In the last week of football before Thanksgiving, I am thankful for first-time starters, for 59 points, for favorites holding on for their lives in overtime thrillers and for not being a Cardinals fan. I wasn’t as thankful for the Thursday Night game though.
The Bills and Dolphins kicked things off in a lackluster matchup of sub-.500 teams on Thursday Night Football with the Bills getting the win, 19-14. They did so without scoring an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2007. Marcus Thigpen became the first Dolphin to ever return a kick and a punt for a touchdown in the same season. The Bills had a punt return TD and a fumble recovery in the same game for the seventh time since 2001 and improved to 6-1 in those games. Only seven points were scored in the 2nd half with Miami getting a 4th quarter touchdown.
Sunday was a much better day, which we learned early on with three of the early eight having exciting finishes in overtime. The Texans held on for their lives as the 1-9 Jaguars gave them all they could handle in a crazy 43-37 overtime game. Matt Schaub went off for 527 yards and five touchdowns in the win – both were career highs for him and the 527 passing yards were good for the 2nd-most in a game in NFL history. Andre Johnson caught 14 balls for 273 yards and a 48-yard touchdown to win the game in overtime. Seven of his catches came in the 1st half for 132 yards. His 273 total yards marked the most in a game by a wide receiver since Terrell Owens had 283 in 2000. Houston had been down by 14 in the 4th quarter before rallying to force overtime.
Though they did make it quite a game, the Jags have now lost seven in a row after blowing a chance to salvage their season in the spoiler role. Their offense was resurrected after starter Blaine Gabbert went down and backup Chad Henne replaced him. Henne ended up throwing for 354 yards and a career-high four touchdowns – the first time a quarterback has thrown for four touchdowns and no interceptions off the bench since Steve Young did it in 1987. Henne also extended the game with a conversion on 4th & 10 in overtime. He entered the day with four total TD passes in his last five starts. Rookie receiver Justin Blackmon finally had a day worthy of a top-10 draft pick, catching seven balls for 236 yards and a touchdown. His highest yards total coming into the day was 67. His 81-yard TD catch was also good for the 2nd-longest in Jacksonville history behind Troy Edwards, who caught one from 84 yards out in 2003. With another one on Sunday, Cecil Shorts became the first player this season with four touchdown catches of 35 yards or more.
The game was only the second in NFL history to feature two 200-yard receivers. Should the Jags have been able to upset the Texans, it would have been the first time since 1985 that a team with a record of 1-8 or worse had beaten a team with a record of 8-1 or better. Wow, that was a lot. And that’s only just the first game.
In Carolina, the Bucs came back from 21-10 down in the 2nd half to beat the Panthers 27-21 in overtime on a Josh Freeman touchdown pass to Dallas Clark. Vincent Jackson caught a touchdown pass and two-point conversion with 12 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime. Rookie running back Doug Martin rushed for 138 yards and a TD and recorded his sixth straight game with 100 or more yards from scrimmage. The win was the fifth in the last six games for Tampa Bay and their fourth in a row.
In the final overtime game, the Cowboys came back from a 13-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Browns, 23-20 in overtime. A late touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden to Benjamin Watson gave the Cowboys the ball back with too much time on the clock and they kicked a field goal to send it to overtime. Cleveland hasn’t won in Dallas since 1993. The comeback marked just the second time in Cowboys history that they have won a game they trailed by 13 points at the half. In a shocking twist, Tony Romo has not thrown an interception in any of his last three games (2-1). All three overtime losers blew double-digit leads.