind his awful offensive line, which allowed four more sacks, two by Johnathan Hankins. Micah Parsons collected 1.5 sacks for Dallas. One of the few bright spots for the Commanders was receiver Curtis Samuel, who hauled in nine passes for 100 yards.
Dallas (8-3) stays within a two games of Philadelphia, whom they meet in Dallas in two weeks. Before that rematch, Philadelphia hosts San Francisco — an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” scenario — which also hoped to use a national Thanksgiving to showcase reassert its dominance.
San Francisco 31, Seattle 13
Running back Christian McCaffrey rushed for 114 yards and the 49ers defense sacked Seattle’s Geno Smith six times as San Francisco dominated this showdown for first place in the NFC West.
San Francisco’s Brock Purdy’s first half against Seattle seemed to be an extension of his spectacular performances against Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. The second-year quarterback completed 15-of-20 passes before intermission, and McCaffrey ran for two TDs as the Niners took a commanding three-touchdown lead into the locker room. Purdy finished with 209 yards passing.
The ‘Hawks appeared to get back into the game early in the third quarter when Jordyn Brooks picked off a deflected Brock Purdy pass and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown. (Brooks finished with 12 tackles.) A Seattle field goal cut the lead to 24-13 before San Francisco went on six-play 64-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter to put game out of reach. Purdy finished off the drive by throwing a 28-yard pearl to Brandon Aiyuk. The star receiver was relatively quiet with two catches for 50 yards as San Francisco’s game plan seemed intent on featuring his mate Deebo Samuel, who paced the 49ers with seven catches for 79 yards.
The Niners pass rush finally lived up to the hype Thursday night. Defending DPOY Nick Bosa recorded two of the six sacks and the front seven harried Geno Smith most of the night. Meanwhile, San Francisco cornerback Charvarius Ward broke up three passes and enjoyed some measure of revenge against Seattle’s star receiver D.K. Metcalf, who tormented him in last January’s Wild Card game.
Smith completed 18-of-27 passes for 180 yards and was intercepted once. The Seattle offense did not score a touchdown Thursday night and now has gone seven straight quarters without doing so. The highlight for the Seattle passing game was rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s spectacular one-handed diving catch on third down, which kept alive the third-quarter drive that ended in a Seahawks field goal.
With the Thanksgiving nightcap win, the 49ers put themselves up two games over Seattle, and will look to lock down the NFC West in a rematch at Levi’s Stadium in just two weeks.