So, what did you miss on this Thanksgiving day while you were wolfing down turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing?
If you’re a Cowboys fan, not much. Shrinking in big games. Telegraphed playcalling when in sniffing distance of the end zone. A fleet of superstars making an acrobatic push to the middle. Basically, the kind of thing you don’t change over the course of four games when, over eight years, it’s become the norm.
Don’t be fooled by the banal southern hokum that Jerry Jones typically deals in when speaking about his embattled head coach; there’s a good chance he doesn’t see the Jason Garrett the rest of us see, which is why he expects something out of him that the rest of us don’t expect.
After watching the Cowboys fall to the Bills 26-15 at home on Thanksgiving—Dallas’s sixth loss in nine games—Jones told the assembled reporters, “I think you can change who you are,” and said that he wouldn’t fire Garrett because it would prevent the team from going on a run over their final four games.
“Do you believe in redemption?” he said, via USA Today. “I am a redemption man, too.”
The Cowboys haven’t beaten a team with a winning record this season. They’re flatlining with one of the most structurally sound rosters in the NFL. They have two young coaches—Kris Richard on defense and Kellen Moore on offense—who are precisely the kind of coaches you might take the chance to evaluate after firing your head coach in the middle of the season before another team hires them.
Garrett hasn’t changed in nine years at Dallas’ helm and only begrudgingly sheds his skin in moments of immense pressure. He has been given more opportunities to redeem himself over a decade than Tony Soprano, yet always reverts back to the hyper-cautious, milquetoast style that has defined this team for the lifecycle of two franchise quarterbacks.
It’s surprising to see someone with Jones’s history so smitten with something that is clearly not optimized. Jones can uproot a city with the palm of his hand, but somehow he can’t bring himself to separate from a once-promising young coach who hasn’t lived up to lofty expectations. Even if Dallas goes on some type of winning streak to end this season—no guarantee with games against the Bears, Rams, Eagles and Washington to finish the season—it would only delay the inevitable.
• A gut-check afternoon for Mitchell Trubisky: Trailing 17-10 to the we’re-on-our-third-quarterback Lions, the maligned Trubisky converted a critical third-and-10 before lofting a beautiful touchdown pass to tight end Jesper Horsted (that’s the name of a real person by the way, and not the fictitious owner of a spooky mansion in a murder mystery novel).
This game was the type of game against a middling opponent that had the power to sink Trubisky for good, and given the emotional avalanche he’s felt over the last few weeks, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him cave.
Instead, he did the opposite. I think Matt Nagy has accepted the fact that this will never be a fireworks show, but he has to be pleased with the third-quarter touchdown drive to tie the game and the subsequent fourth quarter touchdown drive to win the game 24-20, the latter of which came a series after Trubisky was planted into the ground by Trey Flowers.
To get the win, Trubisky had to do the things consistently good quarterbacks need to do: Hit a receiver winning a narrow footrace in stride and, when an advantageous receiver-cornerback matchup develops over the course of a game, possess the ability to punish said cornerback.
• A good night to be a Saints fan: If the goal of a rivalry game is to win while also simultaneously embarrassing your opponent with a series of high-octane viral moments, then mission accomplished in New Orleans—at least over the course of three and a half quarters.
This game started with a punt block by Taysom Hill, which, on the ensuing drive, meant that Sean Payton was going to call a bunch of plays for Hill to get him into the end zone. This kind of represents where the Falcons are at right now—an opposing coach adept enough at playcalling can essentially will his multi-tooled backup quarterback into the end zone when he feels like it.
Hill scored through the air…
And on the ground….
If that wasn’t enough, Matt Ryan chucked an interception into the stomach of an undrafted free-agent tackle named Shy Tuttle and, on the return, got whacked by a pretty brutal stiff arm.
BUT ... the Falcons aren’t quitting on Dan Quinn, as evidenced by a wild final few minutes where the team successfully converted THREE onside kicks (one negated by penalty) to get the game within eight points. Younghoe Koo deserves a turkey leg for his efforts, though the Falcons’ offensive line could not buy Ryan enough time to stage a legitimate chance for overtime.
It was enjoyable to see Sean Payton momentarily shaken to his core when, just a few minutes earlier, he was using his time and resources on the sideline to throw passive-aggressive challenge flags out of frustration for a rule that he created. He gets the win and division title, but Koo made him sweat it out a little.
• A note on the Bills: Buffalo is 9-3. Since Week 5, the only quarterback who has more total touchdowns than Josh Allen is … Lamar Jackson. While these are two very different players, I think the league would do well to notice the way both teams’ personnel departments and offensive coordinators have approached supposedly imperfect assets.
In both cases, the teams understand their quarterback at an unparalleled level and have developed something that has allowed them to flourish. At the beginning of each of the past two seasons, I put Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll atop my head coaching watch list, for precisely the kind of game plan we saw today: Functional, medium-range routes that draw advantageous coverage situations, plus the stacking of confidence-building throws throughout the game.
And, fun plays like this don’t hurt:
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