Lions and Steelers take division leads, Cowboys keep cruising on Thanksgiving
Thursday's NFL Thanksgiving trifecta saw the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers come away with key wins to bolster their play-off odds.
Detroit (7-4) came from behind to beat the Minnesota Vikings (6-5) 16-13 on a Matt Prater 40-yard field goal as time expired to kick off week 12 and take over sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
Dallas (10-1) pushed their win streak to 10, a franchise record in a single season, on the strength of rookie phenom Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for two touchdowns in the 31-26 victory over the Washington Redskins (6-4-1).
In the last game, Pittsburgh (6-5) gained much-needed traction in the AFC North race with their 28-7 blowout of the Andrew Luck-less Colts (5-6) in Indianapolis.
As it stood, all three of Thursday's victors ended the day in first place in their respective divisions.
BRADFORD THROWS GAME AWAY
Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford completed 86.1 percent of his passes, but was intercepted by Darrius Slay on his final throw of the game. The turnover with 35 seconds left set up the Lions' game-winning field goal.
Redskins tight end Jordan Reed played through injury in the second half, but it did not show on this one-handed grab for a 33-yard gain. He nabbed eight of his 10 receptions after returning to the game in the third quarter, with two touchdowns.
ELLIOTT GETS HIS FILL
Elliott punched in his 10th and 11th scores of the season to go with 97 yards on 20 carries. He continues to shore up his case for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, let alone MVP. His quarterback, Dak Prescott, may have something to say about that with another efficient 17-of-24 performance for 195 yards passing and a touchdown. He added 39 yards and another score with his legs.
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was the hard-luck loser after turning in a brilliant 449-yard game on 41-of-53 passing. All three of his touchdown throws came in the fourth quarter as Washington's rally came up just short.
Steelers star wideout Antonio Brown hauled in a season-high three touchdown passes, giving him 10 for the year. It was his 10th game with multiple scores in the last three seasons, most in the NFL.
Cousins' 449 passing yards were second-most in a Thanksgiving game in NFL history, trailing Troy Aikman (455 yards, 1998 Cowboys).
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten made three catches Thursday to pass Reggie Wayne for eighth all time on the NFL's career receptions list.
Prater is a perfect 25 of 25 on game-tying or go-ahead field goal attempts in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career.
Detroit are putting their clutch kicker to good use, having trailed in the fourth quarter of each of their first 11 games. Since 2008, seven other NFL teams have trailed in the fourth quarter invariably through 11 games. Those teams were 4-73. The Lions are 7-4.
BRYANT, NORMAN TRADE BARBS
"Tell Washington to get their money back," Dez Bryant told reporters as he walked to the locker room following the game, citing the five-year, $75million deal Josh Norman got from the Redskins in April. He repeated that line to NFL Network after saying Norman was the "emotional one".
"I was just wearing his ass out the entire night and Washington needs to get its money back," Bryant said.
"He can go cry, holler, hoot, whatever he wants to do," Norman responded. "At the end of the day, like I said, zero touchdowns."
LUCKY LIONS OR TEAM OF DESTINY?
Two teams in NFL history have seven wins in a single season in which they trailed in the fourth quarter -- the 2016 Lions and the 2009 Colts. Lions coach Jim Caldwell, coincidentally, also headed those Colts, who went 14-2 and reached Super Bowl XLIV.